Finding Momo: Nepal Palace Restaurant

IMG_7758It’s easy to become disoriented in downtown Abu Dhabi’s Madinat Zayed neighborhood, a bustling area of mini-blocks and narrow streets crammed with cars, people, and every type of storefront imaginable, from mobile phone kiosks to one-room laundromats to curtain rod wholesalers.

It’s also easy for a new shop or restaurant to go unnoticed in the fray.

Unless you’re from Nepal and searching for authentic momos, that is. Recently, the capital’s sizable community of Nepalese cab drivers have been congregating in this neighborhood, chatting in the streets about a new restaurant that opened just a few weeks ago, filling a much-need gap when the nearby Nepalese Curry House closed earlier this year.

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Indian Chef finds ‘happiness’ in Mongolian Chinese

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Who says you have to be Chinese to make good Chinese food?

At the Mongolian Chinese Restaurant in Abu Dhabi, the chef is Indian – but he sure knows how to “tingle your taste buds” with a good meal of Asian food.

Sudis Rana, originally from Calcutta in the eastern region of India, came to Abu Dhabi to cook his specialty, Cantonese and Szechuan cuisine. Rana learned from Chinese chefs working in hotels in India beginning at age 14. That was 30 years ago.

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Spicy South Indian food in Abu Dhabi

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Most of the challenge of finding good food in Abu Dhabi is in knowing where to look – and then literally finding the restaurant.

Even though it’s located just off of a busy street in the Khalidiyah neighborhood, one of the capital’s outstanding Indian restaurants is easy to overlook. Anjappar has an illuminated sign that one can see only when standing directly underneath it (the facade and sign are partially obstructed by a shed that appears to house a utility box). And its door is nestled between several shops, including an Afghani bakery, a barber shop and a separate store that sells merchandise for barber shops – like combs, scissors and swiveling chairs.

If you can find it, though, Anjappar is worth the hunt. It serves some of the spiciest South Indian Tamil food in the entire United Arab Emirates.

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Traditional Egyptian breakfast for the Gulf

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Visiting Abu Shakra, an Egyptian food restaurant in Abu Dhabi, is like dining in Cairo.

This working class restaurant evokes Egypt’s crowds and frenzied pace. In its crowded kitchen space, a single cook grabs from assorted bowls of hummus, fried eggplant, and French fries, all sitting within reach on the counter.

Even its main location – on the ground floor of a faded apartment tower with paint peeling from its concrete facade and wires dangling from dusty windows – would fit in more in old Cairo than in the UAE’s modern capital.

Abu Shakra’s food is as authentic as it comes.

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From Russia, to the Gulf, with Love

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In a small square adjacent to the Russian Embassy in the United Arab Emirates, there’s a one-room restaurant that could be your Russian grandmother’s kitchen or sitting room. If you had a Russian grandmother. Who lived in the narrow back streets of Abu Dhabi.

Welcome to the Russian Kitchen, Abu Dhabi’s only restaurant dedicated to serving homemade food from Eastern Europe.

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Bukhari: Saudi Arabia’s specialty rice

imageThere’s a new Saudi Arabian food restaurant in Abu Dhabi, and there’s only one thing on its menu: bukhari.

Introducing The Royal Bukhari, a Gulf-style fast-food restaurant that offers several variations of barbecued lamb, chicken and fried fish dishes all served with a Saudi specialty called bukhari.

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Harissa: North African chili in a squeeze tube

IMG_7696Harissa is a bright paste of red chilies, garlic, coriander, salt, and caraway. You can make it yourself or find it in supermarkets packaged in toothpaste-like tubes, cans, or pre-made at the deli counter. Appropriately, its name is based on the Arabic word for “to pound” or “to break into pieces” – now much more easily done to the chilies by food processor than the traditional mortar and pestle method.

Known mainly as Tunisian, it’s popularly used throughout North African cuisine, especially in Libya, Algeria, and Morocco. When peppers found their way to North Africa, probably via Spanish traders, the Tunisians made peppers an integral ingredient in their dishes. While the taste for harissa has spread to other parts of North Africa, it’s still Tunisian harissa that’s most widely known and considered the most traditional.

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Isfahan Nights: oldest restaurant in Abu Dhabi?

imageJust over two decades ago, Abu Dhabi was a sleepy capital in a young nation. In 1990, there were few – if any – of the modern skyscrapers that line its Corniche today. The Emirates Palace, an iconic billion-dollar hotel and classic first sight-seeing stop, had not yet been constructed. There were no modern shopping malls, and many of the restaurants that were open back then have long since closed their doors.

Isfahan Nights is one exception.

The Persian food restaurant opened in 1990 – just 18 years after the seven Emirates unified to become one nation – making it one of the oldest restaurants in Abu Dhabi. It may have moved locations in 2000, but Isfahan Nights still is an institution.

Too bad there aren’t many customers there.

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Camel burgers: fast food for the Gulf?

Camels have always been integral to survival in the inhospitable deserts of the Arabian Peninsula.

Just over a half a century ago, before the arrival of modern sports utility vehicles, bedouin relied on camels for transportation and companionship in the region’s harsh climate.

These days, camels are what’s for dinner.

Or at least they will be, if one Emirati restauranteur gets his way.

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How to find Cholula in the Middle East

Cholula is one of the best and most versatile hot sauces on the market.

Branded as the “flavorful fire,” Cholula isn’t actually all that fiery. The Mexican hot sauce registers a measly 1000 on the Scoville scale (a single jalapeño pepper can be up to ten times hotter).

But Cholula, with its blend of mild pequin and arbol peppers combined with herbs and vinegar, is a must-have for any pepper lover.  That little bottle with the famous wooden top goes well with just about anything – eggs, pizza, salads. Cholula is perfect when you want flavor and not a lot of burn.

The only problem with Cholula?  It’s hard to find outside of North America.

That’s where Fuddruckers comes in.

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