The United Arab Emirates, once a country dependent on spice trade and fishing, today is an oil-rich nation. Owing to its meteoric development, its cuisine too has seen a metamorphosis. Today, the country is one of the largest importers of Michelin-star chefs from around the world. UAE also has a large immigrant population who have brought with them cuisines from their own country. Traditional food in Dubai and other big cities of UAE has now merged with European and Asian cuisines to form new flavors. All of this has resulted in UAE having a cuisine that comprises of the finest dishes from the around the world. Their cuisine is a healthy mix of old and new.
So, the next time you are in UAE, you have to get a taste of the following dishes to really experience UAE’s cuisine.
Let’s start with a salad. Middle Eastern salads combine a lot of fresh flavors and vegetables with high water content. They are healthy, tasty, and the best example of such a salad is Tabbouleh. Made with green onions, tomatoes, fresh mint, and cucumbers with a drizzle of lemon and olive oil, the Tabbouleh salad is one of the best salads you’ll ever eat.
Almost every Middle Eastern country has its own version of the falafel, but the ones found in UAE are one of the best. Made from chickpeas, onions, herbs, and spices, this dish is the perfect healthy snack. What’s great is that it is vegetarian, but scores high on the protein count, owing to the chickpeas. From restaurants to street hawkers, you can find a falafel anywhere.
Sometimes, food is a labor of love, and Harees is exactly this. It is rich and heavy and is cooked for hours. Making it is quite simple. All you need is meat, wheat, and salt. Together, it is cooked till all of it amalgamates into one huge singular dish. Other versions of this also make use of spices but the most popular one remains in its simplest form.
Some credit must go to Robert Downey Jr. for mentioning this dish in the Avengers movie, which resulted in an increase in its popularity. However, Shawarma was still quite popular before. It comprises of grilled meat or chicken wrapped in pita bread with onions and other veggies, slathered in tahini paste and other sauces. How can one go wrong? Shawarma is fast becoming one of the most popular hand-held foods.
Mutton Achari Handi
UAE is full of Indian and Pakistani expats, and the result is mutton achari handi being one of the most popular dishes. Mutton (goat or lamb meat) is slow cooked in onion, tomatoes, chilies, and spices. Eat this with naan or rice.
If you love meat, you will love Ghuzi. From the recipe books of street food Dubai, comes Ghuzi, which is also quite popular in restaurants. Roasted lamb meat is served on top of vegetables, nuts, and rice. This is one hearty meal you cannot afford to miss.
Popular all over the Gulf area, Machboos is a combination of meat and rice. Onions, spices, and meat are boiled together. Once the meat tenderizes, it is separated, then rice is cooked in the remaining broth. Meat is added back. The dish is garnished with fried onions and dried lemons. Machboos is an absolute winner.
It’s time for some dessert. The ‘bread of harem’ or esh asaraya is one of the most popular desserts in Dubai. It is a cheesecake with a cream topping. The whole thing just melts in your mouth leading to a heavenly experience. You’ll be ordering seconds and thirds.
Every cuisine in the world has a pudding, and UAE’s cuisine has Mahalabiya. This dish is famous in restaurants and households as well. It is easy to prepare and makes use of pistachios and rosewater. It is a favorite of everyone in Dubai.
We save the most exotic dish for the last. The stuffed camel is a Guinness World Record setting dish made for appetites of epic proportions. A roasted camel is stuffed with lamb, chicken, fish, and eggs. All of them are covered in spices. This extravagant dish is a dish worthy of a bucket list.
Another great place to enjoy authentic Emirati cuisine is the Dubai Creek Dhow Cruise, which serves a buffet dinner full of delicious Dubai food as a part of the cruise experience. UAE has a rich culinary heritage, but it has also masterfully combined modern methods and tastes into their cuisine. Their food is fast gaining popularity and will be one of the most loved cuisines of all time.