The Cuisine of Dubai

Understand more about traditional local cuisine...

Food in Dubai and the United Arab Emirates is largely based on Arabic cuisine, with Iranian and Lebanese influences and food in Dubai tends to be served food with a mix of Arabic styles and tastes. Arabic food is full of flavour, including lots of spices. Emirati cuisine uses spices such as cinnamon, turmeric, as well as a variety of nuts and dried fruits.

For snacks and food on the move, sharwarmas are very popular. These are widely available and cheap. They are meat cooked on a skewer and then cut into thin strips, served in pita bread with vegetables and dressing. They are very similar to kebabs. Lamb tends to be the most commonly served meat, although chicken is often used.

Meals are served with lots of different breads and salads which are unlimited and free of charge. Arabic bread, known as pitas, is a flat round bread, which can be separated and is often used to make a sandwich or to scoop up food.

The following dishes are widely available:

  • Falafel: Often served as a side dish; these are chickpeas and spices that are then deep-fried
  • Mezze or meza: Lots of little dishes or appetisers. These include hummus (mashed chickpeas and garlic), tabbouleh (a salad of bulghur wheat, tomatoes and mint), and moutabel (mashed aubergine)
  • Fish is caught locally in the Arabian Gulf. Commonly available is lobster, crab, shrimp, tuna and red snapper. These may be served grilled, stuffed, or fried with spices
  • Dates (Tamr) are very common. It is possible to find them fresh, dried or in cooked dishes
  • Umm Ali is a sweet bread pudding. Although there are lots of variations, it is made with nuts and sometimes pastry. Served with cream or even ice-cream

Dishes can be accompanied by burghul (bulghur wheat). These are grains of dried wheat kernels, also used when making the popular dish kibbeh. These resemble oval meatballs, often made with lamb and mixed with burghul, herbs and spices.