United Arab Emirates is an asian country located on the Arabian peninsula. Its population, economy and cosmopolitan sociocultural tendencies have made this country an exotic, variated and eccentric destination.
UAE has a total area of 83,600 km divided into 7 emirates: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Ajman, Sharjah, Umm Al Quwain, Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah. Abu Dhabi is the capital of the country and is the largest emirate and Dubai is the most populated and the most popular as it has a wide range of services. Each emirate has different economy, traditions and rules as allowed by the government of the monarchy.
The total of 83,600km is partially cover by the Arabian desert and is bordered by the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea. Its climate is a desert climate, very hot summer days with high humidity that makes them even hotter and with mild winters. The annual rainfall is very low, around 100 millimeters, so the country has been working on ways to cool the climate by creating more rainfall. The highest temperature recorded was 52.1C.
Islam is the official religion and is followed by around 76% of its population but more religions are practiced as the country has been one of the most open and respectful of different nationalities and their cultures. It has 9,890,400 people, 11,6% Emirati Arab, 59,4% from South Asian (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh), 7,4% Egyptian, 6.1% Filipino and 12.8% of other nationalities. Dubai is the emirate that is home to 3.331 million of people and make it the busiest (most of the foreigners don’t stay long in the emirate).
The country became independent in 1971 from the United Kingdom. This fact makes this country very interesting as it flourished in a short period of time through new trends and taking advantage of its wealth in oil and gas reserves. The economy is mixed, oil and gas natural are dominant, the media, telecommunications, tourism and commercial aviation are part of the diversification.
— EMIRATI CUISINE —
Food in the country has been characterized by the climate, the resources and its culture. Emirati dishes are flavored and aromatic; some of the most used ingredients are meat (lamb and mutton the most preferred, camel or goat are also part of its history and are still used), fish (many varieties of fishes caught daily in the Arabian Gulf), grains (rice) and dairies.
Tea and coffee are a must in its drink selection; ingredients like ghee (clarified butter), laban (fermented milk), dates and spices like cardamom, saffron and mint are distinctive in its cuisine. The country hasn’t had the possibility to develop specific crops, so its cuisine is represented mainly by the availability of ingredients and the original way of cooking some dishes.
Each meal is considered as a gathering , hospitality plays an important role in the Emirati culture and they are characteristic big as it’s all about sharing with family or friends. Breakfast is very important to them as they consider it gives them all the energy to start the day, followed by the lunch and an afternoon coffee finished with dinner; Each meal usually consists of a starter, some sides and the main course. They like to eat on the floor or sometimes seated on chairs.
Mostly it all starts with the traditional tannour bread which is made from flour, water and salt and is usually served with hummus and more local sides in the center of the table to share as a starter. In my experience I had apricot jam and laban (fermented milk) as complements. The mixture of some vegetables in vinegar, known as Arabic pickle, is usually brought to the table as part of their tradition to share and prepare you for the main course.
Srimp birayani is an Indian dish that has been adopted by Emirate cuisine. It’s the combination of ling-grained rice flavored with fragrant spices such as saffron and turmeric with the addition of lamb, chicken or sea food and is generally accompanied by natural yogurt to make it easier to digest.
The watermelon salad was a refreshing and sweet addition to the other dishes. It consists of green olives, feta cheese and fresh watermelon topped with a dressing of olive oil and lime juice or vinegar.
The mixed grill plate consists of tannour bread on the bottom, French fries, Arabic salad (coriander, mint and tomato), toum which is a creamy garlic sauce and tomato chatini (olive oil, coriander, onion and more chopped ingredients) as sides and the selected meat. Lamb and chicken were the protagonists of this dish, ground lamb with coriander, lamb bone and chicken skewer were absolutely tasty in the company of the light options I had.
Lamb kepsa is a famous Middle Eastern dish consisting of basmati rice cooked with a spice blend of cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, ginger and other selected spices, saffron and limes; also called Machboos and served on the bottom of well-marinated and cooked pieces of lamb topped with tomato sauce. The plate is a good representation of the traditional ingredients that are consumed in the gulf and its very satisfying.
Sweets play an important role in the Emirati cuisine. Dates are normally consumed with the traditional Arabica coffee, they are incorporated into desserts and sweet dishes or simply eaten in the afternoon; during the time of Ramadan to break the fast or after a meal as they are a a natural source of sugar, rich in fiber and full of flavor.
Another important protagonist of its kitchen are the products obtained from a camel, its meet is usually consumed in famous recipes as hamburgers, grilled camel meat or in combination with other ingredients. The camel milk ice cream was a good way to start the journey towards the derivates of this food zone of this exotic animal.
I tried the perfect combination between dates and camel milk, an ice cream. It wasn’t very different form the taste of traditional ice cream but it was very pleasant to taste. The saffron and lotus version of the camel milk ice cream had an absolutely different taste than the ordinary ingredients in ice cream.
Leqaimat is the local traditional dish in the UAE and is a deep fried dough dipped in sugar syrup and served with some walnuts and sesame seeds over on top. I can describe Leqaimat as a very convenient crunchy sweet bread for coffee time.
Just to finish with the meal and as a complement to the sweet threats I had the famous “blooming tea” which is the combination of green tea leaves wrapped around one or more dried flowers like jasmine. The taste of this tea is very light, refreshing and tones very easy on the stomach.
About the places that provided me with the vast display of tasty food: Local House restaurant exist since 1997 and as it mentions “it’s a restaurant with an ambience that sticks true to the memories of the land and flavors that is reminisce of the history of the country”. Arabian Tea House is place full of interesting options and conditioned to make its visitors enjoy.
IG Arabian Tea House: https://www.instagram.com/arabianteahouse/
Website Local House Restaurant: http://www.localhouserestaurant.com
The experience I had in two of the more famous and traditional restaurants with most of the food that I like from the UAE made realize how much I still need to discover about Arab, Middle Eastern and Emirati food. I can conclude that Emirati cuisine has a long history and influences from many countries and today some of the most popular dishes are changing and adapting to the international culture in the country. You can check @mmmbycata on IG: https://www.instagram.com/ccastillor___/