7 Must-Try Traditional Emirati Dishes In Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Dubai is home to thousands of restaurants. Whatever type of cuisine or food you’re craving for, you’ll definitely find it in this city. Whether you’re in the mood for Italian, Japanese, Mexican, or South Indian food, you will have numerous restaurants and various dishes to choose from. But when you are in the city, trying out the local dishes is a must! Here are our recommendations on the 7 Must-Try traditional Emirati dishes In Dubai.

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What Are Traditional Emirati Dishes?

Without a doubt, Dubai is also the best place to have your first taste of traditional Emirati dishes. For those not familiar with this cuisine, traditional Emirati dishes always use meat from animals such as camels and goats or fish caught from the Arabian Sea as the main ingredients.

Aside from local produce, the dish would also contain some type of dairy product, cereals, wheat, and ghee. They would also feature certain spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, turmeric, saffron, pepper, and salt. Lastly, they would also contain some ingredients from desert plants such as the leaves of the Al Ghaf tree.

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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.

Emirati Dishes to Try

Before you head out to a restaurant known for serving traditional Emirati fares, make a list of the best dishes you should try. Your list should include:

1. Balaleet

If you want to try a traditional Emirati dish for breakfast, choose balaleet. This breakfast staple is made of vermicelli and omelet and it is both sweet and salty at the same time. Aside from the noodles and eggs, orange blossoms, cardamom, cinnamon, saffron and pistachios are also added to enhance the flavors of the dish. Balaleet is also sometimes served as a dessert.

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2. Thereed

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. This allows for the flavours of the stew to really soak into the bread.

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3. Machboos

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.

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4. Harees

Harees is a popular Emirati dish which is frequently served at weddings, 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.

5. Luqaimat

Considered the most popular traditional Emirati dessert, this sweet treat consists of small deep-fried dumplings which are soaked in a sweet, sticky date syrup known as dibbs when served. This tasty treat is a great way to end a traditional Emirati meal on a sweet note.

6. Khuzi

Khuzi is a dish often reserved for and served during special occasions. This dish consists of a roasted lamb or goat served on a bed of spiced rice and nuts. Traditionally, a whole lamb or goat would be used, but many local restaurants serve an individual or smaller portions of the dish, and as such, you can be sure you will finish this meal.

7. 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 popular and must-try traditional Emirati foods. A chicken (or more) is stuffed with eggs and rice will be 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 will sing a different tune when you get a whiff of the slow-cooking camel and have a taste of the whole dish.

Stuffed camels are only served during special occasions. 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 which foods to eat can really be challenging. However, you won’t go wrong with trying some traditional Emirati dishes; it’s a good way for you to get to know more about the local culture. You’ll also have a memorable experience satisfying your curiosity and cravings at the same time.

About The Guest Blogger

Kumar Samtani is the co-founder of MenuPages.ae. With an educational background in Industrial & Operations Engineering from the prestigious University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Kumar’s expertise lies in process improvement & operations management for all types of organizations. He is also an experienced entrepreneur with business interests in consumer goods, hospitality supplies & real estate.

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