Where do the UAE's chefs and food experts grocery shop?
1004 Gourmet scores high among foodies, as do Wenzhou Supermarket, For the Love of Bread, Emirates Bio Farm and The Meat Avenue
They spend their days creating new dishes, running restaurants and cafes, crafting special menus for events, writing and testing recipes for cookbooks and blogs and even reviewing those aforementioned restaurants, but when they’re cooking at home, where do the UAE’s food experts do their shopping, and what do they buy?
Read on for insider tips, valuable advice, some surprising recommendations and one spot that’s sought time and time again.
The Food Sheikh goes to 1004 Gourmet
The expert: The mystery man known as Food Sheikh is the brains behind an eponymous impartial, en pointe and highly entertaining restaurant-review site, and is also the co-founder of local food movement Eat Dxb.
“There is a special little grocery store tucked away on the second floor of Oynx Tower in the Greens that I always enjoy visiting. However, 1004 Gourmet is not just a grocery store. It is run by Chang Sup Chin, and Chang is a retailer with a purpose. 1004 Gourmet is the lodestar for Japanese, Korean and East Asian food culture in Dubai – the place is a culinary embassy for the whole of East Asia and Chang is the ambassador.
"A few hours spent in 1004 is a magical journey in itself, exploring the fabulous and the exotic, the strange and the unknown. The shelves are packed with items such as instant noodles, fresh vegetables, top-quality marinated Korean beef, restaurant-quality frozen dumplings, noodles and sauces. There is even a cafe and cosmetics counter. Go there, pick up some Kewpie Japanese mayonnaise, a packet of Golden Curry Sauce and some Calpico water, and discover a whole new world of food and flavour.”
Zahra Abdalla goes to Emirates Bio Farm and the Meat Avenue
The expert: Zahra Abdalla is a food blogger, recipe developer and author of Cooking with Zahra: A Culinary Journey of Traditional and Modern Middle Eastern Cuisine.
“For me, the key to good food starts with fresh ingredients that are in season and ideally local. Because of that, a visit to Emirates Bio Farm in Al Ain is a wonderful experience – you can learn about how the produce is grown, and buy fruits and vegetables to take home.
“As a busy working mom, it is also really important that I can order quality food that can be delivered to my doorstep, and over the past few years the online food-shopping experience in the UAE has significantly evolved and become far more accessible.
“I order most of my fresh fruit and vegetables from Kibsons.com, and The Meat Avenue in JLT is my go-to butcher shop when I’m preparing Middle Eastern recipes. As well as a fresh meat section, they sell and deliver great prepared dishes, too. I also often buy chicken and beef from ButcherShop.ae and CarniStore.com.
Lily Hoa Nguyen goes to Ras Al Khor
The expert: Lily Hoa Nguyen is the executive chef and owner of Vietnamese Foodies restaurants.
“We get our fresh vegetables and herbs from Ras Al Khor Fruit and Vegetable Market, which is about 30 minutes from main Dubai, close to Dragon Mart. In fact, one of our most popular dishes – the rice paper shrimp rolls – uses lettuce, cucumber, carrots and herbs all from the market.
“This place is a treasure trove, with a wide variety of fresh, tasty and affordable produce, including organic items, from all over the world – everything from locally sourced eggplants to Thai sweet basil.
“If you’ve not been there before, it’s worth buying in bulk to get the best price. You could even consider going with friends and splitting the shopping to make the experience more manageable – the market is a big place with numerous shops that specialise in different things.”
Jesse Blake and Kate Christou go to 1004 Gourmet
The experts: Jesse Blake and Kate Christou are the two talented chefs behind contemporary home-grown restaurant Lowe.
“We’re both avid fans of Asian food, and for all the condiments and spices we use for cooking at home our favourite shop is 1004 Gourmet in the Greens. Here, you’ll find lots of products you can’t get anywhere else – think Japanese seaweeds, Korean chill pastes, dried seafood and mushrooms and a huge variety of seasoning sauces.
“We usually take the opportunity to pick up lunch to go from their sushi bar – you can watch the sushi being prepared right in front of you – and stop for an amazing drip coffee and kakigori [Japanese shaved ice dessert] at Kaffe Bloom, which is located within the store.”
Tomas Reger goes to Lulu and Wenzhou
The expert: Chef Tomas Reger is the co-founder of Cruet F&B Consultants
“My family and I have really reduced our meat consumption over the last few years. These days, when I do buy meat, it’s generally from New Zealand as they have strong government policies in place regarding the use of antibiotics and added hormones.
“I have been going to Lulu Hypermarkets for my fish for several years now. The selection available follows the seasons, which is always good to see and there’s a fast turnover of produce.
“When it comes to speciality items, 1004 Gourmet is probably the [best] Asian store in the UAE thanks to the excellent products and constant introduction of new ones. Wenzhou Supermarket in China Cluster in International City is also great for quirky Chinese items – I’ve found everything from durian to celtuce [Chinese stem lettuce], as well as all types of mushrooms, live seafood, black chickens and pigeons.”
Paul Frangie looks to For the Love of Bread and Dibba Bay oysters
The expert: Paul Frangie is the chef behind healthy eating restaurant Hapi.ae (@hapi.ae) and the co-founder of online store Hapi Bone Broth
“The freshly baked, organic sourdough bread made by artisan bakery For The Love of Bread in Al Quoz is hands down the best quality and most delicious sourdough in Dubai – and you can buy it at Spinneys.
“Spinneys also sells Dibba Bay oysters, which I love for their freshness and taste, and I will always try to grab a box if they're available. As for condiments and speciality products, I always buy my red miso paste, black rice and kimchi from 1004 Gourmet in the Greens – the place has an awesome selection of Asian foods and fresh products.”
Updated: July 30, 2019 08:45 AM