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Spice Up Your Trip: Must-Try Food & Drinks in the UAE

Feb 10

Introduction to Emirati Cuisine

Emirati cuisine: A melting pot of flavours

Emirati cuisine is a delightful blend of flavours and influences from various cultures that have contributed to the region's rich culinary heritage. With a history deeply rooted in Bedouin and Arabian traditions, Emirati cuisine has evolved over time through interactions with neighbouring countries and international traders. This mix of influences has resulted in a diverse range of dishes that showcase the unique flavours and aromas of the United Arab Emirates.

One characteristic feature of Emirati cuisine is its emphasis on using fresh ingredients, particularly seafood, meats, dates, and vegetables. The cuisine also makes generous use of fragrant spices and herbs, such as saffron, cardamom, turmeric, and cinnamon, to add depth and complexity to the dishes.

Traditional Emirati ingredients and cooking techniques

Emirati cuisine incorporates a wide range of traditional ingredients and cooking techniques. Here are some key elements:

  1. Dates: Dates are an integral part of Emirati cuisine and are often used in both sweet and savoury dishes. They add a natural sweetness and a chewy texture to dishes.

  2. Seafood: As the UAE is located along the coastline, seafood is prominently featured in Emirati cuisine. Local favourites include grilled fish, shrimp machbous (a spiced rice dish), and samak harrah (spicy fish).

  3. Camel meat: Camel meat is a unique and prized ingredient in Emirati cuisine. It is commonly used in dishes like Majboos (camel meat cooked with rice) and Harees (cracked wheat and meat porridge).

  4. Traditional cooking techniques: Emirati cuisine relies on traditional cooking methods, such as slow cooking in underground ovens called taboons, grilling over open flames, and marinating meats in fragrant spice blends.

  5. Arabic coffee: Arabian coffee, known as gahwa, is an essential part of Emirati hospitality. It is traditionally served in small cups accompanied by dates.

Emirati cuisine is a delightful tapestry of flavours and techniques that showcases the rich culinary heritage of the United Arab Emirates. With its diverse range of ingredients and cooking methods, it offers a truly unique dining experience for food enthusiasts around the world.


Traditional Emirati Dishes

Machbous: A fragrant rice dish with meat or seafood

Machbous is a beloved Emirati dish that showcases the rich flavours of the region. It is a fragrant rice dish typically made with either meat or seafood and a blend of aromatic spices. The dish starts with cooking the meat or seafood in a flavorful broth, which is then used to cook the rice. As the rice absorbs the broth, it becomes infused with the delicious flavours of the meat or seafood, resulting in a satisfying and aromatic dish. Machbous is often garnished with fried onions, raisins, and toasted nuts, adding layers of texture and taste to the dish.

Luqaimat: Deep-fried dough balls drizzled with date syrup

Luqaimat is a popular Emirati dessert that will satisfy your sweet tooth. These small, deep-fried dough balls are crispy on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside. The dough is made from a simple mixture of flour, sugar, yeast, and water, which is then rolled into small balls and deep-fried until golden brown. Once cooked, the maqamat is generously drizzled with date syrup, giving it a hint of sweetness and a sticky texture. This indulgent treat is often enjoyed with a cup of Arabic coffee, making it the perfect way to end a delicious Emirati meal.

In Emirati cuisine, every dish tells a story and reflects the rich cultural heritage of the United Arab Emirates. From aromatic rice dishes to sweet indulgences, traditional Emirati cuisine never fails to impress with its bold flavours and unique combinations. Whether you are in search of savoury or sweet, Emirati cuisine offers a culinary adventure that will leave you wanting more. So, next time you have the opportunity, don't miss the chance to savour the flavours of Emirati dishes like machbous and luqaimat – your taste buds will thank you!


Arabian Breakfast Delights

Balaleet: Sweet vermicelli noodles with a touch of saffron

One of the most delightful dishes you can savour in Emirati cuisine is Balaleet. This traditional Arabian breakfast dish features sweet vermicelli noodles cooked with a touch of saffron for a fragrant and vibrant flavour. The vermicelli noodles are lightly sautéed in ghee until golden and then combined with a mixture of eggs and spices. The result is a unique combination of sweet and savoury flavours that will awaken your taste buds. Balaleet is often garnished with fried onions and served with a side of creamy yoghurt, making it a perfect balance of textures and tastes.

Chebab: Fluffy pancakes served with date syrup

If you have a craving for something sweet and fluffy, then Chebab is the perfect choice for your Arabian breakfast. These light and airy pancakes are made with a simple batter of flour, yeast, sugar, and milk. The batter is left to rest for a while to allow the yeast to work its magic, resulting in a fluffy and tender texture. The Chebab are cooked on a griddle until golden brown and are traditionally served with a drizzle of delicious date syrup. The combination of the soft pancakes and the sweet syrup creates a delightful harmony of flavours that will surely start your day off right.

Emirati cuisine offers a wide variety of breakfast delights that will satisfy your taste buds and fuel you for the day ahead. From the sweet and fragrant Balaleet to the fluffy and indulgent Chebab, each dish is a celebration of Arabian flavours and culinary traditions. So, why not treat yourself to a delicious Arabian breakfast and experience the rich and vibrant tastes of this extraordinary cuisine?


Street Food Delicacies

Shawarma: Succulent meat wrapped in a warm flatbread

One of the most beloved street food delicacies in Arabian cuisine is Shawarma. This mouthwatering dish features succulent slices of marinated meat, usually chicken or lamb, that are slow-roasted on a vertical spit. The tender and flavorful meat is then thinly sliced and wrapped in a warm and soft flatbread. The combination of juicy meat, aromatic spices, and fluffy bread creates a delightful explosion of flavours in every bite. Shawarma is often served with a variety of condiments, such as tangy pickles, creamy garlic sauce, and zesty tahini, adding even more depth to its deliciousness.

Samboosa: Crispy pastry filled with savoury meat or vegetables

If you're in the mood for a crispy and savoury snack, look no further than Samboosa. This popular street food is a triangular-shaped pastry filled with a flavorful mixture of minced meat or vegetables. The pastry is made from thin layers of dough, which are folded and sealed to create the iconic shape. The Samboosa is then deep-fried until golden and crispy, resulting in a satisfying crunch with every bite. The filling can vary from region to region, but it often includes ingredients like spiced ground beef or lamb, onions, and herbs. Samboosa is a great on-the-go snack that will surely tantalize your taste buds.

The streets of the Arabian countries are filled with an array of street food delicacies that will satisfy your cravings and introduce you to the vibrant flavours of this region. From the succulent Shawarma to the crispy Samboosa, each bite is an adventure in taste. So, next time you find yourself in an Arabian market or bustling street, make sure to indulge in these mouthwatering street food delights and experience the culinary wonders of this extraordinary cuisine.


Delectable Seafood Specialties

Sayadieh: Fragrant rice topped with spiced fish

Imagine indulging in a dish that combines fragrant rice with perfectly spiced fish. That's exactly what you'll experience when you try Sayadieh, a delectable seafood speciality. This dish typically features a generous serving of tender fish, such as cod or grouper, that is cooked with a blend of aromatic spices like cumin, coriander, and turmeric. The fish is then served on a bed of fluffy, fragrant rice and garnished with caramelized onions and toasted nuts, adding an extra layer of texture and flavour. Sayadieh is a true feast for seafood lovers and is sure to satisfy your cravings for a hearty and flavorful meal.

Hamour Mouhammar: Grilled hamour fish marinated in a tangy sauce

If you're looking for a seafood dish bursting with flavour, then Hamour Mouhammar is a perfect choice. This speciality showcases the flavours of the Arabian Gulf with its marinated grilled hamour fish. The hamour fish, known for its flaky and delicate flesh, is marinated in a tangy sauce made with a combination of ingredients like lemon juice, garlic, and spices. The fish is then grilled to perfection, resulting in a smoky and juicy piece of seafood that is packed with mouthwatering flavours. Hamour Mouhammar is often served with fragrant rice and a side of tangy, herb-infused sauce, creating a harmonious balance of tastes. This seafood speciality is a must-try for anyone who appreciates the wonders of fresh and flavorful fish dishes.


Iconic Emirati Drinks

Karak Chai: Creamy and spiced tea enjoyed throughout the day

When it comes to iconic Emirati drinks, Karak Chai tops the list. This creamy and spiced tea is a favourite among locals and visitors alike. Karak Chai is made by boiling black tea with a blend of aromatic spices like cardamom and cinnamon. The tea is then sweetened with condensed milk, giving it a rich and velvety texture. One of the best things about Karak Chai is its versatility - you can enjoy it hot or iced, making it the perfect beverage for any time of the year. Whether you're starting your day with a cup of Karak Chai or simply taking a break in the afternoon, this beloved Emirati drink is sure to warm your heart and delight your taste buds.

Jellab: A refreshing concoction made with dates, grape molasses, and rose water

Another iconic Emirati drink is Jellab. This refreshing concoction is a blend of dates, grape molasses, and rose water, resulting in a unique and delightful flavour. To make Jellab, the ingredients are combined and mixed with water to create a sweet and tangy syrup. The syrup is then mixed with ice-cold water and crushed ice to create a refreshing and thirst-quenching beverage. What sets Jellab apart is its distinct combination of flavours - the sweetness of the dates, the tartness of the grape molasses, and the floral notes of the rose water. Sipping on a glass of Jellab is like taking a journey through the diverse and vibrant flavours of Emirati cuisine. So, the next time you're in the UAE, be sure to indulge in this iconic drink and experience the true taste of the region.


Emirati Desserts

Umm Ali: A delightful bread pudding infused with nuts and cardamom

If you have a sweet tooth, then Umm Ali is a must-try Emirati dessert. This delightful bread pudding is made with layers of flaky pastry, nuts, and a hint of cardamom. The layers are soaked in a rich and creamy mixture of milk and sweetened condensed milk, which gives Umm Ali its luscious and indulgent texture. The dessert is then topped with a generous amount of nuts, such as almonds and pistachios, which add a pleasant crunch. Whether you enjoy Umm Ali warm or chilled, it is the perfect comfort food that will satisfy your cravings and leave you wanting more.

Mohalabia: A creamy milk pudding flavoured with rosewater

For a lighter and more refreshing dessert option, try Mohalabia. This creamy milk pudding is delicately flavoured with rosewater, giving it a unique and fragrant taste. Mohalabia is made by simmering milk with sugar and rice flour until it thickens to a smooth and creamy consistency. The pudding is then chilled and garnished with a sprinkle of ground pistachios or almonds, adding a touch of nuttiness to the dessert. Mohalabia is often served cold, making it a perfect treat to cool down on a hot day. So, if you're looking for a dessert that is both creamy and refreshing, be sure to give Mohalabia a try.


Fusion Cuisines in the UAE

Emirati-Indian Fusion: Biryani with a local twist

Are you a fan of both Emirati and Indian cuisines? Then, you'll love the fusion of flavours in Emirati-Indian Biryani. This popular dish takes the aromatic and fragrant spices of Indian biryani and combines them with local Emirati ingredients. Traditional biryani is made with basmati rice, meat (such as chicken or beef), and a blend of spices. In Emirati-Indian Biryani, the meat is marinated in a mix of Emirati spices like saffron and dried lime before being cooked with the rice. The result is a mouthwatering combination of flavours that will leave you craving for more.

Arabic-Asian Fusion: innovative takes on traditional dishes

If you're in the mood for something truly unique, try the Arabic-Asian fusion dishes that have been gaining popularity in the UAE. These innovative dishes combine the traditional flavours of Arabic cuisine with the techniques and ingredients of Asian cooking. For example, you can find dishes like Za'atar Chicken Satay, which takes the Middle Eastern spice blend of Za'atar and uses it to marinate chicken skewers before grilling them to perfection. Another example is Shawarma Sushi, which combines the flavours of the popular Middle Eastern street food with the presentation and technique of sushi. These fusion dishes are a testament to the culinary creativity and diversity found in the UAE.