We have spent nearly 9 weeks now studying the F&B industry in both the US and abroad in support of our project. While working here in the UAE we wanted to get better acclimated with the local food . . . we had mastered every variation of the shawarma but surly there had to be more. We did a great deal of research to find the hidden local food spots. . . outside of the glamorous, tourist filled city of Dubai, littered with more US food chains than the entire state of Ohio. Ultimately we settled on a food tour offered in old town Deira.
Scheduled for 5 hours after work we tactfully planned our day around limiting our food intake. We met our guide Arva and seven other foodies down in Deira to commence our middle eastern food tour. . .
Our first stop . . . Qwaider Al Nabulsi . . . part falafel and shawarma shop part Palestinian sweet shop
They made homemade, stuffed falafel with tatbeela. . .
then we headed to the other side for . . .
Musakhan, a Palestinian chicken pie (much better than it looks). . . this is great. . . we are still at the first stop and I am not only learning about new foods but also about the way you eat them . . . there’s a method for everything and they hold the traditions of how you eat as high as the food itself. . . I love it
We finished off with kunafa, a cheese pie with kataifi noodle pastry on the top
Gina has mentioned on this trip that she would like to open a kunafa shop back in the US, and now I can see why . . . incredibly addicting. At this point Arva suggests that our stomachs should be approximately 15% full . . . “oh boy” . . . I need to start pacing myself
Next stop . . . baklava and Arabian coffee. . . along with coffee etiquette at Samadi Sweets
1.) If I do not offer you coffee when you enter my home, you are not welcome
2.) If you do not accept the coffee, you are here on serious business and need to talk
3.) Always accept with your right hand
so much baklava
I mean . . . do I even need to say anything?
Continuing on our way . . . we make a quick pit stop in an ice cream shop. Syrian pistachio Boozah ice cream
We watch as they beat out the ice cream and roll it. . . made with extra polymers the ice cream is actually cut and eaten with a fork. . . probably discovered due to the fact that anything normal form of ice cream would liquify with the first scoop here.
Next we head on for Egyptian feeter (pizza). As a note, the desserts are mixed intermittently with the main course offerings as middle easterners incorporate sweets throughout the day. I loved this guy . . . tossing the dough around, he gets it about 4 times as large as a regular pizza and very very thin. . . then they fill with the normal toppings and roll the pizza dough over the top . . . it was amazing.
As we are exiting . . they tell us to take the remaining pieces . . Travis houses 5 pieces of pizza . . . so much for being at 35%
Al Tawasol, our fifth stop . . . consists of traditional Emirati lamb machboos and laham salona. . . served over two kinds of rice and laban (drinking yogurt)
and we learned the three different methods for eating with your hands. . .
Despite being incredibly hot in this tent . . . it was an awesome experience.
As we continued, we made a stop at Sadaf Iranian Sweets and Spices, where our tour guide and her mother do their spice shopping. Our tour guide lives in this neighborhood and has for most of her life. . . it’s been amazing to see her interact with the shop owners.
throughout the tour, Arva keeps mentioning ‘using different eyes’ and the way that you look at food. It is not uncommon for shop owners to simply hand over full sized portions as a tasting sample based on this method . . . it happened so frequently that several members on the tour were now avoiding this . . . I was well over 100% at this point . . . still one more stop
We finished the tour at an Iranian restaurant, Abshar
We saw how they make Iranian Sangak (stone bread) which might be the best bread I have ever had . . . which we ate with cheese and rayhaan leaves as a small sandwich. . . won as my favorite thing on the tour
Mahkloot Faloodeh. . . the Iranian sundae . . . served with frozen sugar syrup, rose water, saffron ice cream
And Iranian black tea
This tour was one of the highlights of my stay here in Dubai. Aside from the amazing food, Arva made the tour so much more than that. Her story is very interesting, born and raised in Sharjah and Dubai. . . she later moved to the US and received her MBA before discovering her love of food and opening the Frying Pan Food Adventures business. She is roughly our age and has the number one rated Activity on Trip Advisor. . . it was great to talk to her about the business and we found it comical that was share a common language from business school. . . targeting, positioning, etc.
Arva was open to any question. She covered Muslim prayer rituals, Ramadan, citizenship, cultural pressures in the Middle East and common misconceptions. She has tied her love of food to a very impressive understanding of middle eastern history and culture. As she has positioned . . . this tour is really excellent for those who are looking for the non-tourist tour. . . hidden off the beaten path. . .
Check it out here . . .