Saudi Arabian cuisine, specifically Abu Dhabi Food, is a symphony of flavors, a vibrant combination of staple food items that are deeply woven into the cultural tapestry of the Middle East. This diverse culinary tradition, with ingredients ranging from wheat, rice, lamb, chicken, yogurt, and potatoes, to seafood and dates, creates a mix of foods that transcend borders. Whether you’re a long-time resident or a traveler exploring the Abu Dhabi, you’re in for an array of enticing dishes. Here are popular dishes that you shouldn’t miss:
Abu Dhabi Food – Delightful Saudi Cuisine
Abu Dhabi Food – Delightful Saudi Cuisine
1. Saudi Appetizers
The dining experience in Abu Dhabi begins by the introduction of Saudi Arabian appetizers, a delightful array of dishes known as Meza that are traditionally served before the main meal. These starters, full of vibrant flavors, form an essential part of the Saudi Arabian culinary tradition.
Saudi Arabian appetizers are varied, often including a refreshing vegetable salad or succulent lamb served with a delicious dip like baba ganoush. Many appetizers also feature dates and sweetened milk, showcasing the region’s bountiful produce. Another common feature is the use of mashed potatoes, sometimes spiced up with hot sauce and served in traditional Arab pita bread.
Exploring Saudi Arabian appetizers provides a glimpse into the varied palette of this diverse cuisine. Each appetizer presents unique ingredients and preparation methods, emphasizing the inventive nature of this cuisine. Eggs in Oil with Sumac is a dish of eggs cooked in oil, enhanced with the tang of Middle Eastern sumac spice. Another common appetizer is Green Beans in Olive Oil.
Hunkar Begendi presents meat on a bed of eggplant purée. Leeks in Olive Oil offers sautéed leeks, highlighting their mild, sweet profile. Roasted Peppers and Eggplant is a combination of these two vegetables, offering a smokey flavor profile.
For a touch of spice, Spicy Eggs are a good choice. Stuffed Mushrooms are mushroom caps filled with a mix of breadcrumbs, garlic, and cheese. Taboulah is a salad of chopped herbs, tomatoes, cucumber, olive oil, and lemon juice. Lastly, Zaytun Msabbah is a dish of olives mixed with various spices and herbs, each lending its distinct flavour to the mix.
These appetizers are distinguished by their simplicity, freshness, and deep flavors. Each dish offers a taste of Saudi Arabian culinary tradition, a delightful introduction to the larger food scene in Abu Dhabi.
No visit to Abu Dhabi or any other part of the United Arab Emirates is complete without trying Khuzi, also known as Ghuzi. It’s a must-have dish. As the national dish of the UAE, Khuzi serves as a centerpiece for special occasions, but it’s also readily available in many restaurants. Khuzi, consists of a whole lamb or mutton, roasted and laid over a plate of spiced rice, and adorned with nuts, raisins, and various vegetables. Prepared with a generous blend of spices such as cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and saffron, this dish not only delights the taste buds but also provides a feast for the eyes.
3. Stuffed Camel
Perhaps one of the most extravagant dishes you may come across in Abu Dhabi is Stuffed Camel. This grandiose dish holds the record in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest dish on any menu! A testament to the region’s hospitality and flair for the dramatic, the camel is stuffed with a whole lamb, which itself is stuffed with chicken or even more, each filled with rice and eggs, or sometimes fish. This culinary masterpiece is typically reserved for special occasions like royal weddings or significant cultural Bedouin ceremonies. If you ever find yourself presented with a serving of this dish, consider yourself fortunate, as you’re likely partaking in a rare and noteworthy event.
Shawarma is a dish that has gained global recognition, but to taste an authentic shawarma in Abu Dhabi is a completely unique experience. This favorite Lebanese food can be found everywhere from street-side stalls to high-end restaurants. Thin slices of marinated meat are stacked and slowly roasted on a vertical spit, then shaved off and wrapped in a warm flatbread. This is usually accompanied by an array of fillings like fresh vegetables, pickles, garlic sauce, and sometimes fries.
Seafood enthusiasts in Abu Dhabi will definitely want to sample Al Madrooba. A cherished Emirati dish, Al Madrooba is composed of tender fish and a robust blend of spices, all brought together in a thick, mouth-watering sauce. It’s typically served alongside pita bread or thin, crispy Raqaq bread, providing a textural contrast to the tender fish and rich sauce. This is the ideal dish for those with a palate for exquisite seafood, offering a dish that’s both satisfying and distinctively Emirati.
Mitazeez is a classic dish that shines a light on the comforting simplicity of Saudi Arabian cuisine. It’s a traditional soup made with flour dumplings that are gently simmered until they become wonderfully tender. The dumplings, or ‘mitazeez’, give this dish its name and its unique texture. The soup is typically seasoned with a combination of aromatic spices, infusing the broth with a complexity that beautifully complements the soft, chewy dumplings. Whether it’s served as a warming lunch on a cool day or a nourishing dinner at the end of a long day, Mitazeez offers a taste of Saudi Arabian comfort that’s sure to satisfy.
If you’re following a vegetarian diet, don’t worry – Abu Dhabi has you covered with the universally beloved Falafel. Usually presented in the form of balls or patties, Falafel is primarily made from chickpeas and beans, though different eateries may add their own unique ingredients. These chickpea balls or patties are deep-fried until crispy and golden, then typically served wrapped in soft flatbread alongside tahini sauce, fresh vegetables, pickles, and salad. Best enjoyed for breakfast, a Falafel wrap offers a satisfying and flavorful start to your day.
9. Saudi Sweets
Delving into the world of Emirati sweets is a great way to add a delightful conclusion to any meal. Whether you like puddings, pastries, or something uniquely Arabian, Abu Dhabi’s dessert scene has got you covered.
Starting with Mahalabiya, a rich, velvety pudding flavoured with rose water and topped with crunchy pistachios, this dessert is a go-to for those with a sweet tooth. It’s served cold to preserve its delicate flavors, often accompanied by a side of fresh fruits.
Next up is Balaleet, a sweet and savoury dish that is much beloved in the UAE. This dish combines vermicelli sweetened with sugar, nuts, saffron, rose water, cardamom, cinnamon, and pistachios, topped off with an egg omelet. A breakfast staple with a sweet twist, Balaleet is also a popular dessert option.
Luqaimat, widely considered the quintessential Emirati dessert, is another must-try. These small, crunchy dumplings are soaked in a sweet, sticky date syrup known as Dibbs, providing a satisfying conclusion to a traditional Emirati meal.
Emirati cheesecake, or Esh Asarya, is a confection that’s as pleasing to the eye as it is to the palate. Bread soaked in a mixture of lemon juice, rosewater, and orange blossom water is topped with a creamy frosting, making it one of the most beloved local desserts.
Last but certainly not least is Chabab, the Emirati rendition of a pancake. Made with eggs, sugar, flour, saffron, and cardamom, this sweet, golden treat is served with date syrup, making it an absolute treat for those who love sweet breakfasts or a rich dessert.
10. Saudi Beverages
Beverages play a central role in Saudi food culture, showcasing the region’s hospitable spirit and affinity for traditional customs
Gahwah, or traditional Arabian coffee, is more than just a drink; it’s a symbol of hospitality and generosity. Traditional coffeehouses known as maqha may be a dwindling sight, but the serving of Gahwah remains a cherished tradition. Coffee beans were traditionally roasted, cooled, and ground in front of guests using a mortar and pestle, with fragrant cardamom pods added during the grinding process to enhance the aroma and flavor. While Gahwah is not typically prepared in front of guests in the modern era, it is served elegantly from a traditional coffee pot called a dallah and poured into small, ornate cups known as finjan. This ceremonious serving of Gahwah offers a window into Saudi Arabia’s rich cultural heritage.
Laban is a thirst-quenching beverage made from yogurt. It’s consumed both as a refreshing drink and as an accompaniment to meals. Its tangy flavor and creamy texture make it a popular choice in the warm desert climate.
Sobia is another traditional drink that is favored for its cooling properties. Made from a lightly fermented mixture of barley or brown bread, date palm sap, herbs, and spices, Sobia is served cold and offers a unique blend of flavors that’s both invigorating and satisfying.
These beverages embody the essence of Saudi Arabian cuisine and hospitality, offering both refreshment and a taste of cultural tradition.
Our journey through the captivating world of Abu Dhabi food draws to a close, leaving us with a taste of a rich and diverse culinary tradition. From enticing appetizers to the hearty, satisfying main dishes, the extraordinary flavors of the traditional desserts, every dish tells a story. The story of a culture that cherishes its traditions and shares them generously with the world. It’s a tale of hospitality, and a tale of feasting. There’s a table waiting for you here, laden with the aromas and flavors of Saudi cuisine. So come, sit, and savour the authenticity of Khuzi, the comfort of Mitazeez, the extravagance of the Stuffed Camel, and the simplicity of Laban and Gahwah. Delight in the classic Arabian desserts and be prepared to fall in love with the Emirati food scene. This culinary journey is not just about satisfying your hunger, it’s about experiencing a part of Saudi Arabian culture that has, and continues to, bring people together.