The Venice of the Middle East – The magnificent city of Dubai, this is one of the richest and most beautiful cities in the world. Located on the Southeast coast of Persian Gulf, Dubai is not only rich in terms of wealth but also in culture, diversity and most importantly food. Since it features dishes from all around the world the city is considered as the final destination for anyone who seeks the ultimate fooding experience. Apart from the cosmopolitan modern diet, there is Emirati cuisine which is the traditional cuisine of Dubai and other regions included in the United Arab Emirates.
So what is Emirati cuisine? Grains and meat based dishes born in the sandy Arabian deserts and seafood harvested from the Arabian Gulf combined in order to nourish the population in the sun baked regions of the Middle East. Middle Eastern and Asian cuisines have strong influences in the Emirati cuisines and thereby in the food culture of Dubai.
Indigenous food culture and Tradition
Traditional Dubai cuisine is deeply influenced by the Middle East geography and Islamic religion. Due to tough desert conditions, traditional dishes use a lot of meat, grain and dairy products. Vegetables are widely grown in some regions and they are usually used in most of the dishes. Camels have great importance in Middle East culture and cuisine. Camel meat is normally reserved for a special occasion as they are highly prized for their milk and transporting ability. Before the oil boom, the only available poultry was species of indigenous birds such as Houbara bustards. But now modern dishes use plenty of chicken and other poultry.
The staple food often consists of some rice, meat (nowadays mostly chicken), bread and last but not the least there will be something sweet. Coming to meat, the kind used varies according to the occasion. The Cuisine is complete as it takes its ingredients from the sea, the mountain, from oasis and also from the deserts.
Bread is an important part of Dubai cuisine. This is made by baking rice or wheat based dough in an oven. Bread is consumed along with almost anything such as kebab, butter, curd, any sort of curry etc. Bread is a principal element in a breakfast meal.
Meat is the major ingredient in most of the Meals available in Dubai. The indigenous population here consumes meat not only because of its nutritious value but also for its cultural and traditional importance. The meat used in Dubai cuisine includes chicken, mutton, beef, and camel. Pork is rarely available in UAE since eating pork is a sinful act according to the Islamic religion.
Chicken, Mutton, and Beef Based Dishes
Chicken is the most consumed meat in Dubai. They started appearing in Dubai cuisine only after the fossil fuel boom in the Middle East. Since then these birds have an important role in Dubai cuisine. Chicken is used in main course dishes like Chicken Kabsa, Maqluba and Machboos. These are rice based dishes which are cooked along with the chicken. The whole dish is flavored with various spices and with the chicken itself.
Kebabs – These are basically small pieces of meat or seafood pinned together using a metallic rode and cooked in open flame. Vegetables such as onion, tomatoes and bell peppers are also cooked along with the meat. Shish kebab and Doner Kebab are two well-known kebab dishes.
Al Marqoq (Meat with Vegetables) – One of the traditional dishes of the Arabian Peninsula. This is a complete nutritious curry, best complemented with coin sized Arabian bread.
Shish Taouk – It’s another popular native dish from the Dubai cuisine; the marinated chicken is later grilled. The dish is available all around the world in stores generally termed as ‘Kebab houses’.
Mutton and Beef are also extensively used in Dubai cuisine. Meats of lamb and goat are often used in kebabs and other popular meat based dishes.
Camel is Important
Camel is a common and very popular source of meat in Dubai. Camel is used for many other purposes other than for food. They provide protein rich milk which is widely used among the Arabs. They are also used for transportation purposes. Because of all these reasons, camel meats are reserved only for special occasions such as cultural events and other celebrations. Camel meat is cooked in many different ways. The meat has a tough personality which will smoothen as it cooks. Fat from other meats like mutton is used along with camel meat in order to provide good flavor and savor.
Stuffed camel is a popular dish in Dubai cuisine. A whole camel is stuffed with other ingredients and herbs. The dish is often served along with other meats during special functions and celebrations.
Rice Based Dishes
A major portion of a typical Dubai meal is contributed by rice. Rice dishes are usually consumed during lunch. Dubai cuisine offers a wide variety of rice based eats and these are often a well-balanced meal consisting of meat, vegetables and starch (rice itself). These foods are popular all around the world, especially in Asia and other regions surrounding the Middle East. Food in here is popular for its erotic taste and aroma. This rather amazing feature is the contribution of spices and fresh herbs used in the food during different stages of cooking. Spices such as cardamom, fennel seed, cloves, star aisle are used in almost every dish prepared.
Kabsa – This is one of the common yet popular dishes in Dubai. Kabsa has its origin in Saudi Arabia and was later spread all over the Middle East and then to the world. Kabsa is also popularly known as Makbus in most Arab states of the Persian Gulf. The ingredients used in Kabsa are rice, meat, vegetables and a mixture of spices; these are generally black pepper, cloves, cardamom, saffron, cinnamon, black lime, bay leafs and nutmeg. Meat is the next main ingredient accompanying the spices; they can be chicken, mutton, beef, camel and shrimp. Chicken is often used as a whole.
Maqluba – This rice based dish consists of fried tomatoes, potatoes, cauliflower, eggplant and chicken or lamb cooked in a casserole along with some spices. After the cooking process, the meal is served by turning the casserole upside down in a serving plate. When the casserole is inverted, the top layer of the dish will be bright red from the tomatoes and also with a golden shade from the eggplant.
Mandi – Mandi is a traditional dish from Saudi Arabia. The dish is usually made from rice, Meat (Lamb or Chicken) and a mixture of spices. Usually, the meat of a young or small sized lamb is used to enhance the taste further. The thing that makes Mandi different from other rice based dishes is that he meat is cooked in a tandoor (taboo in Arabic), which is a special kind of oven.
Something to Drink
Drinks and beverages are an integral part of Dubai cuisine. There are many traditional drinks which are served as a part of hospitality and cordiality. The very smell of many such drinks are warming and refreshing.
Camel milk is one of the popular drinks among them. Filled with proteins and other nutritious elements, camel milk is considered as a valuable and precious drink in Dubai. Another one is coffee; marked as a symbol of hospitality. The smell of rich, strong Arabic coffee or Gahwa (also spelt as ‘Qahwa’ is always overwhelming. It is traditionally poured from a classical Arabian coffee pot (dallah) and served in small cups without handle, usually along with a plate of fresh dates. Another popular drink is Karak chai. Karak is derived from Hindi word ‘Kadak’ which means strong and powerful.
In this sun baked land, there is an ever rising demand for cold beverages. Jellab is a classic Arab drink, derived from a blend of grape molasses and rose water, topped with pine nuts and raisins, this drink is an absolute enrichment for both body and mind. Laban is a cooling butter milk drink fit enough to include in a healthy diet. Iced and salted Ayran is another simple and tasty yogurt based drink in Dubai.
Dubai Cuisine is just as diverse as everything else in Dubai. Although Arab food is very popular in Dubai culture and can be found almost everywhere, the restaurants in Dubai serve food from almost anywhere in the world. Being a cosmopolitan city, Dubai is equipped to provide anything you desire; let it be fun, drinks or foods. you name it, it will be there for you. Asian food, Indian food, and fast food all are much popular and readily available in Dubai. The diversity of food offered by this magnificent city will be above and beyond your wildest imagination.
Dubai has delicious street food. Walking around Dubai, street foods are quite common and is also a must try. In a city which is famous for rich tastes and very expensive lifestyle, street foods are something that stands differently. Available in comparatively less money without compromising the taste and richness (which are the symbol of Dubai food) street foods are the best possible choice for someone who is not ready to spend a little fortune every day.
Food Festivals - The culinary celebration
Dubai food festival is the splendid event in Dubai which celebrates its growth as a gastronomic city. This is the only citywide food festival in the Middle East which unites people all over the city with a menu consisting of incredible dining experience, luxury food concept and flavors of local dishes. The festival is basically a collection of events occurring in different part of city in different time during a predetermined time period. The food festival in 2017 was held between 23rd of February and March 11. From desert dinning to waterside restaurants the festival offers a stage for astonishing food related events and promotion, highlighting Dubai’s profound food culture.
As mentioned earlier Dubai is a land of diversity which expresses itself in the culinary landscape, fashion, music and performance. As a cosmopolitan city, Dubai is stirring the pot of different culinary tradition and culture. Many of the culinary traditions had influenced Dubai food. Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines are two of them. Asian food has a profound influence in Dubai food and culture. It is one of the most eaten dishes in Dubai. Thai and Chinese dishes are much popular and widely consumed in Dubai.
So, when you are visiting Dubai, keep in mind that you are heading to one of the most pleasant places in the world. The world class infrastructure and food are incomparable. The food here is not only meant to fill your belly but also the very soul of any human mind. The warmth of Karak chai and the richness of Maqulba is alone enough to make your trip worth every single penny you spent. Let’s relate this beautiful city to camel milk. Rich and elegant in every aspect, a single entity to satisfy your soul and body is the best possible manner. Welcome to Dubai.