A glamorous, world class shopping capital, center for corporate trade, or a dreamy romantic adventure destination, Dubai is many places all at the same time: it has layers. What tends to get missed though is that Dubai is a culinary haven – it is home to over 200 nationalities! The city’s foodscape is a melting pot of cultures – from the piquant flavours of India and authentic South East Asian cuisines to traditional Middle Eastern fare – each sit side by side with each other in welcoming Dubai. Eating out here is a unique experience; you get to sample a diverse range of cuisines in hole-in-the-wall eateries everywhere. Here are some of the best street foods to enjoy when you are in Dubai — and the best places to get them:
The luscious, terribly popular shawarma is perhaps the greatest culinary export out of the Middle East. (Read: Best Places for Persian Food in Dubai). Spit roasted whole chicken is thinly sliced and mixed with an assortment of fresh vegetables, pickles and delicious spicy and creamy sauces and wrapped in soft flatbread to make this enticing street food. The shawarma can be made with an assortment of meats – lamb, chicken, turkey, beef, veal — you name it. The unique crunchy flavour is owed to the slow spit roasting of the meat, sometimes grilled throughout the day. While shawarma outlets are present all over the city of Dubai, the best part about shawarma hunting is to find a spot that can be your regular haunt. Some of the most well-known shawarma spots in town are:
Al Mallah Restaurant, Diyafah Street, Dubai
Al Khayal Cafeteria, Al Satwa, Dubai
Shish Tawouk Roll
Shish Tawouk is the shawarma’s less popular sibling. Cubes of chicken are marinated and skewered over hot coal, shish kebab style, and are then mixed with onions, veggies and sauces – before getting expertly wrapped in flatbread. The spicy garlicky marinade mixed with signature Arabian pickles makes for the perfect mid day snack that you can have on the go. We recommend the shish tawouk at:
Sidra Restaurant, Al Diyafah Street, Dubai
An Emirati take on the Indian samosa, a delicious fried dumpling stuffed with assorted meats or veggies (whose long history can be traced far back to Persia, East India and even China), the samboosa is the favourite teatime snack of Dubai. Find the meaty variants stuffed with chicken, lamb or beef mince (or potatoes and peas, for vegetarians), a delicious crunchy samboosa always leaves you craving more. Try them at the following outlets:
Phersian Restaurant, Khalid Bin Al Waleed, Dubai
Urban Tadka Restaurant, Al Karama, Dubai
Another staple of the Levantine cuisine, the manakish is a large flatbread cooked in an oven and topped with spices and herbs like thyme, oregano, marjoram, veggies, and ground meat, and drizzled with olive oil. Remind you of a pizza? Well this a Middle Eastern pizza – that’s for sure! There are a wide variety of manakish toppings from different Levantine cultures – there is the Arabic za’atr of a mix of spices with roasted sesame seeds, then there are different kinds of traditional cheese, minced lamb and the sumptuous kishq, or fermented dried yogurt mixed with finely ground wheat. You will never run out of options. Some of the legendary manakish spots in Dubai are:
Beirut Restaurant, Al Satwa, Dubai
Al Reef Bakery, Al Satwa, Dubai
There are so many ways of marinating, treating and cooking the tender and delicious kebab – you can get lost in a world of delightful cultural differences (but with origins in the Middle East), all suited to both local and global palates! Shish, doner, shami, boti, reshmi, galauti, souvlaki – the options are endless, with generous amounts of hummus and tahini. Find these lovely, succulent char-grilled chunks of mouthwatering meat in the following places in Dubai:
Arabian Sea Shell Cafeteria, Al Satwa, Dubai
Afghan Kebab House, Deira, Dubai
The massive influx of Indian and Pakistani migrants to Dubai has brought with it the food and culture of the subcontinent into the Emirate. Of course, the food habits of both regions have a much longer history and association. The Indian paratha is as ubiquitous in Dubai as the Levantine manakish. From vegetarian stuffings like potato, onion and paneer to different kinds of stuffed kebabs, there are parathas for every mood in Dubai. Here are some trusty paratha joints in Dubai.
Paratha King, Al Karama, Dubai
Sheeba’s Fast Point, Al Karama, Dubai
Said to be a derivative of the Indian Kadak Chai, this strong, creamy, flavourful tea has quickly become a crowd favourite in Dubai. You will find a Karak Chai stall anywhere in Dubai – just follow the wafting scent of cardamom and other spices to the cheery chai joint. Ask for a crispy fried doughnut to go along with your cup of karak, and you will be instantly transported to tea heaven.
This legendary Levantine ice cream is the perfect way to beat the Dubai heat. The traditional preparation is made with shalab or salep, which is flour made out of dried orchid stalks. This gives the famous booza a sticky texture and makes it resistant to melting in hot Middle Eastern temperatures. You can try this delicious treat at:
Booza, Downtown Dubai, Dubai
Chips Oman Roll
Chips Oman is one of Dubai’s most favorite childhood snacks. These famous crisps are spotted on pretty much every supermarket shelf in Dubai! It is easy to imagine why it made complete sense to crush them up into crunchy bits and roll them up in a tortilla wrap or paratha bread with some creamy spreadable cheese or mayonnaise. This is only one of many delish mash-ups, however. Rolls and sandwiches stuffed with Oman Chips are UAE’s go-to comfort food; the unofficial national dish, if you will! The scrumptious roll is sold in every cafeteria or road side stall.
You only need to know where to look when it comes to street food in Dubai, and you’ll find that most of the time, your nose is going to be your best guide. Also find out the best time to visit for all the things you want to mark off your Dubai travel checklist. To know more about Dubai and for help with planning your itinerary, get in touch with TripFactory for a customized holiday package!