Boasting bold, exotic flavors, Dubai is the destination for travelers wanting to indulge in the city’s traditional Arabic cuisine
Dubai has established itself as a fast-growing cosmopolitan city that offers various attractions for tourists across the world. This has also brought Middle Eastern cuisine to the forefront of the international food scene. If you find yourself seeking an authentic food experience in the gleaming desert metropolis, these are ten local foods and beverages that you must try.
A popular, hearty staple of Emirati cuisine, Margoogat is a rich, tomato-based stew that blends quintessential Arab spices and flavors. Commonly made with chicken or lamb, this dish is often prepared and enjoyed at Iftar, the evening meal that breaks the daily fast during Ramadan, and combines various vegetables with herbs like turmeric, cumin and bezar (a local garam masala like spice mixture) for lots of heat.
Al Machboos (Majboos)
Beloved across the entire Arabian Peninsula, this traditional rice dish is a delicacy in Emirati cooking. Painstakingly prepared in large pots with meat, onions, the dish is defined by the aromatic flavors of baharat (a typical Arab spice mix) and loomi (local dried limes). Though it’s usually prepared with chicken, you can often find lamb and seafood variations.
Camel meat & camel milk
Camel milk has made its way from the Bedouin tent to fine dining restaurants. Slightly saltier than cow’s milk, it is richer in protein, lower in cholesterol, and higher in vitamin C and iron. On the other hand, while camel meat hasn’t always been part of the Emirati diet, modern chefs in Dubai like it for its robust, exotic flavors and have increasingly used camel in burgers and stews.
A popular Emirati bread, khameer is a date-sweetened bread that you can enjoy it on its own or stuffed with a variety of ingredients from cheese, chicken to kfata (meatballs).
For a respite from the bread-and-meat heavy Emirati staples, Tabbouleh is a zesty salad made from tomatoes, green onions and cucumber and seasoned with fresh mint and lemon juice. A refreshing accompaniment to almost any meal, it is also the go-to option in Dubai for foodies looking for healthier options.
A Lebanese classic typically eaten for breakfast in Dubai, Manousheh (or manakish in plural) is a simple flatbread define by its crispy outside and soft, chewy center. Usually topped with Akkawi cheese, earthy Za’atar herbs and olive oil, more experimental iterations include anything from fresh vegetables to fried eggs.
Another traditional Arabic dish that’s particularly popular during Ramadan, Al Harees is a porridge-like dish that consists of ground wheat and meat. A savory treat that’s commonplace at celebrations and gatherings, the ground wheat and meat are cooked for hours until they congeal, and are then topped with ghee, or clarified butter, and placed on to flat plates for a nourishing and comforting meal.
Similar in taste and texture to doughnuts, these sweet dumplings are deep-fried treats, typically served with a sticky date sauce and topped with sesame seeds. Try them as a late evening snack with a cup of traditional Arab coffee.
This sugary Levantine pastry has become a favorite among locals in the UAE. Made of crisp noodle-like pastry or finely-shredded semolina dough, which is soaked in a sugar-based syrup, Kanafeh is typically layered with cheese, then sprinkled with chopped pistachios. Best served warm and gooey fresh from the pan, this treat pairs beautifully with clotted cream.
Otherwise known as Arabic coffee, gahwa is one of the most common drinks served in the UAE and is often used to represent hospitality and generosity when greeting guests. Rich with the scents of cardamom and cloves, Arabic coffee is more bitter than other blends and is frequently consumed at social occasions in ornate Arabian coffee pots and small, handleless cups.