Dubai Diaries: Being a foodie in the city
The diversity of restaurants, built for every budget and desire, demands that we dine away from our own domains.
Food is a common passion that bonds humanity. When in Dubai, that endearing love for food takes you to restaurants of all colours and contours in this bling city. Almost everyone I hang out with loves eating out. If they don’t, I am glad to kick them out of my call list. Now as a long-term Indian expat in Dubai, eating out is part of my weekly ritual. It’s impossible not to be a foodie here.
The diversity of restaurants, built for every budget and desire, demands that we dine away from our own domains. I feel like I never know what will be on my plate next, or what part of the world I will make a culinary pilgrimage to next. I love the fact that no matter how hard I try, I can never sample all of the restaurants. By the time I tick a dozen cookhouses off my Dubai Restaurant Bucket List, another three dozen have opened.
My enchantment with eating out started early on. I still remember the shirtless old man who would bicycle by our house every week or two in Kerala, precariously balancing a glass box on his head. Like the children of Hamelin enticed by the Pied Piper, we trailed him as banana fries and rice dumplings, glistening in oil, sat neatly inside the box.
Never mind that our grandmother had the exact same treats already cooked for us in the kitchen. But they did not have the culinary charm of those newspaper-wrapped snacks that a stranger offered. When we went on small family vacations, my mom used to be the biggest killjoy when it came to eating out. Although we never travelled far, as kids we savoured the adventure of staying in hotels, seeing new places, and — best of all — eating out in restaurants.
But a few days into the trip, she would start frowning about the number of times we ate out. Perhaps she was wary of the size of the hole three insatiably hungry kids were digging into their father’s pocket with all these expensive meals.
Even after decades of eating out, I can feel that my fascination is not wearing off. Of course, as with so much in life, dining out while on holiday has now come full circle. When my 19-year-old son — he of the bottomless appetite and mandibles that can dismantle any meal with a speed that would make F1 drivers swoon — and I travel, I can feel myself start to channel my own mom’s love for home-cooked meals.
Maybe it’s just a sign of aging, but I have started thinking more and more of the health impacts of dining out all the time, which obviously is not flying with my perennially hungry son. He thinks I am losing the appetite for good things in life. How will I make him understand that there’s nothing a good ‘dosa’ can’t cure?