If we ever leave the UAE, there will be some foods we will definitely miss. Sure, there are Arabic restaurants throughout the world, but it’s just not the same. It’s like having Mexican food in Mexico, pain au chocolat in Paris or quatrro formaggio pizza in Italy…it will always taste better when you’re eating in the source.
Here are my family’s top 6 foods from around here that we recommend you try while visiting. Of course there are many more, but these will get you started.
1. The Shawarma
Popular BEFORE the movie Avengers, but maybe more well known now. It’s typically made with lamb or chicken…although most stops have chicken. You’ll get an Arabic roti (bread) filled with the meat and mixed with tomatoes, pickles, garlic sauce and chips (fries). Chips seem to accompany or go into many foods here. I always ask for no chips. Shawarma is one of the most popular foods in the UAE, and the flavor will differ from place to place, as well as the size.
Falafel is crunchy and wonderful dipped in hummus. They are made out of mixing chickpeas and spices, then deep-fried. You can get really good Falafel, or so-so falafel. You’ll try a few places and find your favorite. Here in Al Ain, we prefer Hussam. You can get falafel individually or wrapped in a flat bread sandwich.
3. Fruit Juices
No, not a juice box, a real, fresh-squeezed juice made right before you. Stop into any “cafeteria” labeled shop, and you’ll have your choices of fruit juice blends, or make your own. My favorite is orange/banana/pineapple. These are by far the best juices I’ve ever tasted…anywhere.
Eaten as a side salad, it includes chopped parsley, bulgur, tomato, scallion, mint and other herbs with lemon juice and olive oil. I used to make this at home, but my ratio was very different…heavier on the bulgur. Here, it’s mostly parsley. Still delicious and refreshing in the heat.
Think of your favorite stew recipe, but ten times better. This has become my favorite hearty dish. The vegetables, chicken and bread mixture is just delicious with all those spices.
6. Umm Ali
I call this Arabic bread pudding. It’s a dessert that is warm, comforting and reminds me of grandma. I learned how to make it and posted the recipe here.