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Food & Drink

Top 10 delicious Arabian dishes to try

Mon, June 21, 2021

Get a taste of tradition with our essential Arabian food guide. From creamy labneh to irresistible Umm Ali, here are the unmissable local favourites.

Get a taste of tradition with our essential Arabian food guide. From creamy labneh to irresistible Umm Ali, here are the unmissable local favourites.

1

Hummus

Everyone's preferred dip is also perhaps one of the easiest to prepare, with a blend of chickpeas, sesame tahini paste, olive oil, garlic and lemon juice. Hummus is a staple at almost every Middle Eastern spread, and often served as a customary starter. Enjoy it best with freshly baked khubz (Arabic flatbread), try it as a spread, or relish it as a condiment with freshly-grilled meat kebabs. This multipurpose dip now comes in a variety of flavours, including beetroot, avocado and more, but the original is still our first choice. The Arz Lebanon restaurant presents the perfect version, drizzled with olive oil and love.

2

Labneh

A little labneh – a thick strained yoghurt – is the ideal way to cool down even the most fiery dishes, and is somewhat of a secret sauce for grandmothers across the region. Aside from being a standalone dip, ideal when paired with olive oil and zaatar spice, it is a key ingredient to many loved Arabic and Emirati dishes. Those with a sweet tooth can also enjoy labneh cheesecake and other desserts spruced up by its flavour across the city.

3

Manakish

Originally a simple, doughy flatbread, manakish has now evolved into a worldly pizza-like creation with a range of toppings, including favourites such as cheese and spiced minced beef or lamb. At the homestyle restaurant Bait Al Maryam you'll have plenty of manakish to choose from, but the crowd-pleasing zaatar version is a must-try. Freshly-baked every day, the dough is topped with a generous helping of the classic blend of herbs and spices including oregano, thyme and sumac.

4

Tabbouleh

A light option that will sit well with health-conscious visitors, tabbouleh is originally a Levantine vegetarian salad. It is usually made up of bulgur wheat, mixed in with finely-chopped parsley, tomatoes, onions and fresh, fragrant mint. This tantalising salad usually marks a zesty beginning to a wholesome Arabic feast. Make sure to order it at Aroos Damascus restaurant where the flavours always satisfy.

5

Fattoush

Another vegetarian-friendly option, fattoush is a slightly heartier salad, usually featuring pieces of toasted or fried bread. It's often combined with fresh vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers, radish and pomegranate seeds for an added burst of flavour and colour. This filling salad is often savoured as a starter, but is also enjoyed as a main by the city's health-conscious.

6

Falafel

A quintessential snack, falafel is a fried round patty made from ground chickpeas or fava beans, and a medley of subtle spices. The perfect street food, you can enjoy falafel on its own and dipped in a creamy sesame-based tahini sauce, or stuffed in a pita flatbread for a deliciously filling wrap. You can try both at Zaroob, a Levant street eatery loved by the locals. Whatever form it's in, you’ll soon fall in love with its flavour and crumbly texture. 

7

Shish tawook

One of the mainstays of any Middle Eastern table worth its salt is the shish kebab, which can be any kind of meat grilled and served on a skewer. A common version you'll find in Dubai is the shish tawook, a traditional chicken kebab marinated in a special spice mix and cooked in an authentic tandoori oven for a gentle sear. Served with a creamy garlic paste, the grills are truly scrumptious.

8

Shawarma

Shawarma has been an all-star bestseller in Dubai for decades. Tender strips of chicken, flavoured with a heady mix of spices, are cooked on a rotating spit. Then, they are rolled into soft pita bread and layered with crunchy lettuce, fries, tahini sauce and garlic paste. One bite and you'll know why shawarmas are among the city's most popular and wallet-friendly dishes. It is a versatile treat as shawarmas also come in juicy lamb and spicy Mexican varieties. Try it at Automatic Restaurant – you won't be disappointed.

9

Umm Ali

The Arabic version of the English classic bread and butter pudding, a good umm ali is sweet, rich and extremely creamy. While there are many modern variations, the traditional recipe is best enjoyed with nuts and is equally tempting when consumed warm or cold. We recommend the umm ali at Karam Beirut but this dessert can be found everywhere in the city, from hotel buffets to streetside stalls.

10

Kunafa

Cheese in desserts is nothing new, but whole blocks of salty, gooey cheese are not very often found in puddings – kunafa is the exception. As strange as it sounds, there's something about the super-sweet sugar syrup and salty cheese with its nutty topping that just works! Drizzle some extra syrup for a sugar rush, or skip it to better appreciate the soft, cheesy taste of the pudding.

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