21 Delicious Dubai Foods to Try in 2023
Through no fault of its own, Dubai food is not as internationally renowned as Dubai itself. Dubai is one of the more recognizable cities in the world, known for trading, lavish living and nightlife. But have you ever stopped to wonder, "What is the food like in Dubai?"
If you have an adventurous palate, you’ve probably already tried Indian food or Greek food, but Dubai food remains something of an enigma outside Dubai itself. We say it’s time for that to change! Whether you’re planning a visit to Dubai and are interested in discovering what foods to check out, or a restaurant serving Dubai cuisine has opened near you, read on to learn more about some of the best Dubai foods you have to try.
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Get a Taste of Famous Dubai Foods
During a visit to Dubai, you’ll find plenty of restaurants and eateries to ensure you get a taste of all Dubai foods — traditional and street alike. Some even throw their own modern twists into the recipes, creating something classic and comforting but bursting with new flavors. If you’re wanting to try your hand at cooking some of the dishes you come across, cooking classes in Dubai are led by experienced chefs ready to show you the secret to delicious Dubai cuisine.
21 Must-Try Dubai Foods
Luqaimat is a dish that takes the shape of small, golden balls that are eaten with a sticky date sauce and topped with sesame seeds. Its name means “little bites” and is akin to fried doughnut holes. They are a tiny meal that can be made during iftar — the Emirati tradition of breaking fast during Ramadan.
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and is seen as a time of cleansing for the mind and body. Once fast is broken, a smaller meal or snack is had before prayer and a larger, more substantial meal. At this gathering, these crunchy, melt-in-your-mouth dumplings could be one of the many dishes served!
This meaty, tomato-based stew is generally made with chicken or lamb, but it can be made vegetarian with potatoes or baby marrow instead. The show-stopping ingredient is the masala-like spice blend called bezar, which includes turmeric, cumin, cardamom and cinnamon, among others.
Margoogat can be found at a variety of restaurants ranging from local eateries to high-end hotels. In particular, a must-try version of the dish that is more curry-based is the chicken margoogat dish at Aseelah in the Radisson Blu Hotel.
The perfect snack-sized food, samosas are hot pastry appetizers filled with meat, vegetables and spices. Originating in Central Asia, they were introduced to India by Middle Eastern chefs who had come for employment. Samosas are also said to have gained the stamp of approval from Indian royalty, which boosted their popularity in the 9th century.
Samosas are most commonly in the shape of a triangle, and the most popular rendition of a Dubai samosa is stuffed with three types of cheese. The most common filling consists of onions, ginger, boiled potatoes, green peas, green chiles and spices.
Not to be confused with a kebab, chebab are warm, Emirati-style pancakes made with sour cheese and sweet date syrup. More modern interpretations use honey, jam, sugar or butter, and their flavor is described as boozy and rich Swiss fondue.
During Ramadan, this dish can be eaten during suhoor, the first meal consumed before fasting begins. These thin and crispy pancakes are some of the best food in Dubai for this occasion.
Machboos or majboos is a traditional rice dish made with some sort of meat — usually chicken or lamb, but shrimp can also be used — and spices such as cardamom and cinnamon. Similar to Indian and Persian biryani recipes, the rice is made with leftover water that was used to cook the meat, infusing it with even more flavor.
Machboos is another dish featured during iftar meals and is also served at a variety of family events. Recipes are usually passed through generations of families, cementing machboos as an important part of Dubai food culture.
Harees is said to be one of the most famous Dubai foods, made up of crushed wheat and minced meat with onions and ground cumin. It’s a more traditional dish that is served at weddings and festivals, and often during special occasions like Ramadan as well. This porridge takes a while to prepare and relies mainly on recipes passed down through familial generations. More recently, however, harees can be found in restaurants, cementing it as an important piece of Dubai food culture.
This Dubai food is likely the simplest dish on this list. Khubz, also known as khubz tannur, is a type of Arabic bread that pairs well with any dish, especially dips such as aubergine or hummus. This whole wheat flatbread is similar to naan in texture as it is not made with yeast or other leavening ingredients, though it still takes just as long to bake as those that do have these in their recipes.
This pita-type bread can be used and eaten with most Dubai traditional food, which explains its popularity since it’s pretty versatile. It’s recommended that you try fresh or bakery khubz rather than store-bought, and some establishments like the Arabian Tea House have glass windows for patrons to watch the bread-making process!
Another popular Dubai food, madrouba gets its name from the Arabic word for “beaten,” which is the final step of the recipe — beating all of the ingredients together to make a smooth mash composed of rice and chicken in addition to a plethora of spices. It can be made vegetarian as well using crushed grains, but for those wanting a non-vegetarian version without chicken, it can also be cooked with fish and lamb. Because it’s an easily digestible meal, it’s ideal for all ages to try at home and at festivals.
As mentioned above, machboos is similar to biryani, but the latter prepares its ingredients separately rather than together. It has a delicious and savory taste derived from Indian spices and flavorful meat — usually chicken, but lamb, fish or even eggs can be substituted. It most likely originated in Persia and was then brought to India, where it thrives in households and restaurants alike.
This meat broth has bread and vegetables soaked within it, making it rich in vitamins and proteins. Thareed’s health benefits are said to be high due to the energy it provides, particularly from the high vegetable protein.
This traditional Dubai food has been around for thousands of years and has continued to remain popular throughout the centuries. It’s usually only eaten during Ramadan, making it a special dish that is comforting and fulfilling after fasting for the month.
Another Emirati stew, salona is full of vitamins and protein and is a regularly enjoyed Dubai food for its simplicity and incredible flavor. A popular variation adds pieces of chicken to the rice and spice mix of turmeric, grated ginger, onion, minced garlic, olive oil and chiles. In addition to being a staple meal in households, it’s featured at many Emirati feasts and special occasions.
Jasheed is a seafood-based dish ideally made using small sharks, though other fish can be substituted if they aren’t handy. A bazaar spice mix, cinnamon, ginger and cardamom have the shark meat bursting with flavor. To finish it off, it’s served on top of white rice. Jasheed is a testament to the coastline that spans the nation, and you can find this one-of-a-kind meal at Al Fanar, a restaurant that introduces local dishes like this to all customers.
A feast in and of itself, ghuzi (or khuzi) is one of the most renowned Dubai foods. It consists of slow- and whole-roasted lamb or mutton, usually served in kebab form, with vegetables and hazelnuts on top of rice. It can be plated with salad and yogurt, chicken, stuffed into a pastry pocket or garnished on its own with roasted nuts.
Weddings and celebrations customarily have ghuzi served, and it’s another meal that is featured during iftar. On top of that, it’s considered the national dish of the United Arab Emirates. No wonder it’s such a key dish in Dubai food culture!
14. Tahta Maleh
Another traditional Dubai food, tahta maleh’s popularity is still going strong in high-end eateries and at the family table. This fish-oriented meal is known for its saltiness and diversity, since multiple types of fish can be used. The most common is the yellowfin tuna due to its high availability, but mackerel, herring or queenfish are also suitable for the recipe. One thing to note is that, due to its heavy salt content, the dish is not recommended for those that are health conscious or have high blood pressure. The plate itself gets its name from the Arabic words that mean “layers” and “salty fish.”
A staple Dubai street food, shawarma has reportedly been around since the 17th century in the Middle East. The meat is stacked on a spit and slow-roasted until slices are shaved off for the sandwich. Lamb is the most traditional meat, but chicken, beef, veal and turkey are common substitutions. Vegetables, fries and pickles are common sides to accompany shawarma, but the sides can be easily tailored to your taste buds.
While this is more of a generalized food rather than a specific meal, with a flavor comparable to lamb, camel meat is a common ingredient to find in Dubai food and has been around the Emirati city for a couple of decades. In particular, a restaurant named Local House supplies camel burgers to their customers as a modern take on the local meat.
Camel is frequently used in biryani and stews. On the more luxurious side, stuffed camel is considered a delicacy and is only made for familial and cultural celebrations. Interestingly, camel's milk is known to contain more calcium and vitamin C than cow's milk, and the ice cream is said to be creamy and tasty.
Mahalabiya is a bit of a shift from the other dishes listed so far — this one is a creamy Arabian dessert. Rosewater and pistachios are the biggest standouts among the flavors you can find, but the refreshing taste is consistent across each of them. It’s popular with children at restaurants and during Ramadan and is said to be light and healthy.
18. Esh Asaraya
Esh asaraya has a texture that’s similar to cheesecake, but don’t let that fool you: This Dubai food is actually a type of sweet bread that’s garnished with a creamy frosting. It earns its spot amongst the popular foods of the city through its rich, melt-in-your-mouth flavor. It can be found at most eateries, from local bake shops to opulent establishments, and visitors and natives alike love to grab a bite.
19. Baba Ghanouj
Dating back to the 13th century according to Arabic manuscripts, baba ghanouj is an eggplant dip that goes great with bread and vegetables. A similar dish called mutabbal is essentially a spicier version of baba ghanouj. This dip is a must-have food when you visit Dubai for its versatility alone. To impart the signature smoky flavor that makes baba ghanouj one of the best Dubai foods, the eggplant is grilled until it begins falling apart.
When you think of breakfast, your first thought probably isn’t how great a slice of pizza sounds. Despite that, manousheh — known as “the pizza of Dubai” — is a popular breakfast item in Dubai and other countries. Manousheh is a stretched flatbread with Akkawi cheese, olive oil and earthy herbs. It pairs well with minced lamb or sweet jam, taste buds depending. It’s also a must-try in terms of Dubai street food, since the convenience of chowing down on a slice makes it easy to grab a snack wherever you’re at.
21. Shish Tawook
Shish tawook is another kebab meal, and it can be found on the menu of almost every Dubai restaurant. It can be eaten off of the stick like other kebabs but supposedly tastes even better when sandwiched into bread. It’s of Turkish influence and made its way to India and Dubai from other chefs who had migrated into the country.
Many ingredients for Dubai food incorporate rice and meat in some capacity — and seafood has mainstreamed its way into Dubai food culture due to its constant availability — but each plate is unique through its preparation method and cooking style. From elaborate dishes to simple street food, there’s no shortage of tasty and flavorful food to find during your next trip to Dubai, so try out some of these dishes while you visit!
For even more fun ways to explore Dubai and beyond, check out other experiences happening on Cozymeal.
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