“One of the best ways to get to know the local culture is by trying the traditional Emirati dishes, so dig in.”
Dubai is home to thousands of restaurants. Whatever type of cuisine or food you’re craving – Italian, Japanese, Mexican – you’ll find it in this city. However, to do so at the expense of the local cuisine is a shame as there are some magnificent Emirati dishes to be enjoyed!
If you want to try a traditional Emirati dish for breakfast, choose balaleet. This breakfast staple is made of vermicelli and omelette and it is both sweet and salty at the same time. Aside from the noodles and eggs, items such as orange blossoms, cardamom, cinnamon, saffron and pistachios are also added to enhance the flavours of the dish. Balaleet can also sometimes served as a dessert.
This rich and comforting traditional Emirati stew shares some similarities with the popular Moroccan dish, tagine. Thereed is made with succulent meat and a variety of slow-roasted vegetables including potatoes, tomatoes, and pumpkin which cooks for a few hours. The stew will then be placed on top of a thin Emirati flatbread known as rigag, which allows for the flavours of the stew to soak into the bread.
This rice dish is made with meat or fish and as such is often mistaken as Indian biryani. However, compared to biryani, machboos is cooked with various fragrant and flavorful spices including cumin, cardamom, turmeric, and saffron. Also, a unique ingredient is added to the dish: a dried lemon known as loomy. This ingredient provides a brightness and a zest that enhances the overall flavour of the dish.
Harees is a popular Emirati dish which is frequently served at weddings as well as during Ramadan and Eid al Fitr. To make this dish, wheat and meat (usually chicken or lamb), butter and a generous dash of salt are slow-cooked together in a pot. This mixture is cooked until the meat melts into the wheat and the combination reaches a thick, porridge-like texture. Many traditional Emirati dishes today also feature chicken but this only started after the oil boom in the UAE. Prior to this, the ancient Emiratis only cooked indigenous birds such as Houbara bustards.
Considered the most popular traditional Emirati dessert, this sweet treat consists of small deep-fried dumplings which are soaked in a sticky date syrup known as dibbs. This tasty treat is a great way to end a traditional Emirati meal on a sweet note.
Khuzi is a dish often reserved for special occasions. This dish consists of roast lamb or goat served on a bed of spiced rice and nuts. Traditionally, a whole lamb or goat would be used, but these days many local restaurants serve a smaller portion of the dish.
- Stuffed camel
Lastly, stuffed camel isn’t a dish you will find in restaurants in the UAE, but it is still one of the most authentic and popular traditional Emirati foods. A chicken stuffed with eggs and rice is placed inside a lamb, which will then be stuffed inside a whole camel. The camel will then be roasted for hours. Although you may not find this appetizing, you may sing a different tune when you get a whiff of the slow-cooking camel. Stuffed camels are only served during special occasions, and you will most likely only taste this dish if you have been invited to a sheik’s wedding banquet.
With the nearly endless array of restaurants in Dubai, choosing a meal can be really challenging. One of the best ways to get to know the local culture is by trying the traditional Emirati dishes, so dig in.