Skip to Content

National Food of UAE: Top 14 Dishes

Welcome to our exploration of the rich and diverse culinary traditions of the United Arab Emirates! Are you curious about what makes Emirati cuisine unique? Wondering which dishes best represent the national palate? In this article, we will answer these questions and more, investigating the flavors, ingredients, and cultural significance of the top 14 national dishes of the UAE.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll introduce you to beloved dishes such as Khuzi, Esh Asarya, and Machboos. You’ll learn about the spices that define Emirati cooking, the importance of family dining, and the lively street food scene. Additionally, we’ll highlight the farm-to-table movement and provide insights into dining etiquette in the UAE.

By the end of this article, not only will you be an expert in Emirati cuisine, but you’ll also be inspired to explore more of our content, further enriching your culinary knowledge and cultural understanding.

Top 6 National Foods of UAE

1. Khuzi

photo by AKSHRAJJODHA

Khuzi, the national dish of the UAE, features roasted lamb served atop a bed of spiced rice, garnished with raisins, vegetables, and nuts. The dish’s rich flavor comes from a blend of spices, including cardamom, cinnamon, saffron, and nutmeg. Although traditionally reserved for special occasions, Khuzi is available year-round in many restaurants, making it a staple of Emirati cuisine.

2. Majboos

Majboos, also known as Kabsa or Makbūs, is a traditional Arabian rice dish beloved across the Persian Gulf, including the UAE. This aromatic dish typically features seasoned meat, usually chicken or lamb, flavored with spices like cardamom, cinnamon, black lime, turmeric, cloves, and black pepper. The meat is browned for added flavor and served as a centerpiece on a bed of spiced rice.

3. Thareed

Thareed is a hearty Middle Eastern dish comprising red meat, vegetables, tomato sauce, and potatoes, served over flatbread. Celebrated for its healthful ingredients, Thareed is particularly popular during Ramadan. This traditional Arabian meal is cherished for its nutritious value and is widely available in Dubai’s restaurants, bonding its place in the hearts of many.

4. Balaleet

photo by Krista

Balaleet is a beloved breakfast dish in the UAE, combining sweet and tasty elements. It features thin vermicelli noodles seasoned with sugar, nuts, rose water, pistachios, and cinnamon, topped with a delicious egg omelet. This blend of flavors creates a unique and satisfying start to the day.

5. Saloona

photo by Krista

Saloona is a simple yet flavorful meat-based stew, commonly made with chicken, beef, lamb, or fish. The meat is cooked in a seasoned broth with garlic, onions, coriander, and various vegetables. Typically served with rice or bread, Saloona is a comforting and nourishing dish popular in Emirati cuisine.

6. Margooga

Margoogah is a hearty and delicious stew enjoyed in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. It is made with meat (either chicken or lamb), vegetables, and a range of spices. Often cooked in a large pot, the dish sometimes includes layers of thin bread or pieces of khubz (Arabic bread), contributing to its rich flavor and satisfying texture.

5 Traditional Dishes to Eat

7. Mandi

photo by AmeyaKusuma

Mandi is a beloved Emirati dish featuring tender, slow-cooked meat, typically lamb or chicken, marinated in a blend of aromatic spices like cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves. The meat is placed atop aromatic rice cooked in the same meat broth, creating a dish rich in flavor. Traditionally prepared in underground ovens called “tandoors,” Mandi not only delivers a unique taste but also displays Bedouin traditions of hospitality and generosity, bringing families and friends together for a communal meal.

8. Jareesh

photo by Teemeah

Jareesh, also known as Harees or Jareesh Laham, is a traditional Emirati dish made from cracked or roughly ground wheat and meat, usually chicken or lamb. The dish has a rich, creamy consistency similar to porridge. To prepare Jareesh, the cracked wheat is soaked to soften, and then combined with delicate meat and spices like cinnamon, cardamom, and black pepper, stewing until it achieves a smooth, hearty texture.

9. Harees

photo by کمیل‍

Harees is a cherished Emirati dish, especially popular during Ramadan. It consists of wheat and meat, typically chicken or lamb, slow-cooked until it forms a smooth, porridge-like consistency. Often garnished with ghee and cinnamon, Harees is both rich and aromatic. It holds deep cultural significance, symbolizing unity and compassion as it is shared among family and friends to break the fast.

10. Samak Mashwi

photo by Media Cookery

Samak Mashwi is a traditional Emirati grilled fish dish. The fish is typically cooked in a dome-like clay barbecue, with the fish pinned on sticks and positioned over a coal bed. A unique marinade with date paste gives the fish a distinctive flavor. The fish is cooked unscaled, and the scales are removed before serving, which helps keep the flesh intact during grilling.

11. Lamb Ouzi

photo by Omar Chatriwala

Lamb Ouzi is a prized dish in Emirati cuisine, featuring rice cooked with spices and lamb meat, garnished with almonds and pine nuts. A centerpiece at many Emirati gatherings, Ouzi is cooked in large quantities, making it ideal for serving large groups. The lamb is marinated 24 hours before cooking to enhance its flavor. Ouzi is often enjoyed with yogurt and tomato sauce, manifesting the celebratory and hospitable nature of Emirati culture.

See Also Music in UAE

Spices: The Heart of Emirati Cooking

photo by Karolina Grabowska

Emirati cuisine is renowned for its rich and diverse flavor profile, proof of the variety of spices and herbs that are integral to its dishes. When strolling through the lively food districts of the UAE, the aromatic appeal of these spices spreads through the air, inviting diners into a world of culinary delight. The heart of Emirati cooking goes far beyond basic seasoning, reflecting the soul of the United Arab Emirates through the skillful use of exotic spices that enhance every dish with unique and unparalleled flavors.

Among the top spices that define Emirati cooking, saffron and cardamom stand out for their luxurious contributions. Saffron, cherished for its lively color and elegant aroma, is often added to rice dishes, imparting a golden hue and subtle earthy flavor that advances the culinary experience.

Cardamom, with its intense, sweet flavor, is a cornerstone of Emirati cuisine, essential in Arabic coffee and desserts where it transforms simple ingredients into aromatic delights. Other notable spices include cinnamon, celebrated for its comforting warmth in both delicious and sweet dishes, and Bezar, a traditional blend that infuses meats and vegetables with a spicy complexity. These spices, along with turmeric, black pepper, sumac, cumin, Ras el Hanout, and coriander, create a symphony of flavors that define and enrich the Emirati culinary landscape.

Emirati Family Dining

Emirati family dining is deeply rooted in tradition, with staple foods such as rice, meat, and fish forming the core of their diet. As a maritime community, seafood is particularly prominent, often featured in meals like steamed rice paired with grilled or fried fish or a flavorful fish salona, a curry made with ketchup and Arabic spices.

This reflects the UAE’s rich coastal heritage and the central role of seafood in everyday meals. Breakfast in the Emirates often includes traditional dishes like Balaleet, a sweet and tasty vermicelli dish, and Chebab, a type of flatbread. Other popular breakfast items include Foul medames, Khameer, and Luqaimat, highlighting the diversity and cultural richness of Emirati cuisine.

Emirati lunch and dinner meals also feature a variety of traditional dishes that reflect the rich culinary heritage of the UAE. Common elements include rice, meat, fish, and aromatic spices such as saffron, cardamom, and turmeric. Meals may start with appetizers like hummus, fattoush salad, or samosas, followed by a main course like machboos (spiced meat and rice), harees (wheat and meat porridge), or grilled fish.

Street Food

12. Chebab at Logma

photo by free range jace

Chebab, a traditional Emirati breakfast pancake, is a delightful blend of flavors, typically garnished with date syrup and served with fresh cream cheese on the side. This dish, infused with cardamom and saffron, offers a warm, cheesy experience that is both comforting and rich in taste. Logma at BoxPark in Dubai is renowned for serving authentic Emirati food with a modern twist, making it a must-visit for a flavorful start to the day.

13. Chilli Cheese Vada Pav

photo by Mike Prince

The Chilli Cheese Vada Pav is a tempting street food delight. This small bun is stuffed with grated cheese and spicy masala potatoes, then coated in batter and deep-fried to golden perfection. It’s garnished with a trio of chutneys; spicy green, garlic, and sweet tamarind, and served with fried chilies, creating a mouth-watering explosion of flavors and textures.

14. Qatayef

Qatayef is a traditional sweet delicacy often found alongside baklawa, deserving recognition for its unique and delightful taste. These stuffed dumplings are filled with nuts, cream, or cheese, then deep-fried and soaked in sweet syrup. Al Reef Lebanese Bakery is a pioneer in Lebanese and Arab delicacies making it a must-try for anyone with a sweet tooth.

Farm-to-Table Movement

photo by Atheer Al-Sadah

Dubai, renowned for its towering skyscrapers and luxurious shopping centers, is witnessing a transformative trend toward renewable dining experiences. Directed by a new wave of culinary local farmers, the city is welcoming renewable and locally sourced ingredients, marking a departure from its commercialized dining landscape. This shift not only celebrates culinary innovation but also emphasizes a growing emphasis on environmental awareness and ethical consumption.

At the heart of this movement lies the farm-to-table ethos, which champions the utilization of locally-grown produce and supports small-scale farming operations. Beyond the confines of traditional restaurants, small farms across the UAE are playing a pivotal role in reshaping the region’s food supply chain.

Despite inherent challenges like cost implications and seasonal limitations, the farm-to-table movement continues to gain momentum, buoyed by a commitment to sustainability. As more farmers welcome eco-friendly practices and technological advancements enhance food traceability, this culinary revolution is poised to flourish, promising both healthful benefits and economic empowerment for local communities.

See Also Famous Emirati Painters

Dining Etiquette

Dos

1. Dress Appropriately: For fine dining experiences, formal attire or smart casual dress is expected. Dressing modestly is highly valued, so they avoid revealing or excessively casual clothing.

2. Be Polite to Serving Staff: They are always courteous and acknowledge the efforts of the waitstaff. They signal them politely with a nod, eye contact, or a quick raise of hands if they need assistance.

3. Use Napkins Properly: They place their napkin over their lap when they sit down. If they need to leave their seat temporarily, they leave the napkin on their chair. Only they place it on the table once they have finished their meal.

4. Follow Cutlery Etiquette: They use the cutlery from the outside in, based on the courses being served. They indicate they are still eating by placing their fork and knife in a crossed position and placing them together at the end of the meal.

5. Try a Bit of Everything: When their host serves them various dishes, it is polite to try a bit of everything offered, even if they don’t finish it all.

Don’ts

1. Avoid Cleaning Their Plate Completely: Leaving some food on their plate indicates that they are satisfied. A clean plate may suggest to their host that they are still hungry.

2. Don’t Signal Aggressively for Waitstaff: They refrain from loud or disruptive gestures to get the waitstaff’s attention. Instead, they use subtle signals like a nod or eye contact.

3. Using Cutlery Incorrectly: They do not start with the wrong set of cutlery. They always follow the outside-in rule and place their utensils correctly to signal whether they are still eating or have finished.

Global Influence and Popularity

photo by Martin Lewison

Dubai, a cosmopolitan city known for its cultural diversity, often sees its authentic Emirati cuisine overshadowed by the various international flavors present. However, protecting and promoting traditional Emirati recipes is essential for preserving the nation’s cultural heritage and recounting its history. Emirati cuisine, deeply influenced by the nomadic lifestyle of the ancestors, focuses on complex carbohydrates like meats, cereals, and dairy, providing the necessary energy to endure the harsh desert climate.

Traditional dishes often use a single-pot method, minimizing the need for multiple dishes and simplifying transportation, which is practical in the desert environment. Authentic Emirati cuisine is characterized by its rich use of spices such as saffron, cardamom, turmeric, and thyme, often complemented by garlic, dried lime, and fresh coriander.

Popular dishes include Harees, a tasty mixture of meat and wheat; Chabab, a spiced pancake; and Machboos, a flavorful stew served with rice. Desserts frequently feature dates, either as a paste or syrup, adding a natural sweetness to treats like Luqeymat and Jazar Halwa. Experiencing genuine Emirati food often requires a home-cooked meal or participation in a traditional Dubai food experience, such as a desert safari, where one can enjoy delicacies like camel meat stew and Chicken Harees.

Key Takings About National Food of UAE

1. Top National Food of UAE: Explore the rich flavors of Khuzi, Esh Asarya, Majboos, and more, representing the heart of Emirati cuisine.

2. Traditional 5 Dishes to Eat: Experience the cultural richness with Mandi, Jareesh, Harees, and other traditional delights, each telling a story of heritage and taste.

3. Spices: The Heart of Emirati Cooking: Discover the soul of Emirati cuisine through a symphony of saffron, cardamom, cinnamon, and other exotic spices, enhancing every dish to culinary excellence.

4. Emirati Family Dining: Explore the maritime heritage and coastal flavors that shape Emirati family meals, from breakfast specialties like Balaleet to lunch and dinner favorites like machboos.

5. Street Food: Indulge in the busy street food scene, from Chebab at Logma to Qatayef at Al Reef Lebanese Bakery, each bite offering a burst of authentic Emirati taste.

6. Farm to Table Movement: Witness the transformative shift towards renewable dining experiences, where locally sourced ingredients celebrate sustainability and ethical consumption.

7. Dining Etiquette: Explore the enriching of Emirati dining etiquette with dos and don’ts, ensuring a respectful and enjoyable culinary experience.

8. Global Influence and Popularity: Reflect on the global influence of Emirati cuisine, proof of cultural heritage, and culinary innovation among the cosmopolitan backdrop of Dubai.