The UAE is a fascinating country with a rich and varied culinary tradition that makes extensive use of meat, fish and rice. With over 200 different nationalities living and working in the Emirates, it should come as no surprise that the cuisine of this particular country has taken on an increasingly cosmopolitan flavour in recent decades. Traditional Emirati cuisine makes uses of a mixture spices that includes black pepper, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, rose water, saffron and dried lemon.
A Wonderful Fusion
The presence of high-class restaurants and world famous chefs has helped to create a wonderful fusion of food that coexists quite happily alongside more traditional fare. International fast-food chains have also made major inroads into the UAE, making such services as pizza delivery a convenient and popular choice for citizens in many of the larger cities.
In this article, we will be taking a closer look at some of the most frequently used ingredients of traditional Emirati cuisine. Below is a list of the 10 most popular emirate dishes together with a brief description of the ingredients used in their creation:
1. Al Harees
Possibly the best known and most traditional of Emirati dishes, Al Harees is often serviced at weddings and religious ceremonies such as Eid and Ramadan. Made from wheat and meat, with local ghee added as a final touch, this traditional dish is usually cooked for several hours in a clay pot, often placed in a specially prepared hole in the ground.
2. Al Machboos
Another traditional dish that is extremely popular in the UAE is Al Machboos. Red meat and rice are the main ingredients of this local favourite. Spices and dried lime are added to the boiled meet, followed by green peppers, tomatoes and potatoes. Layers of saffron and cooked rice are added to complete the dish.
3. Al Qurs Al Mafrook
This is another dish that is often cooked in a specially prepared whole in the ground. The main ingredients of Al Qurs Al Mafrook are dough and gee.
The popular and traditional desert that is Bageetha is best made during the winter months. Consisting of flour, ghee and date paste, Bageetha is a relatively quick and simple dish to make.
5. Al Khameer
Al Khameer is basically a mix of flour, date paste and sugar that is kept overnight after being baked over burning coals.
6. Al Salona
This particular dish is a kind of meat soup that consists mainly of boiled meat and onions. Eggplant, courgettes, okra and pepper are then subsequently added. Tomato paste and spices finish of the mixture, which is then simmered for 10 minutes before being serviced.
7. Raqaq Bread
Raqaq bread is prepared by making a basic dough mixture that is then baked in the traditional manner. The addition of toppings such as sugar, butter and ghee, along with cheese or meat gravy, add the finishing touches to this flat bread.
8. Al Khabeesah
This particular dish is a mixture of roasted flour, sugar, water, rose water and saffron. Ghee and cardamom are also added on occasion. Cooking is a relatively simple matter of leaving on a medium heat until ready to serve.
Lukaimat is one of the simpler Emirati dishes to prepare. Light dough balls that have been deep-fried are served up with a coating of date syrup for a delicious snack.
An Emirati pancake that consists of eggs, flour and sugar, with cardamom often added for extra flavour. The addition of saffron provides the chabab with its distinctive yellow colouring, all topped off with a drizzle of local date syrup.
Many traditional Emirati dishes are similar to stews, being cooked in a single pot over a lengthy period of time. The core flavours of Emirati cooking are provided by the addition of spices such as saffron, turmeric and cardamom. In recent decades, the influx of foreign nationals has greatly added to the range of culinary delights available in the UAE. Even fast foods such as pizza and hamburger are now widely available in larger cities throughout the country. However, traditional cuisine is still widely enjoyed, never more so than at weddings and other special occasions.