The United Arab Emirates is unlike almost any other place on Earth, and Dubai is its crown jewel. For thousands of years, Dubai was the land of pearls, and divers would risk death by diving as deep as 40 meters in search of the tiny, lucrative orbs.
Eventually, the magic and danger of pearling gave way to oil and industry. These days, Dubai is a hotbed of tourism, business, and energy, — plus it’s home to Burj Khalifa — but its rich and eccentric heritage still shines through.
Dubai’s cuisine still feels, looks, smells and tastes like the exotic place that it was in days of old.
Whether you travel to Dubai for business or pleasure, you’ll need to recharge with some food. A city of diverse flavors, ingredients, and spices, eating in Dubai is its own reason to visit.
Here’s a look at seven dishes that you absolutely have to experience the next time you visit Dubai.
Dubai is known for its diverse and delightful cuisine. The city offers an array of traditional, regional, and international dishes that appeal to all tastes.
From the sticky dates of Emirati food to the falafel of Lebanon. With its unique blend of flavors, spices, textures, and aromas, Dubai’s culinary culture truly has something for everyone to enjoy.
In this list of must-try food is a delicious mix of flavors and spices, featuring ingredients such as olive oil and sesame seeds. Dubai dishes will leave you wanting more.
Besides being named by the Guinness World Book of Records as one of the largest foods you can eat in the entire world, stuffed camel is considered one of the most luxurious and celebratory foods in Dubai.
Cooked on a spit over an open flame, the popular dish is filled with things like chicken, eggs, fish, sheep, and spices.
Stuffed Camel is still considered a traditional food in Dubai, but because it is so over-the-top, it is served only for special occasions. This could be a festival, Bedouin ceremony, or other important cultural or family events.
So, if you don’t want to miss this traditional dish, plan your trip accordingly.
Hot tip: If you’re not around for a special event, you can try camel meat at a number of Dubai restaurants, only it’ll be in the form of camel burgers.
This famous food has traveled far beyond the UAE. Made from slow-roasted and spiced meat — usually chicken or lamb — a shawarma is a kind of Middle Eastern sandwich.
Served in an Arabic roti, it can be served with vegetables, fries, tomatoes, pickles, and garlic sauce — the sides seem almost endless.
It can be found in New York City, Delhi, Moscow, Tokyo — pretty much everywhere — but eating shawarma in Dubai is an experience that should not be missed.
It is, indeed, one of the best things to eat in Dubai!
3. Al Harees
This dish is a labor of love that literally takes hours to make, but its ingredients are remarkably simple.
A pinch of salt is added to a pot of wheat and meat, and these are cooked until the texture is smooth and uniform — so much so that you can barely tell the meat from the grain.
Then, the whole mixture is baked slowly for several more hours. In the land of decadent spices, al harees is a simple dish that brings a surprising and welcome change for your palette.
A refreshing pudding, mehalabiya’s most standout flavors come from rosewater and pistachios. It tastes like an oasis in a desert — healthy, life-giving, and peaceful.
Perfect for the diner who wants a refreshing after-dinner treat that isn’t too sweet; mehalabiya is especially popular with children.
Also called khuzi or ouzi, this dish is made from whole-roasted lamb or mutton and is often served on kebab skewers with vegetables and hazelnuts over rice.
It is easily one of the most popular dishes in Dubai because it is considered a whole meal in itself. It’s also the national dish of the United Arab Emirates, which means any trip to the area without ghuzi is an incomplete one.
Yet another lamb recipe, matchbous is made from a lamb spiced with what is known as loomi. Loomi is made from dried, ripe limes and saltwater. The lamb is then cooked into a stew with tomatoes and rice.
A traditional rice dish of Dubai, matchbous has a flavor that is unique, sharp, spicy, and rich. Cloves, cardamom, cassia bark, turmeric, and baharat are also used to flavor this dish, which gives it an impressive and satisfying depth of flavors.
7. Esh Hasarya
A dessert in a class by itself, esh hasarya is called “the bread of the harem”. Its texture resembles cheesecake, and it has a cream frosting.
Rich and sweet, this cake almost melts in your mouth. It’s no wonder it’s one of the most famous food in Dubai.
Now, that you’re clued up on what to eat in Dubai, are you wondering where you can find all of these local dishes?
There are plenty of local restaurants all over the city serving Dubai cuisine. But if you want to try the best ones, I recommend these top food tours in Dubai. You could also try this private tasting tour with 10 tastings or this half-day street food tour.
Even if you’re traveling on a budget, you can find delicious food along the streets of Dubai.
Dubai street food is a vibrant and delicious way to experience the city’s culture. The street stalls offer an array of dishes made with fresh ingredients and hearty spices, such as cardamom, cumin, and coriander, that make the flavors truly unique.
Whether you’re looking for a quick snack or a full meal, Dubai street food is a great way to explore the culinary delights of this special city.
Some popular street food in Dubai:
- Saj Bread
- Kebab Roll
- Fish and Chips
- Lahm Meshwi (Grilled Meat)
- Manakeesh (Lebanese Flatbread)
- Al Hallab Street Sandwich
- Maqluba (Rice-Based Dish)
- Stuffed Pigeon
Any trip to Dubai promises to be a memorable one. After all, a mighty city of glass, concrete, and metal that rises like a myth out of kilometers of sand and crystal gulf waters will likely be impossible to forget.
The next time you travel to the UAE, take in its flavors along with its sights and business opportunities. From camel to rosewater, few worlds taste as unique as Dubai’s.
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