Some of my favourite small joints for tasty meals on any budget
Growing up in Jamaica, it was the mark of great childrearing when you could ‘dine on the back of your fork with the queen and yet be at home with people from all walks of life.’ It is something I have always prided myself on, as it is a great life lesson- being able to fit in with all people. Nowhere is this more pronounced as when you add food in the mix.
As much as I absolutely adore a finely executed gourmet dining experience, there is a part of me that equally relishes dining of humbler origins, particularly homely, simple, street type casual dining experiences with the masses.
Some of us purist in the food world may argue that due it is strict laws governing food production, there is no real “street” food scene in Dubai or the UAE, per se. Unlike other countries, there is no cooking in the streets. All food vendors must cook in proper surroundings fitted with plumbing and equipment for hygiene purposes but more importantly with refrigeration to ensure that food is kept at safe temperatures in the arid desert climate. For those of use who have suffered the horrors at the hand of a stomach bug or two due to unsanitary street food handling in more liberal countries, we can certainly understand and appreciate the restrictions for our own safety. Nevertheless, some small cafeterias and casual restaurants in the UAE do set up parts of their operation in shop windows, giving the customer the “street food” vibe.
Here are my favourite spots for lip-smacking, scrumptious meals that go a long way from breaking the bank. These are the places you can always go for a meal, even when you are broke.
Fresher seafood you will not find anywhere in Dubai. I suggest parking your car somewhere along the Jumeirah Beach Road and hailing a cab because you may have a hard time locating it on your own. Before you hop in, mention “Kerala fry fish Jumeirah Bu Qtair” to your taxi driver. If you get lost, keep on the road by the beach and look out for the men working or sitting by the boats and ask them the same. Keep your words very simple as most may not speak English well. During lunch time only small fish and rice are served, but by dinnertime large and small fish served and priced per size.
Feel for some authentic Chinese Cuisine? Would you like to sample Malaysian Cuisine? Well, you are in luck! Noodle Bowl is Dubai’s most accessible Chinese restaurant and certainly one of the best of the sparse lot. As far as Malaysian food goes, they are absolutely the best place for Malay and Chinese Malaysian Cuisine.
Al Mallah is an old icon of the Dubai street food scene, hailing from the exclusive days of Satwa and the former Al Dhiyafiya Street. Serving tasty Lebanese fast food treats until very late, it’s the one place you can be guaranteed a meal for two coming in at about 60 AED. This used to be the spot where my husband and I would grab a bite after he finished his chef duties way past the last order of every restaurant in town. It is one of the few historic restaurants still open in Dubai and for that, deserves a visit.
While every other expat raves about Ravi’s in Satwa, it is the Karachi Darbar in Karama and other locations across Dubai that hits the ball out of the park for me.
This is fast, efficient homestyle cooking from the spice loving countries of Indian and Pakistan. With dishes full of thick, flavoursome sauces and traditional foods cooked in traditional vessels, this is as authentic as it gets. It is a rather simple spot with delicious and very affordable food from colourful curries to soothing, thick, tongue-coating, lassi. Whatever you do, order your lassi first. You will need it. I must warn though that if you cannot tolerate heat in your food, stay out of this kitchen.
These are some of our favourite street food restaurants in Dubai, what are yours? Please share!