Must-try traditional desserts in Dubai
Arabic cuisine’s layered personality has regional influences, it’s roots firm in traditional Bedouin food. The first question to arise after an authentic feast is always, “What’s for dessert?”. From the moreish luqaimat to the nostalgic Assidat al-Boubar, these sweets are no afterthought.
Dessert is served
Flour, dates, spices and honey are essential ingredients of most sweets of Arabia and every Emirati grandmother has a secret recipe that’s been handed down through generations.
Let’s begin with an age old delight, luqaimat. These dumplings drizzled with date molasses (known as dibs) are widely regarded as the official sweet of the Emirates.
Next up is the mildly sweet, slightly savoury, Assidat al-Boubar. Served traditionally during Ramadan and Eid, this luscious spiced pumpkin pudding tastes best when it’s still warm.
An Emirati take on the pancake, Chebab, finds traditional flavour with cardamom, saffron and dates, and Khabees, a sweet, toasted flour concoction, gets its depth of flavour and aroma from a dash of rosewater infused with saffron.
Eaten for breakfast as well as for dessert, Balaleet, is made with sweetened vermicelli, eggs, and spiced with cardamom and saffron. It is served with plain omelets which are used like bread to scoop up and eat the pasta.
Ranjina a date based baked dessert ends many a traditional Iftar on a sweet note. With a base of fresh peeled dates, the pits replaced with almonds or walnuts, and topped with a dark roux usually decorated with cinnamon and powdered pistachios.
Baklava, the Turkish import, is another local favourite. The paper thin layers of phyllo dough encasing chopped nuts and held together by honey or syrup are the an ideal gift.
Kunafa, is a vermicelli cheese pastry and one of Ramadan’s delicious traditions that means serious sweet business.
A simple semolina cake, soaked in syrup and garnished with a blanched almond is the light Basbousa, and pressed into moulds as beautiful as the designs on Islamic architecture, are the spiced date cookies called Maamoul. Both are perfect accompaniments to the fragrant Arabic coffee.
At the gastronomical core of Arabia lies the dreamy Umm Ali. This deliciously creamy, bread and butter pudding is a festive favourite, and no celebratory meal is complete without it.
Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding
If you’re wondering where to sample these delicacies, the SMCUU is the place to be. Hosting regular traditional breakfasts for visitors and interested expats, the centre offers an insightful introduction to local culture and tastes, including all things sweet.