Gourmet Q&A

02 Dec 2011
By Ahlanlive.com

Foodiva’s Samantha Wood tackles your culinary questions on where to get good local grub

I have recently moved to Dubai and I am keen to try local Emirati cuisine. Where would you recommend?
Believe it or not, Emirati cuisine is not as prevalent as Levantine or Egyptian, but we do have a few hidden gems:

1. The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding holds Emirati breakfasts every Monday and Wednesday at 10am, and lunches on a Sunday and Tuesday at 1pm in a traditional wind tower house in Bastakiya, Bur Dubai. What makes this experience stand out is the Emirati host who talks guests through the dishes, shedding some muchneeded insight into the culture – the closest thing to an Emirati home experience. www.culture.ae

2. If you’re after a more rounded dining experience, head to Emirati N More at the Cassells Hotel in Barsha, where brothers Khalid and Faisal Al Romaithi have opened the first restaurant dedicated to Emirati cuisine. You can choose to sit at a table or on traditional Majlis seating; just remember to remove your shoes! Try Majboos, spicy Basmati rice cooked in meat stock and served with meat or Maleh, a salt-cured fish dish. www.cassellsalbarshahotel.com

3. Al Makan restaurant in Madinat Jumeirah’s souk also dishes up Emirati treats from the à la carte menu, or even a daily buffet. www.alkoufa. com/Almakan

4. For a truly ‘wow’ experience, and one I love to take visitors to, you can’t beat Al Hadheerah Desert Restaurant at Bab Al Shams resort, a 45 minute drive into the desert from Dubai. Set amidst rolling sand dunes, a natural stone fort with rock walls transports you into an Arabian fairy tale with cooking stations, wood-fired ovens and spit roasts all dishing out Middle Eastern fare with a selection of Emirati dishes. www.meydanhotels.com

What local, sustainable fish should I be looking for when grocery shopping or dining out?
In the UAE, 60 percent of the total catch of fish is made up of species fished beyond sustainable levels, including the ever-popular hammour. The good news is the Emirates Wildlife Society, in association with the WWF, has launched the ‘Choose Wisely’ campaign to drive awareness of the sustainable fish we should be asking for, such as the pink-ear emperor, orange-spotted trevally and sordid sweetlips. You’ll find these and many more at leading supermarkets, but do prompt your fishmonger. As for dining out, Hilton Dubai Creek’s Glasshouse was the first restaurant here to serve daily sustainable fish specials. Many more have followed, so ask in advance. www.choosewisely.ae

Foodie specialists
We can pretty much buy most produce from the UAE’s supermarkets, give or take the odd import restriction. But if you’re looking for specialist stores here are a few suggestions.

1. For cheese, head to Jones The Grocer which has three locations in Abu Dhabi, and one in Dubai – each with its very own walkin-cheese room. www.jonesthegrocer.com
For the carnivores out there, Dubai has a standalone butchery, Prime Gourmet at the Gold & Diamond Park, selling meat mainly from Australia and New Zealand. www.primegourmet.ae
As for tea, try the new Tea4You shop in Barsha’s TECOM area. 04 4572575.