United Arab Emirates

Last updated 06 November 2013 Posted in Typical foods

United Arab Emirates

Local flavours

The UAE cuisine reflects the cultural diversity of all the different nationalities within the country. The enormous variety of tastes is a result from the past when the UAE used to trade and was considered the centre for trading. Although the UAE gastronomy consists mainly of traditional Arabic and Middle Eastern dishes, nowadays it is almost impossible to find a restaurant serving authentic UAE dishes. Restaurants tend to serve more Lebanese food.  However, in the largest cities European and Indian restaurants are widely available. On international level the UAE is known for its seafood quality.

The traditional cuisine of the United Arab Emirates consists largely of dairy, fish, meat, accompanied by rice and side dishes as pita bread, known locally as Khubz or cucumber, mint or yogurt. In contrast, vegetables are difficult to grow and so are used rarely. Meat and fish tend to be normally cooked on grill and flavoured with cardamom, coriander, cumin as well as cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, chilli, saffron and turmeric. Whereas chicken and goat are the most common meats eaten, camels are more worth for their milk; their meat is prized and eaten in special occasions.

Two authentic and well known dishes from the United Arab Emirates include Dejaj Murraq/Saloona, a chicken stew and Laham Murraq/Saloona, also known as meat stew, a popular flexible dish. In many Emirati homes both dishes are usually cooked on a daily basis, sometime eve twice a day. They can be served with rice or other side dishes such as biryani or bread. Laham Murraq/Saloona is very popular during the Ramadan; therefore it is served in mosques during the holy month with sliced buttermilk, onion, chives, dates, garlic, radishes, and limes. Another typical dish of the UAE is Al hares. Al hares is a popular treat during special occasions such as Ramadan and weddings, mainly made from meat and wheat. Also Shrimp Beryani is a traditional dish of the UAE; it is a type of rice cooked together with shrimp and a special rice called Beryani which is eaten during lunch or dinner but also when visitors are expected. Laham Mashwee, a stuffed Lamb, is as well a dish which is prepared in particular if visitors are about to stop in. This dish is traditionally served on a large round tray and covered with ra-gagg until ready to be eaten. Chicken Shawarma, from a spit kebab, is cut into small pieces, mixed with salad, and rolled up in bread. Falafel is made from mashed chick peas and spices, and is eaten with bread and hummus. Hummus is a dip served with pita bread. It is also made from chick peas, along with lemon juice, garlic, spices, and tahini, which is a mashed sesame seed paste.

Emiratis usually do not drink alcohol, especially not inside their own country, as this is part of their religion. Some may do drink alcohol, but for a foreign guest it is best to wait, what the Emirati orders and to follow his example. It can happen that they order a couple of bottles of expensive wine during a business dinner, but it is crucial to let the Emirati choose, and not fall into that easily avoidable trap. When drinking alcohol, one must make sure to not be drunk, since this is considered as a totally inappropriate behaviour. In Sharjah, alcohol is completely forbidden, to locals and foreigners.

Authors: Lidia de Andrade & Lina Thomke Tuschling