I’m in Dubai! I was invited to come do some demos at Taste of Dubai, and I jumped at the chance, because it isn’t somewhere I’d probably choose to go on my own accord. I know very little about it, and I have heard lukewarm reports from friends who have gone. Even so, I’ve always been intrigued. I know some people who love it, and besides, it sounded quite unlike anywhere else I’ve been. That appealed to me.
I’ve been here for about 6 hours now, and so far, I find Dubai a little impenetrable, but also very interesting. It’s such a strange city. It really is in the desert, but not like Las Vegas is in the desert. There’s actually sand everywhere. It’s also crazy morern; nothing looks like it’s more than 30 years old. Even Tokyo can’t compare to its newness. The city is massively vertical, like Hong Kong, but it’s also sprawling, like Los Angeles. I am starting to glean that it’s a car city, not one for public transport or walking. But these are just first impressions, partly informed by the area where I’m staying, which isn’t very central and doesn’t seem to have a lot going on.
Having said that, I’ve already caught little glimpses of what must really be a fascinating food culture here. I got this impression from popping into little grocery stores near my hotel. I read somewhere that Dubai has more immigrants than any other city in the world, and this is certainly reflected in the supermarket shelves. Just off the top of my head, Turkish, Persian, Saudi, Egyptian, Russian, Japanese, American, Indian, Chinese, Thai, and Lebanese ingredients are all well represented. Shichimi togarashi next to zaatar next to garam masala. Pocari Sweat with an Arabic label. A whole section of Balkan tinned fish. It’s bonkers. I haven’t seen anything like it since I lived in Harringay.
I brought corn with me because I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get it here (but I am quickly learning that canned corn is pretty much a universal thing). I had hoped to find interesting items to have with it, but didn’t expect it to be so easy. After spending some time in a couple supermarkets, I settled on labneh (from Turkey) and a tub of what I thought were dried pomegranate seeds (from Iran). They were not that. The flavor isn’t dissimilar, but they lack pomegranates’ characteristic crunchy seed, and also they have a slight earthy bitterness to them. If any Persian food aficionados out there can identify them, it would be most appreciated.
The labneh was lovely with the corn, all creamy and tangy and salty. The seed berry things provided a pleasant contrast. All it needed was some good olive oil and perhaps some fresh herbs or cucumber to actually make it a pretty tasty, complete dish.
I’m in Dubai until Sunday. Expect more dishes using other random finds from these fantastic local shops.
(No photos today because I’m having trouble with my WordPress app. Should have it sorted next time.)