How to make harissa (spicy North African red chili paste)

Photo Jul 05, 21 42 02Harissa – a red chili paste made of peppers, oil and spices like caraway – is one of the most popular condiments across North Africa. In Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco, harissa is served as a dip alongside just about everything, from fish to cous cous to French bread.

For more on this amazing Maghrebian wonder sauce, see here.

Although it’s possible to find homemade (and squeeze-tubed) harissa in many grocery stores in the United Arab Emirates, it’s just as easy – if not better – to make it at home.

Here’s a simple recipe for very thick and very spicy harissa. Continue reading

How to find ‘Trees Can’t Dance’ in the Middle East

TCD-Sauces-72dpiFor Trees Can’t Dance lovers in Abu Dhabi, there’s good news and bad news.

First, the good news: this boutique brand of chili sauce is available to buy in the United Arab Emirates. Which is perhaps surprising, given that it’s produced in a small town of less than 4,000 people in northern England. Trees Can’t Dance hails from Haltwhistle in Northumberland (at the northernmost chili farm in the world), which isn’t exactly the type of tropical climate where chili peppers are able to grow let alone thrive.

Trees Can’t Dance produces several varieties of the fiery good stuff.

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Sofra Istanbul: Three feet of meat in Abu Dhabi

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Sofra Istanbul is one of the best restaurants in Abu Dhabi – and not just because it serves fresh Turkish food in an authentic and friendly environment reminiscent of any of the best kebab houses in Gaziantep or Izmir.

The reason an evening at Softa Istanbul is such a memorable experience is because of the meaningful attention to detail in the restaurant, from the food to the layout and design of the place.
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Bu Tafish: Oldest seafood restaurant in the UAE

Photo May 30, 21 15 29If you’re looking for local cuisine with culture and flare in the United Arab Emirates, look no further than Bu Tafish, an independently-owned Emirati seafood restaurant in downtown Abu Dhabi. It opened in 1968 – three years before the seven emirates united to form a country – making it one of the oldest restaurants in the UAE. Continue reading

Coriander: Authentic Indian cuisine in Al Ain

Photo May 31, 15 20 39The oasis of Al Ain, located deep in the Arabian desert near the United Arab Emirates’ border with Oman, is home to towering dunes, palm trees that produce some of the best dates in the region, and plenty of camels wandering the red sands that surround the city.

Al Ain – a good two-hour drive inland from either Abu Dhabi or Dubai – might be the last place you’d expect to find good Indian cuisine (or any good food at all, for that matter).

But curry-lovers wandering in the desert rejoice: there is a modern and upscale restaurant in Al Ain that serves authentic, sumptuous Indian food that will likely defy your expectations.

It’s called Coriander, an independently-owned Indian eatery that opened in 2010 in the Bawadi shopping mall on the outskirts of Al Ain. Coriander shares an open-air courtyard with three other restaurants inside the mall, but there is also an enclosed, air-conditioned seating area.

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Asian Garden: Authentic Thai food in Abu Dhabi

Photo May 30, 13 58 53Some of the best and freshest Thai food in Abu Dhabi can be found in a working-class neighborhood of downtown, located in a small restaurant just behind the brightly-lit Bollywood cinema called El Dorado. Asian Garden may be a bit on the grungy side, but it’s a place you’ll want to come back to again and again for solid, tasty Thai at rock-bottom prices.

Asian Garden serves unpretentious, hearty food. Its one of the few places to order authentic Thai outside of hotel restaurants, and its menu also includes a section with Chinese dishes and Filipino specialties. This mix reflects the combined expertise of the restaurant’s two owners, a husband and wife team; he’s Thai and she’s Fillipina.

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Biryani Pot: fast food Indian for the soul?

20140526-212402-77042541.jpgBiryani is a savory meal consisting of basmati rice that is slow-cooked and served with chunks of meat, typically lamb or chicken. It is an extremely popular dish in the Gulf region, even though its roots are probably in India, Iran, and Turkey.

Biryani is the kind of meal that could take several hours to prepare at home, as the rice is first infused with spices like cinnamon and cloves long before being cooked with the meat.

But in the United Arab Emirates, you can now order and eat biryani – the country’s unofficial national dish – within a matter of minutes at new Abu Dhabi restaurant.

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How to find Tapatio in the Middle East

20140526-212421-77061225.jpgAs far as hot sauces go, Tapatio isn’t actually very hot. The American-made “salsa picante” only registers around 3,000 on the Scoville heat scale, which is about three times hotter than the very mild, yet similarly flavored, Cholula sauce.

But Tapatio is one of those all-purpose hot sauces that you should keep on hand in your kitchen.

Tapatio, which means ‘one who hails from Guadalajara,’ Mexico, (even though the sauce is actually produced in California), is an excellent companion spice for just about anything: salads, eggs, chicken and meat, nachos, etc. They even make Tapatio-flavored Doritos and Fritos.

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Taqado: A Mexican food truck for Abu Dhabi?

20140526-212419-77059990.jpgTaqado is a unique restaurant concept in the United Arab Emirates; it serves healthy Mexican food in a modern environment that is technically fast food, but still fancy enough to draw a wide base of customers. Taqado is one of several new locally-owned chain restaurants in the region, illustrating a growing entrepreneurial creativity in the culinary world of the UAE.

The concept at Taqado is simple: well-prepared Mexican cuisine meets the authenticity and flavor of roadside taqueria in a place like Guadalajara.

“We want to recreate the atmosphere of the street,” said Isaac Mendoza, the manager of Taqado. “In Mexico, you can go to small restaurants on a street corner, eat tacos on the hand, standing up. This is what we want.”

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Cantina Laredo: the best Mexican salsa in Abu Dhabi?

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It’s easy to find bad Mexican food anywhere in the world. Less-than-fresh so-called Mexican is ubiquitous from Bali to Mali, found often in airport lounges, mall food courts, and even roadside stalls in the middle of nowhere. Each typically serves some combination of stale chips, bright orange nacho cheese, rubbery chicken, and canned jalapeno peppers. The worst offender is usually a dollop of sweet tomato salsa freshly-poured – out of a bottle.

Good Mexican food, however, is much harder to find, especially as you get further from Mexico itself.

But if you’re craving a Mexican fix in Abu Dhabi, look no further than Cantina Laredo, located on the first floor of a downtown mall. It may surprise you, and not just because its ceiling is decorated with old Cinco de Mayo flags. Cantina Laredo uses only the freshest, most authentic ingredients to capture the real flavors of Mexico.

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