UAE’s food culture is extremely rich, a few delicious dishes of UAE are Luqaimat, Knafeh, Arabic coffee and dates, Margoogat, Chebab (Emirati Saffron Pancakes), Machboos, Khubz/ Emirati Flatbread, Shawarma, Balaleet (Sweet Vermicelli And Egg Omelet), Samak Mashwi, Aseeda Bobba, Ro-be-yann nashif (Shrimp Fried with Spices).
These hot dumplings have a similar taste and texture to doughnuts. Cafés make fresh batches daily, served with a sticky date sauce and topped with sesame seeds. Local Bites Café in Jumeirah is a good place to try them, mid-morning with some hot coffee.
Originally from Palestine, this pastry dish has become a firm favourite with locals in the UAE. Made of sour cheese, crisp sugar syrup and dough, it’s best served immediately after being made. One of the most popular places to try it is Qwaider Al Nabulsi in Deira. During Ramadan, orders for this dessert can reach in to the thousands per day, as people request it for iftar – the meal eaten by Muslims at sundown to break their fast.
Arabic coffee and dates
Complimentary Arabic coffee is offered everywhere in the UAE from government buildings to hotel foyers. For the good stuff, head over to Café Bateel and try the Bateel signature qahwa, a traditional Arabic coffee made with lightly roasted beans and cardamom, served with organic local dates.
This meaty, tomato-based stew is full of heat, cooked with turmeric, cumin and bezar (a local garam masala-like spice mixture). Different variations can be found across the city, made with chicken or lamb, and some simply made with baby marrow and potato. The chicken margoogat dish at Aseelah in the Radisson Blu Hotel is a must-try, along with the restaurant’s exciting menu of other traditional and experimental dishes.
Chebab (Emirati Saffron Pancakes)
These delicious Emirati-style pancakes are normally served at breakfast time. They’re crammed full of sour cheese and sweet date syrup, then heated. The cooking process causes the sweet and sour elements to combine, with a flavour that’s a little like a rich, boozy Swiss fondue. Tasty ones are served at Logma.
This traditional rice dish is made with whole local spices including cardamom and cinnamon, then mixed with dried lemon. It’s usually made with locally caught shrimp, lamb or chicken.
Khubz/ Emirati Flatbread
Avoid shop-bought versions of this classic Arabic bread, and instead try it at a bakery or restaurant where they’re making it fresh. It’s perfect with fresh hummus and mutabal (aubergine dip). For a theatrical display, see the Arabian Tea House, which has a glass window to their bread kitchen.This Emirati khameer is one of the softest flatbreads you will come across. It is also super easy to make and makes the ideal snack with a dip or some simple meats.
A classic Middle Eastern street food, shawarma is one of Dubai’s most popular dishes – despite not actually being a particularly traditional dish of the UAE, As shawarma worthy of a road trip. The thinly sliced chicken is seasoned in a beautiful rub – spicy yet sweet, peppery yet fragrant – and rolled between thin bread and slathered in sauce before being toasted between a hot-press for a crisp finish.
Balaleet (Sweet Vermicelli And Egg Omelet
Balaleet is a delicious salty and sweet breakfast dish that is people eat on a regular basis in UAE and is common to all Gulf countries. It is a sweet and savoury dish served as the traditional breakfast, and it is eaten either hot or cold.
Samak Mashwi is grilled fish, the Emirati way, marinated with date paste along with herbs and spices, which gives it a delicious sweet and savory mix. The fish is skewered, with its scales on, and cooked in a dome-like barbeque made of clay. As the UAE is a country with ample coast and a history of fishing we highly recommend you try at least this fish dish while you are here!
Ro-be-yann nashif (Shrimp Fried with Spices)