Warning, this post contains alcohol.
One of the dilemmas we have about cooking and baking in the UAE/Gulf Region is that vanilla extract, which, though commonplace elsewhere, is not available on store shelves due to restrictions on alcohol. Restaurants and bars must be issued a very expensive license to serve highly taxed alcohol and where it is included in a dish, it must be clearly labeled so. What would be stand alone restaurants in other countries are hotel restaurants here because hotels can easily expense blanket alcohol licenses for all of their outlets. The vast majority of restaurants in the country do not serve alcohol as a result of the municipal and religious implications. You see, alcohol is haram, which means it is against the tenets of Islam and with this being an Islamic country, we have to respect and honour the culture of our new home.