Emirati Vibes: 5 delicious dishes that capture unique cuisine handed down over generations

In the first of a five-part series that explores what defines the UAE, Khaleej Times looks at one of the hallmarks of Emirati culture: its food



Lugaimat. — File photo
Lugaimat. — File photo
by

Lamya Tawfik

Published: Sun 27 Nov 2022, 6:30 AM

Last updated: Sun 27 Nov 2022, 7:59 AM

Who hasn’t tried the delightful crispy hot fried spheres smothered in date syrup (dibs) also known as Lugaimat? It is an iconic dessert of the UAE that is loved by all, says an Emirati food expert.

1. Lugaimat

Emirati Chef Mariam Almansoori, owner of Montauk Boutique restaurant in Abu Dhabi, said that she has never seen anyone resist taking one (or dare we say more?) of the dessert whose name in Arabic means ‘small bites’.

Speaking to Khaleej Times, she said that one of the main features of the local kitchen is that all recipes are traditionally taught from one generation to the next. “Yes, sometimes you’ll find that they will also change a bit but the original recipes from our grandparents and their parents will always be there,” she said.

Luqaimat
Luqaimat

The traditional Emirati cooking happens mostly outdoors in the cooler months. “This is why you see many Emirati families wanting to go out and cook once the weather gets better,” said Chef Mariam.

“We tend to use a lot of whole spices, dried whole lemons and spices,” she said, adding that the cuisine also has influences from other countries like India for example. “Our spice mixes are similar to Indian masalas and we also use cardamom a lot,” she explained. Another essential spice is saffron. “What would Emirati coffee be like without saffron?” she said, laughing.

From the coastal areas to the inlands the cuisine changes in terms of ingredients with the former focusing on fish and the latter focusing on meat. There are many dishes that are famous in the UAE so we asked Chef Mariam to let us know her top must-try dishes.

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2. Maleh

Fish that is salted then cooked. “This is a very popular dish and we absolutely must eat it with lemon and onions.”

Maleh
Maleh

3. Majboos

Cooked meat or chicken with rice. “We use a special spice mix when cooking the meat, it’s called the Emirati Bizaar and consists of cumin, turmeric, black pepper and other spices.

Majboos
Majboos

4. Harees

Wheat and meat or chicken that is cooked and mashed. “This is very popular, it’s also a must have in weddings,” she said.

Harees
Harees

5. Thareed

Rugag bread that is soaked with a special stew and topped with meat. “The cuisine in the UAE is varied from area to area, but do you know which dish would you find on every Emirati table during the month of Ramadan? Thareed. I don’t know how we all agreed that it’s an essential part of the holy month,” she said.

Thareed
Thareed

Other dishes she said that are important in the Emirati cuisine are: Rugag bread (thin bread that is cooked with cheese and eggs), khameer (a bread that is cooked with Emirati ghee) and the date-based, slow-cooked dessert aseeda.

In her restaurant, Chef Mariam said she makes sure that she serves Emirati dishes. “The new generation are attracted to fast food joints but when it comes to the weekend, when the whole family gathers, they are always connected with their tradition and our food which is a part of our identity,” she said.


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