Traveling is not just about new places and must-see (or not) attractions. Traveling – at least for me, is also about discovering the culture of a place through the local cuisine.
Even some seemingly similar dishes can taste quite differently in different corners of the world. And although I did not taste much Arab cuisine in Warsaw, during my recent trip to the United Arab Emirates, I found out that it is the one that I enjoy the most. So I’m going to share what delicious things are waiting for you behind the table like one from a thousand-and-one-night fairytale.
An exotic medley, from which you may get a headache
The first encounter with Arab cuisine can really surprise even those who have tried eating dishes containing many different flavors. These dishes are delicious, very aromatic, and they often surprise with the combination of flavors. On top of that, they look very good despite the fact that Arabs are very frugal in the kitchen and make it a point to use each and every ingredient.
Also, the cuisine in the Emirates is very diverse. Everyone can find something for themselves here, from lovers of meat dishes, to people who are more inclined towards a vegetable diet, as well as lovers of sweetness. Such diversity makes it hard to say no to anything. I could not and I do not regret it.
Arab hospitality – and everything taste better
It is worth mentioning that the meals in the Emirates are a real pleasure not only because of the variety of flavors, products and spices. This is of course very important, however, feasting together is such a wonderful experience also because of Arab hospitality.
So when you hear the loud “Tafathalo”, which literally translates to “do me the honor” and is an invitation to come to the table, do not be afraid. You will meet nice and friendly people who want to, and can, offer the best of everything to their guests.
The unusual power of spices
The one thing that influences the unusual aroma and taste of Arab cuisine the most is without a doubt the spices used in it. And there are definitely a lot of them. Also, they are added to savory dishes as well as desserts, giving them an exotic taste. What kind of spices? In the Arab cuisine, we can find both the ones we know very well from our own daily cooking, like pepper, garlic, parsley or cumin. However, there are also spices that we do not usually use every day, but which are added to every dish in Arab cuisine.
There is, for one, calamondin flower juice or bitter almond oil, which is added to bread. Curry and cardamom are also popular here. The frequent use of saffron here also surprised me because, of course, in our country, it is a very expensive spice. In addition to these, Arabs also use anise, herbs or turmeric in very unusual combinations in their cuisine, so that it is impossible to imitate the flavors.
Several dishes you must taste
However, it wouldn’t be enough to just talk about Arab cuisine without looking at some particular dishes that are found on the tables there. I will try to name the ones that I liked the most and for which it is worth returning to the Emirates.
Undoubtedly, the first place goes to Kibbeh. This is a very popular dish in the area, consisting of fried, ground lamb or beef with rice (I recommend the latter, because I personally do not like lamb). Ideal for a dinner-time meal for everyone who enjoys meat and intense flavors.
Ryoog yerana is a local delicacy that will delight any lovers of sweetness. Perfectly suited to start off the day because it gives you a lot of energy. What is this dish? It is a fluffy omelette that melts in your mouth, with delicious dates and crisp bread, which is spread with the paste that comes from the omelette. Something fabulous.
An excellent example of a vegetarian dish that is sure to please even the most demanding palates is Koshari. This dish is a meatless version of a dish made from roasted pasta, chickpeas and lentils. Koshari is served with various spices; I personally recommend the version with a pinch of chilli and roasted onion.
To summarize – Arab cuisine is delicious! Everyone will find something for themselves, regardless of what their taste buds prefer. Its variety, exoticism and wonderful taste made me always willing to reach for Arab dishes, also in Warsaw.