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Luqaimat.
Luqaimat.

Food Obsession: Ramadan's the perfect time to try luqaimat

While they closely resemble doughnut holes, luqaimat batter is distinct in that it replaces the butter or shortening with yogurt.

The best luqaimat I have had was gifted to me by an Emirati friend. Her grandmother had fried enough balls of glistening, sweet dough for 50 people, and I was the sole gluttonous recipient of the generous gesture. I knew the wise strategy would be to take two and flee from the box. Ten minutes later, the strategy had miserably failed.

Luqaimat is an Emirati dessert, one that mirrors the loqoumades that were presented as "honey tokens" to winners of the Olympics in Ancient Greece. In Arabic, the word misleadingly refers to small bites. Misleading, because the ping-pong-sized dough balls can be so addictive that they eventually snowball into a colossal dessert binge. While they closely resemble doughnut holes, luqaimat batter is distinct in that it replaces the butter or shortening with yogurt. This gives the fritters a faint sour taste, with insides that are less fluffy than doughnuts, but more squidgy and ideal for sponging up the saffron and cardamom sugar syrup they are typically doused in.

I have enjoyed versions of luqaimat garnished with sesame seeds, and in less disciplined moments, I've been known to go completely overboard and drizzle them with thick date syrup (dibs) and fresh cream. Someone once hinted to me about a cheese version, one that I live in fear of because cheese-filled luqaimat would wipe out any last vestige of self-restraint that I could hope to display at the sight of these fried temptations.

If you've never tried luqaimat, Ramadan is the perfect time to put an end to the frittered ignorance. The dessert makes its way on to many a traditional iftar table - and you feel less guilty indulging when you're upholding a local culinary tradition.

Try them at Al Fanar Restaurant 04 232 9966; Sheikh Mohammad Centre of Cultural Understanding 04 353 6666; Heritage Village.

Arva Ahmed blogs about hidden food gems in Old Dubai at www.ILiveinaFryingPan.com

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