Sunday, December 18, 2005

Breakfast in Dubai

Bottom row of dips from left: hummus, moutabhel, and labneh

OK, I was determined to find an authentic breakfast to start my day here in Dubai. I asked some of the locals, but most of them were puzzled by what I meant by a local breakfast. When I asked what they liked to eat for breakfast, one lady told me, "cereal" (ha ha). I had heard that maybe Lebanese breakfasts could be attained here, but there weren't any Lebanese places nearby that I could patronize so early in the morning. Some other guys recommended an "Indian Muglai Chinese" place. Such a identity-crisis-type restaurant sounded like a place that I would avoid at all costs, but they assured me that they served "Arabic" food there too (plus, nothing else was really open that early in the morning), so I walked over there. But it turned out to be all Indian food in the morning, which of course I can get in Singapore, so I got up and left. It seemed that the only thing that people could recommend was a "Western" breakfast, which I didn't come all the way to Dubai for. But needing food, I capitulated and just plopped myself in the lobby of the Le Meridien Dubai hotel where I was meeting someone soon anyway.

Then - little did I know (nor did the concierges at the hotel, apparently) - that there was an "Oriental Express" breakfast set offered in the Gourmandises cafe in the hotel lobby featuring "Mezzeh and cheese: hummus, moutabhel, labneh with mint, haloumi & feta cheese, tomato, cucumber, olives served with Arabic bread" and Turkish coffee. This was great - mezzeh are basically small dishes - almost like Spanish tapas. The hummus was one of the most savory that I've had, the moutabhel was sour and goat cheese-like, while the labneh was my favorite, with taste that almost reminded me of smoked cheese, but lighter and sour. Yum. The Turkish coffee had a mildly sweet and spicy twist to it - all in a tiny little espresso-like cup. It obviously wasn't my first choice to go into a nice hotel to eat a set meal, but in mind of my struggles to find a "local breakfast" here, I'm glad I did. It was refreshing to be able to finally find this, and I never would have thought to have had to go to a hotel lobby. And yes, this beats the pants off that Samar place back in Singapore.

I found out later though that there really isn't anything like breakfast out here in Dubai since people usually wake up at around 10-11 AM. And even more interesting is the fact that the only real "local" dish here is fish and rice (and maybe a little curry). Dubai was traditionally more of a seafood town, but today most people eat other Middle Eastern food, namely Lebanese, Iranian, and Syrian food. Now I finally understand why I could not really find any breakfast today. Hummus is more of a foreign thing for Dubai to begin with.

McDonalds in DubaiInterestingly, I passed by a McDonald's with this sign for a McArabia meal, featuring a grilled kofta sandwich. It's cool to see all the localization that McDonald's does around the world (it reminds me of that ad I saw for McDonald's Israel featuring a McShwarma). I didn't go into the McDonald's to actually try this, but it almost retroactively seemed like a good idea for a second when I couldn't find local food this morning.


C(h)ristine said...

i was pointed to your site by our mutual friend nilay. very cool food descriptions! my husband and i were just talking this afternoon about putting dubai on our travel list (have you seen the new yorker article on dubai? fascinating portrayal of the city, and it's in the new yorker's art and architecture issue from a couple months back).

i especially appreciate you addressing mcdonald's localization efforts.

yshimy said...
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