Food in Dubai is as cosmopolitan as its people. You can find everything here – from sushis to chapatis to adobos and even to burgers. Locals welcome the global palate and consider it a delicious chance to experience the world. The difference lies only in which restaurants you enter and the prices of the dishes in the menu.
Despite being a Muslim city, pork is available in many restaurants. Alcohol is also served in bars and clubs, which are mostly located in upscale hotels. The only restriction to this liberty is the prohibition of drinking in public and during religious holidays.
Those looking for authentic Emirati cuisine may have trouble finding it and must content themselves with general Arab foods, which are widely available. The foods served on the tables of Doha and Mecca are also served on the tables of Dubai. The closest you’ll get to ever tasting what is truly exotic in this desert paradise is when a large Bedouin family invites you to a traditional wedding and the legendary stuffed camel is part of the entree.
Here are some of the more popular, albeit borrowed, dishes in Dubai.
Slightly toast pita bread on an open fire. Add some strips of roasted lamb, chicken, or beef, then stack with slices of tomatoes, onions, and cucumbers. Roll the pita bread before topping it with Tahini dressing, a paste made of ground sesame seeds. The end result is a shawarma as authentically Middle Eastern as it could possibly get.
On the other hand, just how close can one really get to the “authentic” shawarma? While the dish is believed to have come from Lebanon, every Middle Eastern region now has its own variety of fillings and even dressing. For instance, shawarmas sold in cafeterias in Dubai uses Arabic bread and chicken as base ingredient. Others use garlic and chili sauce. In some places, shawarma has even been served with rice rather than pita bread.
All these varieties are testaments to the versatility of this dish. So who cares whether the shawarma you are getting in Dubai is considered authentic anywhere else? In any form and any time, it’s still a filling and delicious dish you ought to try out at least once in your life, and Dubai is as good a place as any to do so.
Rice hardly grows around the Persian Gulf, but it didn’t stop the Arabs from preparing this dish. Kabsa is made from basmati rice mixed with several types of spices. Meat, such as lamb or chicken, is then added to complement the dish
The dish is made by first sautéing onions and marinated meat in butter. Spices responsible for Kabsa’s unique taste are then tossed into the casserole. These include bay leaves, black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, dried lime, nutmeg, and saffron. Rice is then cooked in meat broth and spices until it absorbs all the water. Nuts and raisins are then added as garnish.
Kabsa is Saudi Arabia’s national dish but is thought to have originated from Yemen. The Emiratis being Arabs have embraced this dish as one of their own.
These sweet dumplings are served not only as snacks, but also to break the fast during Ramadan. Loqaimat is a traditional dessert made of flour, milk, and butter. Spices, such as cardamom and saffron, are sprinkled before dipping the deep fried balls into a bowl of sugar syrup. Loqaimat may not be available in restaurants yet, but expect an Emirati host to serve these crispy puffs when you’re invited to his home.
Wara Enab is a popular Arabic dish. As exotic as it may sound, it is simply rice wrapped in grape leaves. Okay, we suppose the grape leaf wrapper does make it exotic.
To make wara enab, you mix uncooked rice with parsley, mint, onions and tomatoes, salt and pepper, lemon juice, and olive oil. Blanch the grape leaves and put the rice mixture in it, fold in two sides, then roll like a cigar.
This cigar is placed on top of a sliced potato in a saucepan filled with hot water. Simmer for an hour, then cool before serving.
Baba ganoush is a vegetable sauce made of mashed roasted eggplant and seasonings such as pepper, lemon, scallion, garlic, salt, and mayonnaise. Just mix them all together, and you have this popular Levantine dish.
You can serve baba ganoush as a dip for pita bread or even for roasted meat. The smokiness of this dip lends a special flavor that is very attractive to the Middle Eastern palate.