Guide to Eating in Dubai
With influences from all over the world contributing to Dubai’s rich food scene, there isn't a single cuisine on the planet that can't be found in the city. However the undoubted king of the Dubai culinary landscape has to be Middle Eastern cuisine, with countries from all over the region – including its own traditional Emirati – creating a culinary hybrid that has become synonymous with the city.
With influences from all over the world contributing to Dubai’s rich food scene
Can’t tell your hommus from your baba ghanoush? Demystify the Middle Eastern menu and find out which foods you just can’t miss in Dubai.
With influences from all over the world contributing to Dubai’s rich food scene, there isn't a single cuisine on the planet that can't be found in the city. However the undoubted king of the Dubai culinary landscape has to be Middle Eastern cuisine, with countries from all over the region – including its own traditional Emirati – creating a culinary hybrid that has become synonymous with the city. Here are 18 regional dishes that cannot be passed up when visiting Dubai:
Everyone's favourite dip is also one of the most simple to make, with chickpea, tahini (sesame paste), olive oil, garlic and lemon purée. It’s staple of almost every Middle Eastern spread.
With a similar texture to hommus, this aubergine-based dip is a spicier version of its more well-known sibling, baba ghanoush. A perfect complement to grilled meats and flatbread.
So intense are the flavours and spices present in Middle Eastern food, a bit of labneh (thick strained yoghurt) is the ideal way to cool down even the hottest dishes.
A classic Middle Eastern blend of herbs and spices including oregano, thyme and sumac that is often used to coat grilled meat or used as a topping on bread.
Originally a simple, doughy flatbread, the manakish has now evolved into a pizza-like creation, often topped with za'atar, cheese and spiced minced beef or lamb.
A light option that will sit well with health-conscious visitors, tabbouleh is an originally Levantine vegetarian salad, usually made up of parsley, bulgur wheat (known locally as burghul), tomatoes, onions, and mint.
Another vegetable-friendly option, fattoush is a slightly heartier salad, usually featuring pieces of toasted or fried bread combined with whatever vegetables and herbs the kitchen has to hand, notably tomatoes, cucumbers and radishes – plus some pomegranate seeds for an added burst of flavour and colour.
Another classic that can be found on the menu of pretty much any Middle Eastern restaurant, falafel is a fried ball made from ground chickpeas or fava beans and spices and is the perfect street food.
Most commonly made from minced lamb, but occasionally filled with minced beef or even camel, kibbeh are succulent little meat and pine nut-filled balls, coated in a bulgur wheat mixture and deep-fried until crisp. Enjoy these with potent garlic sauce.
The only thing for certain with fatayer is the shape: a folded-in triangle. Beyond that, it can be filled with pretty much anything – usually minced meat, cheese or spinach.
Those familiar with Cornish pasties will feel right at home seeing a plate of sambousek arrive at the table, as the flavour-packed spiced meat parcels look just like miniature versions of the English classic dish.
These are the Middle Eastern take on stuffed vine leaves, a dish found in cuisines across Europe and the Arab world. Similar to Greek dolmades, the leaves are wrapped around a filling which usually includes rice, tomatoes, onions, parsley and mint.
One of the mainstays of any Middle Eastern table worth its salt is shish kebab, which can be any kind of meat grilled and served on a skewer. A favourite in Dubai is shish taouk, a traditional shish kebab of chicken marinated in a special spice mix and cooked in a tandoor oven.
A dish believed to have originated in Yemen, kabsa is now popular throughout the Gulf and is often served on special occasions to feed large numbers. In the most basic terms, it is rice with meat, but the characteristic flavour of kabsa comes from combinations of cardamom, saffron, cinnamon, black lime, bay leaves and nutmeg. The stunning blend of spices in this dish, as well as the very special underground cooking method, makes it a must-try.
With tender strips of chicken or meat flavoured with a heady mix of spices, cooked on a rotating spit and then crammed into flatbreads full of crunchy lettuce, hot sauce and yoghurt, it's easy to see why shawarma is one of Dubai's most popular – and cheap - dishes.
The Egyptian version of the English classic bread and butter pudding, a good umm ali is sweet, rich and extremely creamy.
Cheese in desserts is nothing new, but it's not often that whole blocks of salty, gooey cheese are found in puddings, as in knafeh. Strange as it sounds, there's something about the super-sweet sugar syrup and salty cheese with its sweet topping that just works.
The traditional end to any Middle Eastern meal is qahwa (Arabic coffee) with dates. The coffee is usually served without milk and in tiny cups, and can be flavoured with a range of spices, from saffron to cardamom.
If you’re an avid foodie, make sure to check out the Dubai Food Festival from 21 February to 9 March 2019.
Dubai Corporation of Tourism & Commerce Marketing