阿聯酋(4) – Food and drink

Food and drink in the United Arab Emirates is very good, much better than I expected. Dubai is awash with expensive exquisite restaurants. Many world renowned chefs like Gary Rhodes and Gordon Ramsay have opened restaurants in Dubai. The reason is simple – there is money to be made. They can charge any price. The oil rich Emiratis, deprived expats and big spender tourists are willing to pay big money for luxuries. I didn’t have much time in Dubai and didn’t have a chance or the urge to visit one of the top expensive restaurants. Hong Kong is a gourmet paradise which makes us hard to impress. I’d rather save my opportunities for food that is harder to find in Hong Kong.

I read in the travel guides that real Arab food is hard to get outside of local home. Actually, for the time that we were there, we didn’t get any Arab food. Our idea of Middle Eastern food such as kebabs, hummus, is actually Lebanese food, which for some reason is also described as Arabian food. I got confused because all along I thought these are two entirely different places. Anyway, we had a few Lebanese meals which all proved to be very satisfying. Juicy kebabs are freshly grilled with very nice exotic spices. There is unlimited supply of freshly baked hot pita bread – real pièce de résistance. It’s sooooooo soft and good. Food usually comes with a platter of fresh salad, all vegetables uncut. I suppose this keeps it fresh and makes it easier to recycle any unused vegetables. Quite environmental and economical when you think about it.

Pork is forbidden in the Muslim cuisine. Obviously expats (especially pork-loving Chinese) would have a craving for pork. In the money-can-do Dubai, it is possible to buy pork in special places – if you are willing to pay the price. Apparently, people only afford pork during holidays or celebrations or in good international hotels. We were privileged to have pork sausage, bacon and salami for breakfast in the resort we stayed. I also tried the pork substitutes – turkey bacon and beef salami – they simply reconfirmed that I love pork!

In the international scene of Dubai, there are many shops like famous bakeries from New York or London that are not established in Hong Kong. We tried a new cup cake and cake bakery called Magnolia Bakery. The moist chocolate cake was divine. In a way it’s good that we can’t get the same quality in Hong Kong, otherwise we might grow into American sizes….

Like pork, alcohol is forbidden in the Muslim world. And likewise, one can easily buy alcohol in hotels and specially licensed restaurants at a premium price. From our experience travelling to Brunei, we knew that something can be missing if alcohol is not in the equation of the holiday. So instead of buying over-priced alcohol there, we brought our own wine. We are permitted to bring in alcohol as non-Muslim tourists.

Coffee is very good and strong there. Supermarkets sell Lebanese coffee, much cheaper than prices in Hong Kong. It makes good souvenirs to bring home. We also went to an Arabian delicatessen to buy snacks to bringback. The manager of the shop is Lebanese and showed us their famous Lebanese nougat, rose water, tea – all from Lebanon. Once again, I am confused about the difference between Arabian and Lebanese. But even more confusing, the manager told us that Lebanese coffee is actually Turkish coffee because that’s what they drink. To visualise this: Arabian = Lebanese = Turkish. So what is it really?

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Comments (2)

2 Responses to “阿聯酋(4) – Food and drink”

  1. Alan Dowling says:

    When I was in Saudi Arabia (over 10 years ago), there was no pork. The substitute was “beef” bacon, fake rashers, and not very nice – beef is not a substitute for pork – it is wrong!!

  2. Alan says:

    the Kebabs were Delicious! I rarely use the “D” word to describe food, especially something that is deemed to be simple and not haut cuisine. I’ll be back to see my Lebanese friend!