The delights of Emirati Cuisine in Abu Dhabi
For a long time, Emirati cuisine was hard to come by in Abu Dhabi for anyone except, well, Emiratis. With no restaurants serving it, local food was confined to the home and it has only recently emerged into the wider dining sphere.
There is an emirate-wide campaign to promote and develop UAE cuisine and encourage more people to experience its delights.
Meals often start with an elaborate meze of dips and salads. Although traditional dips such as hummus and tabbouli trace their beginnings from the kitchens of Lebanon and the Levant, these have worked their way into Emirati classics.
Emirati cuisine consists of lots of meat (chicken, fowl and occasionally camel) and seafood, accompanied by rice and has been shaped by a mélange of cultures – Indian biryani is the inspiration for many Emirati rice dishes, while the use of limes, lemons and rosewater stems from Persia.
The influence from Asia is particularly in the use of saffron and other aromatic spices such as ground coriander, turmeric, cumin, black pepper, red pepper, dried ginger, cardamom, nutmeg.
You can now experience Emirati cuisine in some Abu Dhabi restaurants:
Meylas Food Truck
Set up by Abu Dhabi-born and-raised Shaikha Al Kaabi, this new concept pulls classic Emirati dishes into the present with inspiring blends of old and new flavours served, in contemporary street-style, through the window of a gourmet food truck.
Al Kaabi’s aim is to give people the opportunity to experience her local fare while simultaneously taking it to the next level and contributing to the development of a national cuisine her country can be proud of.
Meylas’ menu is filled with traditional recipes from Emirati mothers and grandmothers. Dishes include legimat (sweet, fried dumplings similar to Indian gulgula), batheetha (a traditional dessert made with date paste, flour and ghee), rgaag sandwiches (rgaag is thin, light, crispy bread) and khameer (Emirati bread often eaten with honey and cheese).
Where: Emirates Palace Hotel
The capital’s original Emirati restaurant, and the first to focus entirely on local food, this luxury eatery places a gourmet spin on traditional dishes.
A popular order is the Hariz, a thick savoury stew that’s generally considered to be the national dish of the UAE. The Chicken Wings Hamsat, doused in Arabian spices and cooked on the open flame, is a tasty take on this modern classic.
Hammour Mafrook is a creamy seafood dish that harks back to Abu Dhabi’s days as a humble fishing village. You can enjoy your authentic Emirati cuisine dining experience on the outdoor terrace, as this intimate environment lends itself perfectly to the luxurious views of the Arabian Gulf before you, and Emirates Palace behind you.
The warm weather, blue sky and sea breeze will enhance your appetite and fine dining experience.
Al Fanar Restaurant & Café
Where: Ritz Carlton, Grand Canal, Venetian Village
Sharing platters at Al Fanar offer a mix of typical Emirati dishes and more modern recipes created from local ingredients, which deliver an authentic taste of this emerging cuisine. The focus is on salads, seafood and meat, which are served up in an atmospheric, old-style setting based around mud-brick rooms and barasti booths.