Local food has always been an important and undeniable part of everyone’s travelling. When we are talking about Dubai, the food scene is very much rich and diverse here. There is no better way of refuelling yourself than gorging on some amazing local and traditional foods in Dubai. In this post, we are going to discuss everything about Dubai’s traditional food scene.
How Is Dubai’s Traditional Food?
Dubai is surely the undisputed King, ruling the culinary landscape of the region, but that doesn’t mean the city did not draw inspirations to create those fabulous gastronomic delicacies. Dubai’s traditional cuisine (i.e. Emeriti cuisine) is a mouth-watering blend of Iranian, Lebanese and Indian flavours.
The best part about Emeriti food is that it comes with plenty of varieties from both vegetarian and non-veg dishes. Loaded with indigenous herbs and spices, local dishes of Dubai are truly flavoursome and yet healthy too!
When you visit Dubai, you can literally have anything on your platter. The city is capable enough to serve you with any type of food – be it local or international.
Over time, Dubai’s culinary style has undergone changes and modifications which only enriched it more. Food is great in Dubai and you won’t be disappointed!
Traditional Emirati Dishes Which You Can’t Miss
Although it is not possible to bring together all traditional dishes of Dubai in a single post. We are listing here the most renowned and popular ones so you know what to look for when you next visit.
This tasty dip takes very little effort and can be prepared with simple ingredients like chickpea, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and tahini (sesame paste). It is considered as the Holy Grail to almost every staple food found in the Middle East.
Hummus is mostly served as a starter and can be best enjoyed with fresh flatbread or khubz. You can also have hummus as a main course or can spread it over grilled dishes. Hummus is indeed a multipurpose dip that you can devour in any form!
2. Stuffed Camel
This dish of stuffed Camel has made its way to the Guinness Book of World Records because of its enormous size. Apart from the size, stuffed camel is also considered as one of the most luxurious foods to celebrate grand occasions in Dubai. Many Arab weddings are celebrated with stuffed camel as the main dish.
As the name suggests, this traditional Emirati dish comes with generous amount of stuffing made of chicken, fish, egg, sheep meat, spices and herbs. It is cooked over an open flame to enhance the taste manifold.
Stuffed camel is only usually served only at special occasions, festivals or an important cultural event.
If you are fond of strong flavours, then Labneh is the Arabian dish for your taste buds. This local cuisine is an intense blend of spices and flavours coming in form of thick trained yoghurt. Labneh is the most perfect way to tone down even the hottest dishes without manipulating the original taste.
This stand-alone dip is best enjoyed when you pair it with olive oil and zaatar. Labneh is also a very common ingredient to a number of Arabic dishes. If you want to explore more of Labneh, you must try the Labneh cheesecake and other desserts infused with the flavour.
Tabbouleh is more of a light option ideal for people who are interested more in simple yet healthy food options. This vegetarian dish was originally of Levantine origin and gradually it found its way to the Arabian dinner table.
Tabbouleh is typically made of bulgur wheat (locally known as Burghul) kneaded with finely chopped tomatoes, onions, fresh mint leaves and parsley. Loaded with so much of fresh flavours, Tabbouleh is a tantalising salad marking the beginning of a wonderful culinary experience.
In Dubai, you are going to fall in love with the variety of breads that you can explore to elevate your gastronomic journey to a whole new level. Manakish is nothing but a simple flatbread very similar to a pizza base.
Manakish is often topped with cheese, spicy minced meat of lamb or beef, zaatar and herbs of any choice. This wholesome bread can be on your plate at breakfast, lunch or dinner. Basically, this tasty and easy baked delight from Emeriti cuisine is an all-day snack.
When it’s about Dubai’s food scene, there is no escape from mentioning the Falafel. This is that one quintessential snack that everyone can devour with pleasure. This perfect crumbly street food can be found at every nook and corner of the city without any hassle.
Falafel is a fried snack made with grounded chickpeas or fava beans. A few pinches of subtle spices and herbs are added to enhance the flavour and taste of Falafel balls. The best way to have Falafel is to dip the balls in a tahini sauce or to wrap them up with flatbed/pita bread.
Another lip-smacking vegetarian Emeriti dish is the Fattoush. This dish is more of a salad that brings the best of both worlds when it comes to healthy and delicious food. If you take a look at any traditionally prepared Fattoush, you can spot fried or toasted bread mixed with tomatoes, radish and cucumbers.
Pomegranate seeds are also used in Fattoush just to add a burst of colour and flavour. This wholesome salad is often served as a starter but it can easily be treated as a main course when you are more into healthy lifestyle.
8. Umm Ali
Have a sweet tooth? Then go for Umm Ali when you are in Dubai. This wonderful dish is the Egyptian version of the classic English bread and butter pudding. Umm Ali is a sweet item that comes with a velvety and extremely creamy texture.
This particular dress might not be that famous in other parts of the globe but this Egyptian dessert doesn’t need any introduction to the foodies of Dubai. This easy to made recipe is an evolved and tastier version of bread pudding infused with nuts and raisins.
Shawarma is undeniably Dubai’s all-time favourite. This popular Arabian dish has travelled far beyond the boundary of the Middle East and adored by every food-lover, everywhere. If we try to demystify the secret of Shawarma, then we can just say, it’s somewhat of a sandwich with a more spiced up stuffing.
Shawarma is made of slow-roasted, tender strips of meat – usually of lamb or chicken. The meat receives a generous dose spices to add flavour.
Wrapped in pita bread, Shawarma comes with crunchy lettuce, tahini sauce and fries to complete your meal.
10. Shish Taouk
The food scene in Dubai is known for some of the tastiest, juiciest varieties of kebabs. It is indeed a miss not to try kebabs during your visit to Dubai.
One of the most favourite variants in this section is the Shish Taouk. This staple Middle Eastern delicacy holds its root back to Ottoman cuisine but now it’s an inevitable part of Dubai’s food scene.
The skewed chicken dish is prepared with chicken meat marinated in earthy spices and then grilled on slow flame to bring out the flavours of each ingredient. Shish Taouk tastes awesome with other companions like garlic paste or green chutney.
Cheese served as dessert on the table is nothing new or not at all surprising to the world, but it is certainly not common to find a whole block of cheese in your pudding! This is what Kunafa is. This crunchy and buttery dish is a very royal and popular dessert in the Middle East.
Kunafa is classic Arabian dish which is crafted with shredded pastry layers enclosed in a soft milk pudding. When served with fragrant maple syrup on the top and garnished with crushed dry fruits, it simply becomes a heavenly dish to relish.
Another mouth-watering addition to the Emeriti dessert list is the Mehalabya. This refreshing Arabian pudding is celebrated for its outstanding flavours coming out of rosewater or orange blossom and pistachios. When you are looking for something healthy, subtle and sweet on your table, you can trust Mehalabya.
This delicious after-meal treat is a distant relative of another iconic dish, the French blancmange. Mehalabiya is prepared with thick and creamy mixture of sugar and milk, cooked in slow flame and added with corn starch to thicken the texture.
13. Al Harees
Here comes another conspicuous and traditional dish of Arabian origin, the Al Harees. This dish is immensely popular amongst local people in Dubai. Al Harees is more like a porridge which you can surely spot in the menu for a wedding ceremony, special occasion, Eid and Ramadan.
Al Harees is a balanced blend of meat, wheat, a pinch of salt and rarely some spices. This simple yet tremendously healthy traditional dish is cooked slowly for hours until it forms a smooth and uniform consistency where you can’t sperate meat from the grain. Al Harees is one of the healthiest options that Emeriti cuisine can offer.
Here comes the national dish of the UAE, Ghuzi. Also known as Khuzi or Ouzi, Ghuzi is a delicious and enormous non-veg Arabian delicacy made with whole-roasted mutton or lamb. This is one of the most popular local dishes in Dubai because of its wholeness as a complete and filling meal without any side.
During preparation, the whole lamb is stuffed with nuts, rice/pasta, onions and spices. Then it is roasted over slow flame for a few hours. Kebab skewers coupled with rice, hazelnuts and vegetables are the best added components to enjoy Ghuzi.
15. Esh Hasarya
Esh Hasarya is a must try traditional Arabic dessert when you are looking for an unmatched gastronomical experience in Dubai. This amazing sweet dish is known as “The Bread of The Harem” because of its sheer taste and texture. Esh Hasarya looks more like a cheesecake coupled with creamy frosting.
Made with sweet pieces of bread, Esh Hasarya is overpowered with rich cream and topped with crushed pistachios to add nice crunch in your mouth. One fascinating fact about this sweet dish is it requires simple ingredients and little time to get it done.
A typical Arabian dish, Matchbous, is made from spiced lamb, rice, tomato, veggies and stew. This classic Kheleji dish has got a very unique flavour which comes from an intriguing blend of various spices including cloves, cardamom, Baharat, cassia bark and turmeric.
Matchbous’s main ingredient is the spiced-up lamb, known as the Loomi. Lamb meat is prepared with ripe and dried limes and salt water. Then stew is cooked with the Loomi, tomatoes and rice. To broaden the spectrum of your tastebuds, you must try this recipe when in Dubai.
17. Khameer Bread
There is probably nothing softer and fluffy in this universe than the Khameer bread. If you have this round and puffy flatbread once in your life, you will know that Middle East people has surely mastered the art of bread baking better than anyone else.
Khameer bread comes in two layers that can be separated easily. Sweetness of the bread is derived from the use of dates and sugar. Khameer also gets generous amount of saffron, fennel seeds and cardamom to infuse intoxicating flavours in it.
18. Shakshuka or Beidh Wa Tomat
Scrambled egg is nothing new to you. Right? But you will be astonished at the fact that even this simplest dish can be turn into a delicious filling item with help of pepper and tomatoes. Shakshuka is surely one of the best twists in scrambled egg recipes that you can get in your breakfast platter.
Apart from the scrambled egg, Shakshuka can also be prepared with poached egg. Once the egg is done, crushed pepper and chopped tomato are mixed to enhance the taste. For flavours, freshly chopped coriander leaves or thyme is enough. This subtle yet nutritious dish is a great start to a great day.
19. Samak Mashwi
Samak Mashwi is a flavoursome grilled fish dish cooked in the Emeriti way.
To grill the fish in Samak Mashwi style, the fish is pinned on a stick and put on a barbeque where other end of the stick is embedded into the burning coal. Date paste used in marination gives a very unique flavour to the grilled fish.
If you give a damn about calories, then Dubai has another delicious sweet dish for you – Aseeda. This classic dish is made of pumpkin. Yes, we understand that it is hard to believe that such an amazing dish can be designed from such a flat ingredient!
This mildly sweet, pudding like dessert is made of pumpkin. To cook Aseeda, you will also need flour, saffron, cardamom and sugar. Adding rose water and honey will surely enhance the flavour while crushed dry fruits is the best for topping the dish.
Madrouba is undoubtedly the most popular one-pot meal in Dubai and the UAE. What’s more, this dish is immensely praised all over Oman and Bahrain too. Although this non-veg dish is mostly prepared with chicken, you can spot it in all other varieties – lamb, fish and smashed grains.
“Madrouba” means ‘beaten’ in Arabic. From the name, you can guess that you have to smash the ingredients to prepare Madrouba. Primary ingredients for this traditional platter are rice, garlic, tomatoes, butter, yoghurt and meat/fish. This dish is easy-to-digest and therefore ideal for all age groups.
Thareed (or fareed) is another favourite meat delicacy found in Dubai. This traditional Gulf cuisine is typically enjoyed with meat, bread and chunks of vegetables. So, this dish is a good source of vitamins and proteins.
Thareed is cooked with meat and its broth apart from wholewheat bread and vegetables. It is considered as a wonderful energy-giving food with loads of health benefits. Thareed is a staple food served at grand ceremonies, large gatherings and special occasions and symbolises the food scene in Dubai greatly.
23. Chicken Saloona
In spite of tough competition from western cuisine, Dubai’s traditional food scene has never taken a backseat. Chicken Saloona is one of those unbeatable Emeriti dishes that keeps melting the hearts of people till this date.
Chicken Saloona is a main course item for dinner or lunch when occasion is special. This is more of a chicken stew with simple ingredients, quick preparation time and outstanding flavour. It is prepared with chicken pieces, olive oil, turmeric, ginger, garlic, chilli, onion, white rice and spices.
24. Meat Biryani
Biryani is a fabulous dish which has made a special appeal to all foodies of the world with its captivating aroma and savoury taste. Dubai is also the home of delicious biryani and Meat Biryani is the signature dish from the region.
Dubai’s food scene is dominated with a hoard of Biryani varieties like Katchhi, Iranian, Indian, Sri Lankan and Southeast Asian. Made of long-grain Basmati rice, aromatic spices and meat – Dubai’s Meat Biryani never fails to offer an invigorating culinary experience.
Emeriti desserts have always been an essential aspect of Dubai’s traditional cuisine and it is so very true even today. There is no better way to end our list of Dubai’s traditional foods than Luqaymat. This hugely popular pastry can be ordered at any regular shop, restaurant or you can have it on a private invitation to a local family function.
These home-made sweets indeed are the balls of little happiness made with flour, turmeric, milk, sugar, sesame seeds, salt and a pinch of yeast. A batter is prepared by kneading all these ingredients together and then left for a while. Then small balls made from this batter are deep fried in oil and drizzled with syrup of your choice.
What is the National Dish of Dubai?
Ghuzi is the National Dish of the UAE. Ghuzi or Ouzi is a non-veg delicacy made from whole-roasted lamb or mutton. No wonder, this humongous dish is prepared for big gatherings or special occasions only.
What is the Most Famous or Most Popular Food in Dubai?
It is not possible for anyone to pick the ‘most famous or popular’ food in Dubai. There is a string of famous foods in Dubai but if you still insist us to choose one or two, then we will vote for Shawarma and Hummus.
Places to Experience the Best Emirati Food in Dubai
Although Dubai has plenty of exciting options for food-lovers, finding a place to relish authentic Emirati food can be little tricky.
Such dishes have been mainly served at homes or at major celebrations. However, Dubai has a number restaurants that serve Emirati food with impressive variety. Here are the best places you can visit to enjoy a sumptuous Emirati meal.
This fine dining restaurant from Old Dubai is well-known for traditional Emirati cuisines with a contemporary twist. When you are at Aseelah, you must savour their specialty – Samak (fish cooked in gravy and paired with spiced rice). Poached Arabian Lobster is another favourite from Aseelah.
Radisson Blue Hotel, Baniyas Road, Dubai Deira Creek, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
2. Al Fanar
Fans of Emirati cuisine always swear by Al Fanar. This restaurant originated from the Festival City Mall always wins the heart of diners with their authentic Emirati flavours and tastes. We will suggest you order Chicken Machboos and Naghar Mashwi when you dine here.
Ground Floor, Dubai Festival City Mall, Near P.F. Chang’s, Canal Walk, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Sitting at the quirky locality of Boxpark, Logma is a casual café that prepares some of the most exotic Arab Khaleji cuisines. Specialities from this café include Chebab (Emirati pancake), Balaleet, Khameer and Emirati chicken dishes.
433 Al Wasl Road, Boxpark, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
4. Al Majlis
When it comes to Camel milk delicacies, nothing can beat the reputation of Al Majlis. This is the best place in the town to savour authentic and unique Camel milk-made coffee, chocolate, shakes, cakes and ice cream. Anything made of Camel milk has found its way to Al Majlis.
The Dubai Mall, Downtown Dubai, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Saba’s has crafted a special niche in the hearts of Emirati cuisine admirers with its tastefully traditional Arabian dishes. Interior of the restaurant has been designed carefully to elevate your mood and match the Emirati theme. Stalwarts from this restaurant include Mezze, Foul Medames and Meshawi.
Al Seef Street, Opposite the USA Embassy, Dubai Creek Side, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Any trip to Dubai has to be a memorable one. But when good food accompanies you throughout the trip, it’s almost an out-of-the-world experience. Hopefully, this post will help you explore the best of Dubai’s food scene.