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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How to make a spicy cocktail with chili peppers

20140429-221300.jpgEditor’s note: Camels Fire is constantly on the move, exploring Abu Dhabi and beyond to discover the best spices and cheap, local eats. The following is a special report from Pokhara, Nepal.

In a country where hot peppers are a frequent ingredient in the cuisine, it’s only a matter of time before the beverages start becoming fiery too. And if you like a little kick in liquid form, there’s a bar in central Nepal that serves up a unique whiskey drink with fresh watermelon juice blended with spicy green chilis.

Darshan Lama, a 24-year-old Nepalese bartender, invented the fruit juice and pepper concoction a couple of years ago with his brother while sitting around waiting for customers.

“We were bored and just messed around with it,” said Lama, who serves drinks in a hotel bar in Pokhara, Nepal’s second largest city best known for its mountain lake and hordes of trekking tourists.

The drink is refreshing while adding a little bit of burn that a spice-lover will thoroughly enjoy. Plus it’s good ice-breaker for your next party – and a way to impress guests with your mixing creativity and fearlessness in the face of this spicy concoction.

Here’s a step-by-step illustrated recipe so you too can make the drink:

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Indian street food in an Abu Dhabi shopping mall

20140417-185021.jpgYou don’t normally walk into a shopping mall food court expecting to find delicious, healthy food.

Especially if that mall is the Madinat Zayed Shopping Center, one of the oldest enclosed shopping malls in the United Arab Emirates. Madinat Zayed feels very long-in-the-tooth for an ultra-modern capital like Abu Dhabi. Aside from its dozens of Indian-run gold shops, the mall offers little for most shoppers. There are a few perfume kiosks and plenty of stores peddling cheap, Chinese-made electronics.

The mall’s second floor food court is home to several American-style burger joints, as well as the uninspiring Biryani Hut and ChicKing, where most of the food is deep-fried.

But Madinat Zayed, perhaps surprisingly, is also home to what is quite possibly the finest Indian restaurant in the entire Middle East.

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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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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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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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Spicy ‘zhug’ burns at Happy Yemen

imageIn the United Arab Emirates, fresh hot sauce can be hard to find. Unless, of course, you’re headed to Happy Yemen restaurant in Abu Dhabi, which proudly serves mouth-watering, Arabian-style spicy salsa.

Not that finding Happy Yemen itself is easy (see map below).

Happy Yemen is no-nonsense and utilitarian, and at first glance it seems like a take-away joint. But squeeze past the refrigerator and the cash register, and the space opens into two small rooms, with additional family-style floor seating up a narrow flight of stairs.

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Peppermill: Abu Dhabi’s best Indian food?

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You might assume that an Indian restaurant named “Peppermill” would serve fiery hot kebabs and spicy, sweat-inducing curries. Especially if the word “spice” is used no fewer than six times on the inside flap of the menu.

But the Indian colonial cuisine at Peppermill just isn’t all that spicy. One of the restaurant’s two Abu Dhabi outlets is located on the second floor of al Wahda Mall’s extension, near the capital’s bus depot on Hazza bin Zayed Street.

Peppermill is just a year old, and the furniture looks as if it could have been installed just yesterday. Velveteen purple, magenta, and turquoise chairs provide pops of color against the modern black tables and crisp white walls. During the lunchtime hour, the dining room is bright, with sunlight streaming through the tall bay windows accented with wrought iron spiral designs.

Like the space itself, Peppermill’s food is clean and rich in traditional spices and flavor. Perhaps that’s why some in Abu Dhabi have called this the best Indian food in the capital. Just don’t expect to be blown away by heat.

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