Friday, September 4, 2015

Dubai UAE Food trip the HT couple way

Flashback Friday - it's been a year since we've visited Dubai..and also been awhile since HT wifey wrote in this blog but yes I do miss writing and sharing with you our experiences, pictures and the food HT couple eats!

We had a stopover in Dubai and decided to stay for 3 full days before going back home.  I'll be honest, my notion of this most populous city of UAE - modern and nothing special.  And in terms of food,  the usual US food chains such as Cheesecake Factory, Shake Shack and the likes are available.  I love those but not my idea of eating when in this emirate.  To have a different experience - me and HT hubbie challenged ourselves to do a food trip - the gulf and middle eastern way.

First stop is getting to our hotel.  We stayed at Deira area - as based on my online research, this is the best place to be in terms of our food hunting goal.

Tadah - just beside our hotel - is the Sultan Dubai Falafel.  We arrived around lunch time and would not mind having small eats after dropping our luggages.


falafel, hummus, pickled veggie and the works!  This is a good start of our trip!  I can't remember how much we paid but it was cheap and most importantly, delicious! 
And across this shop, is what i've least expected...
It felt like home!  I've met my kababayans (countrymen)!  They mentioned Deira is one of the places where there are many Filipinos around.  We even got invited to one of their homes for beers (as alcohol is not sold in supermarkets and only licensed residents are allowed to buy in specific shops).
When in Dubai, we must visit the souks!  With full tummy, we walk to get to the spice souk.  We didn't get anything but just walking around, smelling the spices - was just heaven. 
of course - souks are for tourists - they sell anything - from spices to hookah

to dates and almond chocolates
Since we were by Dubai Creek, we hop on one of the abras -  wooden boat which is also known as water taxis to cross to the other side called Bur Dubai.  Watch out, they can lure you to a private boat which you pay a fortune - so make sure to hop on the public ones - just follow the locals - and you just pay 1 AED per person - for the ride and for the experience.

here we are on the other side which is another souk - the textile souk!

We sat in a cafe by the water just watching the abras going back and forth and the birds hunting for fishes and bread - while drinking fresh mint lemonades - which later on we found out is a typical drink in Dubai.  Another check for HT couple!
We crossed the creek again boarding an abra, and walked our way to our hotel - to get some rest and catnap as we're both very tired from the flight.
And then it's time for dinner - we started looking for our next pit stop - the Al Tawasol Restaurant where we can get our mandi meal - mandi comes from arabic word nada meaning 'dew' - pertaining to the moist dewy texture of meat -wikipedia.  This is a traditional Yemeni dish and just fits what HT couple was looking forward to in this trip.
As soon as you enter the restaurant - there is a main area where everyone is seated on a carpeted floor - but I only saw men in the area.  We were immediately escorted to private areas like wooden huts without tables.  Neighboring private dining areas - i can hear kids and families having their dinner. 
We sat on our private dining floor - the waiter started placing plastic sheet, with the veggies and sauces and we were served bowls of lentil soup (which we were offered for secong helping but we wanted to reserve space for the mandi meal).  We didn't know how to order - and so we just told the waiter we wanted mandi and was asked which meat we wanted and settled for a combination of chicken and lamb/sheep...and after a few minutes - here's our order!

HT hubbie went all in - ordered a laban an arab yogurt drink - similar to lassi - but this is ain't sweet.

our unique date night setting

Here I go for my first mandi meal was yum!  And the whole experience was just amazing!

When in Dubai, a must-visit is Burj Khalifa.  We took the metro to Dubai Mall (we never took a cab except going from and to the airport - pat on our shoulders), got lost a bit, took pictures before we strided our way to go up the Burj Khalifa - note entrance is inside the mall - we tried getting in from outside but it was not allowed for tourists.

TIP: we bought our tickets online as there are limited no. of tickets per timing.  We took the 10 am to avoid the huge crowd which is 3 pm onwards.

overlooking the Dubai Fountain at the 124th floor - the elevator ride was also fun!

After a few hours learning and going around this famous skyscraper - we grab an indian meal set at the food court of Dubai Mall.  Not great and not cheap but good enough for a quick bite that kept us exploring this huge mall.

Dubai Mall is far from our hotel and we wanted to see the Souk Al Bahar and the fountain show at night - we went to watch a movie in their modern cinema - just to kill time and rest our legs.
And yes, we cheated that day - and had an early dinner at cheesecake factory.  Too bad my favorite ultimate margarita is not part of the menu, of course.
While watching the fountain show - which can be crowded - somebody pinch my bum - either accidentally or on purpose - just beware.

Next day - we took a local bus - and wanted to get to Jumeirah beach - it was bloody hot, and there were some construction and closed areas.  After minutes of walking around - we decided to go to our next stop which was still a bit of a walk from where we were.  And tell you - not much people are walking, so we're doing this the cheapo way.  Thank God - each bus stops are air-conditioned. 

Streets are very clean and lovely to walk
Here we are for our next stop, Al Fanar is a place to go to experience emirate cuisine.  We were welcomed by Filipinas, yes they're everywhere here, as soon as we step inside this restaurant.

Samak - fish cakes with arabic spice

Machboos Laham - mutton cooked with yellow rice with arabic spices and lemon.  HT hubbie and I shared this plate but looking around - i saw tables ordered several big dishes like this.

gahwa coffee - an arabic spiced coffee with hints of cardamom and saffron.  It's served in this quaint  arabic coffee pot called dalah, and served in small quantities in small cups, finyal.  The concept behind this is to prevent from drinking cold coffee that is usually the result if poured on big cups.  This was way too bitter for my taste but very aromatic.  Check out more about gahwa coffee.

After the meal and about to leave - we washed our hands with this rosewater - which i've read was an egyptian custom of the nobles until the 19th century (wikipedia).

There were business lunches held in this restaurant and too bad - we had enough of the heat and decided to skip this outside dining area.

Here we go trotting to Souk Madinat in Jumeirah.  A modern souk - which has a nice lagoon and one of the best places to get a good shot of Burj Al Arab.  Go to Costa Coffee outside seating area for the view - I suggest to grab that refreshing mint lemonade drink.

After seeing this last souk in our agenda, we took a bus that brought us to see Dubai Marina.  What's the best view - is being up there at the 52nd flr observatory of Marriott Dubai Harbour sipping  cocktails while watching the sunset by the marina.  Happy hour starts at 5 pm!

It's our last night - and we're running out of time - we still have a list of places to eat and luckily one of them was just a few steps away from our hotel.  Qwaider A Nablusi - a Jordanian simple restaurant that serves Mansaf - lamb cooked in fermented laban (yogurt) from goat's milk  served with rice and almond flakes.

They even served the broth/soup in case your palate is asking more for its strong flavor.  It taste like strong smelly cheese but blends perfectly with the lamb.  I can't sip it like soup though.
Last meal cannot be complete without getting sweets.  Even though we have stuffed ourselves, how can you resist this as soon as you enter the door?

Kunafa Mix - rough and soft kunafa
These kunafas are made of Nabulsi cheese - a Palestine white brined cheese made from sheep/goat's milk which I like as it balances out the sweetness of this dessert.  I love the chewy texture too.  Being greedy, i forgot to ask the difference between rough and soft.  If anybody knows - feel free to drop in the comments section.  I'm very curious to know. 
And that was our Dubai food trip escapade.  I enjoyed reminiscing and writing this post - and would not mind going back to do this arab food hunting again.