Emirati Cuisine in Abu Dhabi, UAE
Emirati food combines simplicity and health. The UAE boasts a number of traditional dishes. Emirati cuisine relies heavily on the use of fish, meat and rice. The key to Emirati cuisine is a spice mixture of cardamom, ginger, black pepper, saffron, Carmon seeds, cinnamon, rose water, and loomy (dried lemon). The modern diet of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is cosmopolitan, featuring dishes from around the world. A lot of people confuse Levantine food as being Emirati, but shawarma, hummous, tabbouleh, and mixed grill are all recent additions and do not do justice to the sense of identity that makes up the Emirati menu.
Below we explore some of the most popular Emirati dishes in UAE.
Al Harees, which is a traditional Arabic dish consisting of wheat, meat (chicken) and salt, is a popular treat during special occasions such as Ramadan, Eid and weddings. It is made by cooking ground wheat in a pot with a pinch of salt, to which the meat is added. The mixture is then left for many hours until it is fully cooked and the meat is completely dissolved into the wheat. The mixture is poured into a clay pot and placed in a clay oven or in a specially prepared hole in the ground that is filled with burning coal. After several hours, the thick mixture is removed and stirred with a special piece of wood called 'midrib'. The final product is topped with local ghee and placed onto flat plates. Harees is a rich meal and is filling. Although quite similar to the Armenian harissa, harees is more of a gelatinous dumpling than a porridge. Even though harees was once a traditional dish made at Arab homes, nowadays one can find it on the menu in some Arabic restaurants in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Middle East countries.
Al Majboos, which is also called Al Makboos (Al Machboos), has red meat as its main ingredient (which can be replaced by shrimp or chicken) and rice. The meat is placed in boiling water and a blend of spices and dried lime are added. Fried chopped onion is added to the cooked meat, followed by a vegetable medley usually consisting of potatoes, tomatoes and green peppers. The mixture is left to cook on low heat for a short period. Cooked rice and saffron are added to the meat mixture in layers. Finally, Al Machboos is left to cook on a low fire or in an oven for about 10 minutes. This dish is very tasty and a meal in itself.
A tasty dish of meat boiled with onions, and a variety of vegetables such as courgettes, eggplant, onions, pepper, and okra. Spices and tomato paste are also added and the mixture is left to simmer for 10 minutes until ready. This dish is like meat soup.
Madrooba consists of salt-cured fish (known locally as ‘Maleh’ or salty) and flour cooked in a pot and seasoned with spices. The fish is cleaned thoroughly in running water and then cooked in a pot along with spices. While cooking, flour is added to the fish until the sauce thickens. When this dish is served, it is topped with ghee – clarified butter.
Fish is used as a main ingredient in several Emirati cuisine and is prepared in a variety of recipes; grilled, fried or cooked with rice in paella style. Some dried fish are also being grounded ( called ‘sahnah’). Traditional methods include preserving fish by salt curing (called ‘maleh’) or sun drying (known as ‘Al kaseef).
The aroma of freshly made bread is very appetizing. The Emirati cuisine has a variety of breads, which will definitely entice you to dig in. In the Emirates like Dubai and Abu Dhabi, bread is normally eaten for breakfast.
Raqaq is a flat bread prepared by cooking a dough of flour and water and often, additional ingredients. When the bread is ready, a variety of toppings such as ghee, butter and sugar, cheese or meat gravy (thareed) is spread onto it.
Yeast Bread is made with flour, yeast and a date paste, and is traditionally baked as a special treat during Ramadan. The bread is baked in an oven called a ‘tabi’ and topped with honey and butter or cheese. Each piece is shaped into a flat circle and fried on both sides.
Jabab is dough cooked like a pancake and eaten with ghee and sugar, honey, cheese or any other desirable topping.
No meal is complete without polishing off something sweet. Here are a few Emirati desserts to finish the meal on a sweet note in Abu Dhabi restaurants.
Khabeesah is made from roasted flour, water, sugar, rose water and saffron. At times, ghee and cardamom are also added. The mixture is then left on medium heat until ready.
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