It’s amazing how many people have visited Dubai or lived here for years but have never tried a single dish of local food. In fact, if you ask most ex-pats to name an Emirati dish. They’ll often pull the kind of face which they made as a kid when their Mum caught them doing something they shouldn’t. Though it’s not entirely the fault of the person. Most Emiratis will prepare traditional food in their homes or order it to be delivered from small places which go relatively under the radar. So actually, there weren’t that many restaurants serving traditional Emirati food up until the last few years. So here are six traditional foods of the UAE you must try! Just don’t forget to wash it all down with a nice cup of Karak chai after!
This is an Emirati staple and can be eaten any time of the day, the traditional way is with cheese and a fish sauce. If you’re not a fan of the sauce you can get cheese and honey or cheese and egg. They also offer a whole range of other toppings.
So what is it? Regag is a very thin type of bread, very similar to a crepe. It’s best eaten fresh so make sure to drive to the cafe and eat it while you’re still sat in your car. It’s also a very affordable meal, costing between 4 and 6 aed for the bread with the filling.
Where to get the best Regag in Dubai? Al Labeeb Grocery in Jumeirah is the most famous.
So this one is popular in the whole of the Middle East and is normally consumed during Ramadan (you can find out more about what Ramadan is like in Dubai here.) This is due it’s fried goodness and the sweet sauces you drizzle over them, perfect for when you’ve been fasting. Typically this sauce is a date syrup but can also be honey. Some even have cheese inside but personally I like the traditional with the date syrup. Yum! Outside of Ramadan, they are commonly eaten as a breakfast food or a dessert. A lot of the traditional foods of the UAE for breakfast tend to be quite sweet or with sweet sauces.
The Tent Jumeirah in Umm Suqeim. This one is an amazing location and great for a start to your day in a relaxing way. However, the breakfast items such as Luqaimat are only served until 12.
Again another breakfast food. Made up of sweet vermicelli noodles topped with an omelette. It’s really interesting the first time you try it since you’re not expecting this mix of savoury and sweet but it’s definitely one that will slowly grow on you. Before you know it, you’ll be having this as an Emirati food craving.
Sikka Cafe, La Mer, City Walk & Al Khawaneej This Instagram worthy cafe does a mix of cuisines but you’ll also find Emirati cuisine on the menu including Balaleet.
Each gulf country has slightly different flavours for this dish so it’s a fun one to try all the different styles.
Of course, Emirati’s have their own different spices and flavours that make it an Emirati Machboos. Traditionally it is made with chicken served with rice but you do also get Machboos with other meats or fish and served on a large plate to share. It’s one of the most popular dishes here and is a must for any person wanting to try a traditional food of UAE.
Al Fanar Restaurant, Festival City A Dubai classic and a must of anyone wanting to try Emirati cuisine. There are other places that do Machboos but they tend to be other styles so here is your best option for traditional Emirati. Plus here you can try a whole range of foods off the list!
For the more adventurous eaters, this is the Emirati dish for you! This dish is crumbled or minced shark on top of rice. Yes you read that right, crumbled shark! Yes, yes that thing with teeth that swims in the sea. Often the portions of this are big enough for two, so probably best to share with your other adventurous friend.
Al Jawareh Restaurant, Jumeirah 1. Local decorations in a traditional setting that will make you feel like you travelled back in time.
This is a dividing food, some people love it and some people hate it but none the less it is a traditional food of UAE. Mostly those who don’t like it is due to the texture. Since it has the quality of porridge with mutton mixed in. It isn’t the most attractive looking of meals but it is really tasty! So pick up a spoon and give it a go. It’s a good wholesome meal made from barley.
Seven Sands at Jumeriah Beach Residences (JBR) They also do a prawn Jasheed if you’re not wanting the more adventurous shark version. Alternatively, if you’re wanting some real traditional food of the UAE delivered to your home, try Al Shandagha in various locations
So there you have it! Six traditional foods of the UAE that you must try when you’re in Dubai. How many of the dishes have you tried any off the list and if so what did you think of them? If you’ve got a friend visiting, don’t forget to take them to one of the restaurants above so they can enjoy some Emirati cuisine!
Wondering what to read next? Since it’s currently summer time here in Dubai and the UAE, why not check out “Six things to do in Dubai summer?” For some ideas on fun activities during the hottest months of the year.