Satisfy your sweet-tooth with these classic treats
Arab cuisine’s layered personality has various regional influences, stemming from traditional Bedouin and Levantine food. However, the question to arise after every authentic feast is always: “what’s for dessert?”.
A favourite of those who crave sweet treats, luqaimat are deep-fried dumplings that are crispy on the outside, but soft and fluffy on the inside. Meaning ‘bite-sized’ in Arabic, they are often served as a precursor to other desserts. Made with flour and yeast, they are flavoured with cardamom and saffron for a distinctive taste.
After frying these doughy balls are drizzled with plenty of date molasses (known as dibs) and sprinkled with sesame seeds before serving. Piled high on a platter, it’s hard to stop at just one of these crunchy sweet treats.
Order it from: Siraj
Souk Al Bahar, Downtown Dubai
+971 4 513 6207
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. They are usually stuffed with date paste and crushed nuts, and pressed into decorative moulds before baking.
Their buttery flavour is the perfect foil to a cup of the strong black Arabian coffee they’re usually served with. While grandma’s recipe can’t be beat, traditional Emirati coffee shops and cafes serve them as a matter of course.
Order it from: Mamikonyan Restaurant & Cafe
Al Seef, Umm Hurair
+971 54 410 7500
At the gastronomical core of Arabian cuisine lies the dreamy Umm Ali. Translating to ‘Ali’s Mother’, it’s a traditional sweet treat served during Eid celebrations and other holidays. This deliciously creamy, bread and butter pudding is made slightly differently to the kind eaten in the West, with puff pastry or torn-up croissant layered in a large dish with pistachios, dried coconut flakes, and sultanas or pieces of dates.
A mixture of milk, cream and sugar is then poured over the top and allowed to soak into the pastry mix before being baked. A hearty and warming dish, no celebration is complete without a bowl or two.
Order it from: ILA Restaurant & Cafe
Al Seef, Umm Hurair
+971 4 358 5822
A traditional Levantine cake, basbousa is an everyday dessert commonly eaten following family meals. Following a simple recipe, the cake is made from mostly semolina and sometimes powdered coconut, then soaked in syrup and garnished with blanched almonds before serving.
Mildly-flavoured and light, it’s an easy dessert to whip up and snack on compared to the usual, richer Middle Eastern sweets. Variations can include a honey glaze, the addition of rose water or orange blossom water to give the batter a soft floral scent, or a dollop of thick yoghurt to create a moister – and denser – cake.
Order it from: Basboussa
The Village Mall, Jumeirah Road
+971 4 344 7707
One of the region’s favourite dishes, kunafa is readily available from Emirati and other Arabian restaurants. The dish is made up of a thick layer of mild white cheese, which is topped with crushed vermicelli noodles or shredded wheat. Best served piping hot and soaked in a plain or rose-flavoured sugar syrup, many eateries boast their own version of the everyday dessert.
In Dubai, kunafa is also a popular breakfast food for those with a sweet tooth!
Order it from: Firas Sweets
2nd of December Street
+971 4 358 0489
The mere mention of this tasty breakfast treat never fails to result in squeals of delight. An Emirati favourite, this local version of pancakes is everything you’ve dreamed of.
Every restaurant that serves chebab has their own closely-guarded recipe, but it usually involves taking the classic pancake batter of flour, sugar and eggs, and giving it a serious spice infusion with generous helping of turmeric, cardamom and saffron. A few quick pan flips later and the fluffy, golden pancakes are ready to be served with a drizzling of sweet date syrup.
Order it from: Logma
Boxpark, Al Wasl Road, Al Safa
+971 800 56462
A delicious bread, with decades of history. Starting out as little dough balls made from wheat or barley, there are many variations of the khameer (yeast) bread, including the use of dates, saffron and hints of turmeric for added flavour. Once baked, they resemble puffed up buns and are served with local honey and cheese.
A number of hip Emirati eateries have transformed the humble khameer to appeal to more contemporary tastes, with combinations that include Nutella chocolate, peanut butter and jam, and apple pie.
Order it from: Al Fanar Restaurant & Cafe,
Dubai Festival City Mall,
+971 4 232 9966
Another Emirati comfort food classic, Assidat al-Boubar or Aseeda as it’s more commonly known is a delicious pumpkin pudding that toes the line between mildly sweet and slightly savoury.
It’s made of flour, sugar, cardamom, saffron and, of course, pumpkins. Often, rose water and honey are added to enhance its moreish flavour. This pumpkin dessert always tastes best when warm, and topped with a generous helping of ghee and nuts. It really is love in a bowl.
Order it from: Lazfan Cafe
Al Mina Road, Al Hudaibah
+971 4 351 5171
Perhaps one of the best known desserts from the region, baklava takes on many delicious forms. The multi-faceted dessert, which originated in Turkey, is crafted from filo pastry, stuffed with an assortment of nuts and drenched in sticky, sweet honey.
Dubai boasts some of the finest sweet shops, specialising in traditional baklava. Try the different varieties and then ask your favourite store to pack them in pretty gift boxes, ready to be taken home or delivered to family and friends.
Order it from: Al Samadi Sweets
Al Muraqqabat Road, Deira
+971 4 269 7717