Take it to the Street!

Take it to the Street!

Some of my favourite small joints for tasty meals on any budget



By Kari Heron

Published: Fri 20 Feb 2015, 6:35 PM

Last updated: Fri 26 Jun 2015, 12:26 AM

Kari Heron

Customers sit down to some of the best seafood meals at Bu Qtair. Photos by Kari Heron

Growing up in Jamaica, it was the mark of great child rearing if you could ‘dine on the back of your fork with the queen and yet be at home with people from all walks of life.’ It is something I have always prided myself on, as it is a great life lesson — being able to fit in with all people. Nowhere is this more pronounced than when you add food into the mix.

As much as I absolutely adore a finely executed gourmet dining experience, there is a part of me that equally relishes dining of humbler origins, particularly homely, simple, street type casual dining experiences with the masses.

Some of us purists in the food world may argue that due to strict laws governing food production, there is no real “street” food scene here, per se. Unlike other countries, there is no cooking in the streets. All food vendors must cook in proper surroundings fitted with plumbing and equipment for hygiene purposes but, more importantly, with refrigeration, to ensure that food is kept at safe temperatures in the arid desert climate.

For those of us who have suffered the horrors of a stomach bug or two due to unsanitary street food handling in more liberal countries, we can certainly understand and appreciate the restrictions for our own safety. Nevertheless, some small cafeterias and cas-ual restaurants in the UAE do set up parts of their operation in shop windows, giving customers the “street food” vibe.

Here are my favourite spots for &lip-smacking, scrumptious meals &that go a long way from breaking the bank. These are the places you can &always go to for a meal, even when you are about broke. 

Bu Qtair

Bu Qtair

Chef whips up specialities

Fresher seafood you will not find anywhere in Dubai. I suggest parking your car somewhere along the Jumeirah Beach Road and hailing a cab because you may have a hard time locating it on your own. Before you hop in, mention “Kerala fry fish Jumeirah Bu Qtair” to your taxi driver.

If you still get lost, keep on the road by the beach and look out for the men working or sitting by the boats and ask them the same. Keep your words very simple, as most may not speak English well. During lunchtime, only small fish and rice are served, but by dinnertime, large and small fish are served and priced per size. 

Noodle Bowl

Feel for some authentic Chinese cuisine? Or would you like to sample &Malaysian fare? Well, you are in luck. Noodle Bowl is Dubai’s most accessible Chinese restaurant and certainly one of the best of the sparse lot.

As far as Malaysian food goes, they are absolutely the best place for Malay and Chinese Malaysian cuisine.

 Take it to the Street!

The no-frills stuff: (right to left) Authentic Lebanese fare at Al Mallah; Malaysian seafood laksa soup from Noodle Bowl; expect simple interiors and fiery food at Karachi Darbar

Al Mallah

Al Mallah is an old icon of the Dubai street food scene, hailing from the &exclusive days of Satwa and the former Al Diyafa street. Serving tasty Lebanese fast food treats until very late, it’s the one place you can be guaranteed a meal for two coming in at about Dh60.

This used to be the spot where my husband and I would grab a bite after he finished his chef duties way past the last order of every restaurant in town. It is one of the few historic restaurants still open in Dubai and, for that alone, deserves a visit. 

Karachi Darbar

While every other expat raves about Ravi’s in Satwa, it is the Karachi Darbar in Karama and other locations across Dubai that hits the ball out of the park for me. This is fast, efficient home-style cooking from the spice-loving country of Pakistan.

With dishes full of thick, flavoursome sauces and traditional foods cooked in traditional vessels, this is as authentic as it gets. It is a rather simple spot with delicious and very affordable food from colourful curries to soothing, thick, tongue-coating lassi.

Whatever you do, order your lassi first — you will need it! I must warn though that if you cannot tolerate heat in your food, it’s best stay out of this kitchen. 


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