Our favourite expat foods and where to find them
From Athens to (New) Zealand, and burritos to welsh cakes, we've canvassed the UAE and compiled a list of our most-loved foods from our home countries, as recounted by you
Sweet (or savoury) nostalgia: we all know the feeling, you're living in a new country, and while indulging in the culinary fare of a new culture is all well and good, there's just no substitute for a home-cooked meal (or a Tim Tam).
In a country like the UAE, where the culinary scene is a juxtaposition of flavours, dishes and cuisines borrowed from elsewhere, and let's not forget the plethora of excellent Middle Eastern flavours - it seems like you're never left wanting.
But still, sometimes the world's best hummus can't quite quell the longing for a taste of home.
So where do we find these creature comforts in the UAE? It probably won't surprise you to find out that most of our much-loved expat foods are readily available across the Emirates.
If you're feeling homesick, here's our guide on where to head to discover the comforts of home are not so far away after all.
What? Proper Mexican (Tex-Mex) and Southern cooking
Where to get it:
- Chalco's, JLT: The best proper Mexican, with proper burritos: not the stuff that most people think is Mexican.
- Zoco, Habtoor City: Real Mexican treats such as mole, poblano peppers, carne asada - the chef here is from Mexico City.
- Fume: The best, authentic American fried chicken. Buttermilk fried chicken like my grandma used to make.
Sarah Williams, deputy editor at La Femme magazine, Dubai. "I'm from Los Angeles and grew up in a very Latino neighbourhood, so I'm obsessed with finding good, authentic Mexican food. One thing I hate is when people have visited the US once try to do our food - Dh100 for a burger?! No thanks."
What? Tim Tams
Where to get them: Lulus, Spinneys, Carrefour - actually, they're pretty easy to find
Ryan Darnell, executive director of facilities management, Dubai. "Once I taught people to do a Tim Tam Slam, they were hooked [in short, this involves biting both ends of the biscuit and using it as a straw with hot drinks. Follow Natalie Imbruglia's example below]. The trick is to only suck enough so the tim tam melts in your mouth and you don't suck too much that makes it crumble into your drink. I just came back from Oz and had to bring back the flavours you can't get here for my team. The white ones seem to be most popular here but nowhere has them!"
What? Four'N Twenty Blackbird meat pies.
Where to get them: Spinneys.
Will Ioannidis, design manager, Dubai. "It's the food I grew up with."
What? British-Indian food
Where to get it: BritBalti, Dubai
Robert Tasker, PR consultant, Dubai. "The food [and curry] reminds me of British-style Indian food I get when I'm back home. Rustic, well-cooked and spicy!"
What? Proper roast dinner.
Where to get it: Reform Social & Grill every Saturday and Sunday.
Richard Pavarott, Exhibition director, Dubai. "Eating a proper roast dinner takes me straight back to being in the UK where I'd buy meat from the local butchers. Its not as easy to get that same flavour here but Reform does a good job."
Seconded by Sarah Jamie Hay, Dubai. "They hit the spot, plus when it's not one million degrees and you sit outside, you can almost pretend you're in an English beer garden."
What? Cadbury's chocolate
Where to get it: Park n Shop.
Daniel Evans, Business development manager, Dubai. "Cadbury's is the something I miss. Many products you find in supermarkets are produced within the GCC which just doesn't taste as creamy as the British ones."
What? Teff Injera. (A sourdough-risen flatbread)
Where to get it: Jima, Frij Murar, Dubai.
Easter Lees, Co-founder of cultural fashion label, Dubai. "This is a staple part of all Eritrean and Ethiopian cuisine, if it's not fermented properly it can cause havoc with your gut! I would have liked more variety of Teff [several colours are available back home] but it's reasonably priced and now produced in Ajman instead of being shipped daily from Ethiopia as it used to be. It's Dh12 for three larger pieces and by fair the best in Dubai or Abu Dhabi."
What? French bistrot meals
Where to get it: Bistro des Arts, or La Petit Maison
Antoine Jean, construction worker, Dubai. "In France, bistrots and brasseries are actually not fancy at all - it's actually where labourers used to have their lunch. This simple food is what we miss the most in Dubai. La Petit Maison is great as it's nice, modern cuisine with basic ingredients all perfectly cooked. Bistro des Arts is more like the food you can find around the corner in the southwest of France - great ingredients and simple dishes.
What? Haribo gummies.
Where to get them: Most petrol stations and supermarkets across the UAE, but selections vary.
Guenther Jahrmann, training and business consultant, Abu Dhabi. “Haribo gummies are as German as you can get because everybody eats them, no matter where you go in the country, from Munich to Hamburg and Dusseldorf to Berlin. We have much more variety in Germany, though, including traditional, regional and seasonal gummies. For example, up north they have salty licorice fish and in Bayern we have a green flavour called Waldmeister that is mostly known in the south. Haribo is an abbreviation for the company’s founder, Hans Rieger, and its headquarters in Bonn”
What? Authentic Greek food.
Where to get it: Little Greece, Al Barsha Mall.
Will Ioannidis, design manager, Dubai. "It's [also] the food I grew up with!"
Read more: Where to get Greek food in the UAE
What? Authentic Indian
Where to get it: The streets of Bur Dubai for an authentic meal, Mint Leaf of London for authentic but upmarket.
Ankit Desai, works at trading company, Dubai. "I miss the flavours of home. Mint Leaf and Junoon are delicious fine dining options for authentic Indian food, but for real Indian street and home food you need to go to Bur Dubai and try the various places serving the food from across India."
What? Authentic Lebanese.
Where to get it: Zahr el Leymoun, Souk Al Bahar, Dubai
Myriam, Magazine editor, Lebanese. "This restaurant is the best because the dishes taste just like they do back at home. It's not easy to find a restaurant that nails Lebanese mezza and delivers the right flavors. In the vast majority of "Lebanese" restaurants, the food feels like a cheap imitation of the original, but not in Zahr el Leymoun."
What? Authentic Malaysian
Where to get it: Rasa Sayang in Oud Metha
Kevin Sebastian, filmmaker and creative consultant, Dubai. "The food represents the kind of culture I come from, it's something I share with my friends and family from different ethnicities. I say this as a third culture expat who's living between two worlds by being born in Dubai."
What? Momos (dumplings) and spicy Thukpa
Where to get it: Yalla Momos, Bur Dubai for Nepali/ Tibetan dumplings, and Yak & Yeti for Thukpa
Sarakshi, writer, Dubai. "Growing up, I remember chowing through a hundred momos in one sitting. So every time I feel a bit under the weather or homesick I head over to try some dumplings and thukpa - a kind of soup which is a staple diet in Nepali households [...] I'm half Nepali and some of my family is still based there, and spicy Thukpa instantly transports me to Kathmandu!"
What? NZ Marmite
Where to get it: Geant supermarkets - though it's rather hit and miss (also, Geant's are about to become Carrefour's so watch this marmitey space).
Scott Evans, design manager, Abu Dhabi. "It might have the same name as the British variant, but ask any Kiwi and they'll swiftly tell you: it's not the same. The "black gold" reminds me of home."
What? Whitakker's chocolate
Where to get it: Waitrose, Carrefour.
Stuart McCready, engineer, Dubai. "NZ prides itself on its quality boutique brands, and that goes especially for our chocolate scene. Whittaker's is one of our most-loved Kiwi brands (the best when the All Blacks lose), so it's pretty great that it's so widely available here (though it is three times the price)."
Where to get them: Make them yourself, or try Carrefour or Spinneys
Natalie Frank, Interior designer, Dubai. "I miss a South African snack food called koeksisters, which are kind of like a braided doughnut. I make them myself, as you can get the ingredients in most shops. Some people have started selling South African home bakes which can also save me time. Carrefour and Spinneys have also started stocking a good array of South African products."
What? Filipino cooking products and ingredients
Where to get it: Green House Supermarket, Electra Rd, Abu Dhabi OR Baqala, Airport Road, Abu Dhabi.
Cristina Tamayo, Abu Dhabi. "There's one big Filipino shop in Electra road near the ADCB building called Green House supermarket - they sell most Filipino foods there, and cheap clothes and shoes too. But the one in Airport road is a Baqala and they only sell Filipino products there, which is good as they have everything a Filipino needs such as foods, dried fishes, vegetables that you can't find it here in UAE."
Read more: Our guide to the best Filipino restaurants
What? Welsh cakes
Where to get them: Marks and Spencers
Emma, Online editor, Dubai. "They're not as good as my grandmother's, but M&S does a pretty tasty version. They're not always there, but if you find them in the bakery section - fork out for them for a taste of home."
Updated: August 2, 2017 01:27 PM