Friday, April 27, 2012

Visitor Adventures: Eating!

One thing we all did plenty of during the visit was eat! And I thought those of you considering a visit might like to be assured of the fact that there is plenty of good food and most likely your favorite US fast food or restaurant as well. You can find Chili's, Applebees, McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Starbucks, Baskin Robbins, Cinnabon ... (you get the picture - if you start to get homesick for something, we'll take you to the nearest food court and you'll be feeling better in just a few calories.)

So, let's talk about the more exotic dishes you'll have the pleasure of trying while here. And to put the picky eaters at ease, I am one and if my waistline is any indication, you'll be able to find something yummy - even if you can't pronounce it's name. Here are a few of our favorites.

One of my favorites and found at most of the arabic bakeries scattered all over town. Basically a thin round piece of bread (think of a pita, but thinner and softer), covered with Halloumi cheese (think of a cross between Mozzarella and feta), baked in a stone oven and then folded in half for easy devouring. Ready faster than a Big Mac and costs about $2.

Schwarma is a bit like a gyro, but not as garlicky. Same thin pita-type bread as the Manakeesh and inside you'll have dill pickles, seasoned lamb or chicken, cilantro and a garlic yogurt sauce. The chicken schwarmas have the added yumminess of a few french fries. mmmmm, and again, only about $2. You can only get these in the evening after the meat has been slow roasting on a spit all day.

Mixed Grill
Mixed Grill is a specialty of the Lebanese restaurants and the best value for your dirham. A huge plate of slightly spicy seasoned chicken, kofta lamb kabobs, seasoned beef chunks and arayas, which is the kofta lamb grilled between arabic bread and served with the garlic yogurt sauce. When they bring the plate, you wonder how you'll eat it all and then suddenly you're wondering where it all went. A plate of mixed grill will set you back maybe $10, but easily feeds 2 people.
Humous is chickpeas pureed with oil, garlic, lemon, a little water, salt and tahini paste and is oh so good on just about anything. Traditional lebanese style, it's served with arabic bread, tomatoes, cucumber, mint, pickles, and arugula, but I've also used it as a sandwich spread, on crackers, carrots, celery and I'm sure some other veggies as well. YUM!

Arabic coffee
And, of course there are a few drinks to include in the list as well. The first is traditional arabic coffee, which is like espresso (really strong and served in small cups) with a hint of cardamom.

For fun one night, we tried all the different kinds of milks I could find at the grocery store. Camel milk - like a milder version of goat's milk, not as bad as we were expecting. Date milk - really yummy, sweetened with dates it was like a lighter version of chocolate milk. Cardamom milk - interesting and spicy - have had it since in coffee, which is pretty good. We had fun trying the different kinds.

I've written about the incredible freshly squeezed juices of UAE before, but it bears repeating. You can find almost anything and it's all fresh squeezed. My favorite is lemon mint, which is tart and refreshing and often blended with ice to make a kind of slushy. You can also find strawberry, orange, pineapple, watermelon, avocado, mango, lemon, and even sometimes dragonfruit and lychee. Pretty amazing. 

There's plenty more, but writing this post has made me hungry so I'm off to find a snack! :)
Dad's cucumber watermelon mojito from Friday brunch

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