United Arab Emirates
Emirati cuisine is a blend of many Middle Eastern and Asian cuisines, although with a strong identity of its own. Traditional Emirati dishes make heavy use of fish, meat, and rice. By adding Vegeta All-Purpose Seasoning, Vegeta Twist Fish, Grill and Chicken Seasonings, and Vegeta Cream of Lentil Soup, you can really enhance the local flavours.
Podravka Gulf FZE
JAFZA ONE, office BB 1209
Jebel Ali Free Zone South
Tel: +971 4 881 8449
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Nermin Salman, Market director
The United Arab Emirates is a union of 7 Emirates (Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ras al- Khaimah, Ajman, Umm al-Quwain and Fujairah) situated in the Middle East, stretching for more than 650 kilometers along the southern shore of the Arabian Gulf between Oman and Saudi Arabia.
Historical influence on cuisine
Emirati cuisine, like that of much of the Middle East, reflects a wide exposure to visitors and conquerors from other civilizations over the centuries – with strong Arabic and Mediterranean influences noticeable in many Emirati dishes. Given that much of the UAE was once Bedouin, traditional Emirati cuisine (both in terms of food and eating practices) is still strongly tied to hospitality and generosity.
The staple foods of Emirati cuisine are rice and meat, with lamb and mutton the most popular, followed by goat and beef – although camel is still eaten at special occasions. As much of the UAE is situated along the coast, fish is also widely eaten – from well-known species such as tuna and kingfish, to local favourites like hammour and sheri, which are often simply prepared with spices and served whole.
Many Emirati dishes are prepared and cooked in a single pot, with saffron, turmeric, thyme, and cardamom often added for flavour. Vegetables are grown in some parts of the UAE, and so feature in the diet both fresh and pickled.
Traditional Emirati dishes include Harees, which is prepared by adding meat to ground wheat and cooking for hours until the meat is completely dissolved, before being finished in a clay oven. Machboos is a mixture of red meat and rice with a medley of vegetables and spices. Batheetha is a popular winter dessert made of date paste, flour and ghee. Other desserts feature cardamom, saffron, ghee, and dhibs (date syrup).
Dates aren’t just used in desserts either – they’re still traditionally served at the start of a meal too. Over 40 varieties are grown in the UAE, making them not only an important part of Emirati cuisine, but trade too.
It’s traditional to welcome guests with dates and Arabic coffee, locally known as gahwah, which can be served plain or with cardamom. These are kept available to guests throughout their visit.
One of the UAE’s most impressive dishes is stuffed camel. Traditionally served at the weddings of rich families, the camel is stuffed with a whole lamb, as well as chickens, eggs, fish, and rice, then roasted.
One of the commonest dishes served in the UAE is shawarma. Although recipes vary from place to place, it’s almost always made by mixing chopped lamb or chicken with pickles, tomatoes, fries, and garlic sauce, all wrapped in Arabic flatbread.