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Food Travel Middle East

7 Traditional Emirati Foods To Try in Dubai

January 8, 2018

Want to eat local Emirati foods in Dubai? Even in such a multicultural city in the United Arab Emirates, it doesn’t have to be difficult. There are plenty of Emirati restaurants in Dubai to seek out. Don’t miss these traditional UAE eats on your next visit.  

A fisheye view of Dubai from the Burj Khalifa, reflecting a cosmopolitan city rising from the brown desert

Dubai as seen from the towering Burj Khalifa. Photo by Tom Olliver/Flickr

Dubai is home to thousands of immigrants, and as such, is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. The city’s multiculturalism is highly evident in its local food scene, an impressive smorgasbord of international cuisine. You’ll find the best Lebanese restaurants in Dubai as well as Japanese, American, Indian, Italian, French, Chinese, Philippine and many more. But even with the abundance of international fare, you still need to experience some traditional Emirati foods in Dubai: the highlights of a simple, filling, spice-forward cuisine reflecting regional influences.

Below are some of the typical UAE dishes you cannot miss, and where to find them at Emirati restaurants in Dubai.

Balaleat, a traditional Emirati breakfast dish, in Dubai
Balaleat (not always heart-shaped!). Photo by Krista/Flickr.

Balaleat

Balaleat (also spelled balaleet) is a traditional Emirati sweet-and-salty breakfast food, although it’s also sometimes served as a dessert. It consists of vermicelli noodles and eggs as the main ingredients, spiced with cardamom, cinnamon, saffron and orange blossoms. Finally, the dish is topped with pistachios, to delicious effect.

Where to find it: Logma in Boxpark and Al Fanar in Dubai Festival City are two of the most popular local restaurants known for serving the best-tasting balaleat.

Khuzi

Khuzi, or ghuzi, is the United Arab Emirates’ national dish. It is a complete, filling and delicious meal since this dish consists of roasted lamb or mutton served on top of a bed of rice and topped with vegetables and nuts. If you’re seeking out Emirati foods in Dubai, this one’s an absolute must.

Where to find it: Restaurants such as Bu Qtair Fish Restaurant (in Umm Suqeim) serve authentic khuzi in single or smaller servings—portions that you will definitely finish in one sitting.

Al Harees, a porridge-like Emirati dish in Dubai
Photo by Krista/Flickr

Al Harees

Al harees is another one-pot culinary wonder, related to the Arabic dish haleem: Wheat and salt are mixed in a pot and boiled for several hours. When the mixture reaches porridge-like consistency, chunks of lamb, chicken, mutton or veal are added, and the dish is boiled or baked again for several hours. Cinnamon, salt and pepper are also added to boost the flavor of the dish.

Where to find it: Khaneen Restaurant in Al Safa and Al Fanar, one of the most sought-after restaurants in Dubai Festival City, are both highly regarded for serving authentic al harees.

Al Machboos

Al machboos is a dish made of red meat, chicken or shrimp boiled in stock with spices and dried lime powder, or loomi. When the meat is tender, the pieces are removed from the pot and rice is added and cooked in the same stock. Once the rice is cooked, the meat is added together with some fried chopped onions, potatoes, tomatoes, green peppers and other vegetables. The dish is then cooked over low heat for at least two more hours to give it more flavor and a really delicate texture.

Where to find it: You can enjoy this traditional UAE food at Gulf Mandi on Al Khaleej Rd. and Barjeel Al Arab on Al Ghubaiba Rd.

Fattoush, a Middle Eastern salad, in Dubai
Photo by Beck/Flickr

Fattoush

If you’re looking for a traditional vegan Emirati dish, try fattoush. This dish consists of fresh lettuce, diced tomatoes, cucumbers, mint leaves, onion, garlic, lemon and olive oil and is served on Levantine bread (fried or toasted slices of pita bread). This salad is a great accompaniment or start to any meal.

Where to find it: Al Halabi, located at the Mall of the Emirates, and Afiyet Olsun in Al Barsha are known for serving amazing plates of this refreshing salad.

Thereed

Thereed is a slow-cooked stew made of chicken, lamb or goat and roasted vegetables. It can also be cooked as a pure vegetarian dish. This heavily spiced stew is served on top of a traditional thin Emirati flatbread called rigag.

Where to find it: If you want to taste a legit bowl of thereed, head to the Seven Sands, a fine-dining restaurant located at the Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR).

A bowl of luqaimat, an Emirati fried doughnut dessert in date syrup in Dubai
Photo by Krista/Flickr

Luqaimat

These crunchy dumplings, which are pleasantly soft on the inside, are soaked in honey or a sweet, sticky date syrup known as dibbs when served. Salty and sweet at the same time, they are the most popular traditional Emirati dessert.

Where to find it: The Arabian Tea House Restaurant and Café in Bastakiya and Milas Restaurant at the Dubai Mall are popular for their delectable luqaimat.

Whatever cuisine you’re hankering for, you’ll find it in Dubai. But don’t forget to discover the local foods of the United Arab Emirates that the city is also known for—you’ll have an extraordinary dining experience and learn some more about the unique food culture of Dubai.

Skyline in Dubai to the beach

Where to Stay in Dubai

This map from our partners at Stay22 will get you started as you search for Dubai accommodations. It shows both hotel and apartment/home rentals via Vrbo.

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About the author: Kumar Samtani is the co-founder of MenuPages.ae. He has an educational background in industrial and operations engineering from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; his expertise lies in process improvement and operations management for all types of organizations. Kumar is also an experienced entrepreneur with business interests in consumer goods, hospitality supplies and real estate.

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Image of typical Emirati dishes as found in Dubai

 

  • Reply
    Robbin
    October 28, 2020 at 1:18 am

    Thanks for sharing this guide. It was very helpful to try all the amazing dishes of Dubai. Loved it. Keep posting:)

  • Reply
    Sayan
    January 17, 2021 at 10:51 pm

    Thanks For Sharing Helped me with my school research

  • Reply
    Hasna
    April 27, 2022 at 5:35 am

    Loved every bit of your blog. Next time you should compile an article on the bakery shops in dubai. The Roastery stores at the Etihad Mall is a great place for all sweet treats. https://etihadmall.ae/en/dine-category/roastery-sweet/

  • Reply
    Couponsavinguae
    May 4, 2022 at 6:04 am

    Nice blog! Thank you for sharing Amazing dishes in Dubai. I hope keep posting.

  • Reply
    Syed Ayaan
    May 11, 2022 at 3:06 am

    I like the food and how it looks wow wow wow

  • Reply
    Lydia Armand
    June 14, 2022 at 6:47 am

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    Hollie Newman
    November 29, 2022 at 6:03 am

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