As a food and travel writer, food stylist, social media guru and author of the My Custard Pie blog, Sally Prosser loves pottering around her kitchen and cooking simple comfort food made from fresh ingredients of good provenance. Find out more at mycustardpie.com and follow @mycustardpie (Instagram).
Palestine is alive in the hearts of so many people including at Mama’esh, on Al Wasl Road. At this time of year sit out in the garden with fairy lights twinkling above and order mezze like fattoush, hummus, vine leaves or foul medammas. The main courses are from the oven; the fatayer is sublime and I have to order the cheese and muhammara every time. For bread-avoiders there are delicious things in cast iron pans, a lamb and tomato stew and shakshuka with the eggs scrambled into the sauce. They take sustainability seriously too – jugs of water (free), unbleached paper napkins, cardboard takeaway boxes and no shisha. Creamy, rosewater-scented rice pudding is a must for afters, if you have any room.
The allure of a good neighbourhood bakery is something I relish when I’m in Europe. When Vanilla Sukkar opened in Umm Suqeim I was delighted as I’d already sampled their excellent bread at the Farmers’ Market at Bay Avenue. It took @dr.kalthamkenaid (Instagram) three years to perfect her sour dough and is often to be glimpsed kneading dough through the glass wall of the kitchen. The cakes are the creations of her daughter and together they designed and manage this Emirati family-run café. Pop in for a loaf (turmeric or cheese and chilli are my favourites) and stay for a bowl of hot oatmeal and a golden milk.
Tex Mex cuisine is ubiquitous but for really authentic, homemade, traditional Mexican food you have to go to El Mustacho. It’s a pocket handkerchief-sized place in JLT where Mexican chefs make the super-authentic tacos that are the star of the show. They combine them with marinated, meltingly-cooked meats (tongue is an option), crunchy herbs and leaves and the most addictive salsa I’ve ever tasted.
My Polish dad used to make płaczki or potato pancakes, which we ate fresh from the pan, and of course we all raved about (my English Mum cooked everything else!). In Dubai, cravings for food of my heritage are satisfied by Zapiekanka, a Polish street food truck (and newly opened downtown diner) where you can grab Babcia’s (Grandma’s) smoked beef sausage sandwich with slow-cooked sauerkraut, crispy bacon, dill pickles and horseradish mayo. There are hearty pierogi or dumplings doused with melted butter, sour cream and dill. Simple good fresh ingredients from the garden, or foraged, are central to Polish cooking so there are vegan versions, too.
Aappa Kaddai’s name comes from lacy, bowl-shaped pancakes traditionally made from a fermented batter based on rice flour called aapams. I first tried them out when the restaurant was a tiny hideaway in Bur Dubai; it’s since expanded to a few branches and serves food from many regions of India and China. It’s the eponymous signature dish that keeps me coming back to the Dubai Marina branch. Tuck yourself into this busy restaurant and order one (or more) with a softly cooked egg inside which is sometimes called an egg hopper.
FoodSheikh is the founder and chief content creator of a media platform that sits at the crossroads of where humans and food connect. The F&B industry veteran has spent 20 years working for and with some of the very best restaurants and hotels in the world. Preferring to operate anonymously, FoodSheikh offers expert, honest and entertaining insights into the world of food, restaurants and the amazing culture that surrounds it. Read him at foodsheikh.com and follow @foodsheikh (Instagram).
Al Ustad Special Kebab sits on Al Mankhool Road in Bur Dubai. This no-frills cafeteria serves some of the city’s best Iranian kebabs. Visit any evening of the week and you’ll see a perfect example of Dubai’s diverse population as a multitude of nationalities, religions and cultures mingle to enjoy the excellent cooking of Al Ustad. Order the mixed grill to get a true understanding of what’s on offer.
Chef Izu Ani once told me in an interview that the “philosophy of cooking is all about the product, about the respect and the connection. It’s not about the ‘me.’” When at Carine’s at the Emirates Golf Club, his restaurant, which features French Mediterranean-inspired dishes, be sure to order the onion tart.
If you haven’t been to Super Chix yet, then I don’t know what to say. It is the millennial love child of KFC and Shake Shack. Nick Ouimet, Super Chix’s founder often calls it the “Last True Chicken Sandwich”. He might be right. Order the Deluxe – a crispy fried chicken breast in a hand hugging potato bun, with lettuce, tomato, pickle and mayo and some of their fries with rosemary black pepper seasoning. Then go back and order their frozen custard.
Vietnamese Foodies has taken Jumeirah Lakes Towers by storm with Chef Lily Nguyen’s fresh, clean approach to Vietnamese cooking. The bun ga nuong is a fabulous and simple meal. It’s perfect for when the weather is hot, and you want a refreshingly light and delicious meal. Fresh cold rice noodles, with satay grilled chicken, a nuac cham dipping sauce, crispy spring rolls, with mint, basil and coriander and green papaya and carrot salad.
Context is everything, and you have got to understand that The Lime Tree Café launched the Dubai café culture about 17 years ago. It’s been going strong ever since. From their flagship location in Jumeriah, to the multiple sites of today, one dish remains a constant in their menu: the legendary carrot cake. This oversized slab of moist, slightly spiced cake with a deliciously sharp cream cheese frosting is big enough to share, but, delicious enough not to. According to Corrine Bowker, founder of Lime Tree Café, they’ve had customers carry pieces and whole cakes around the Gulf and as far as Singapore and London, such is its popularity.
Tiffany Eslick says...
Like FoodSheikh, Vietnamese Foodies definitely makes it onto my list. Founder and executive chef Lily Hoa Nguyen’s pho bo tai (an aromatic beef and noodle soup cooked in a broth that takes 14 hours to make) is arguably better than any pho I’ve had on numerous occasions in Vietnam. Prices are accessible, too. – no wonder this outlet won Time Out Dubai’s best budget restaurant in town award last month.
Beach Road’s Poke Poke (pronounced poh-kay for those who STILL insist on saying poke!) is my go-to weekend lunch place for a Hawaiian bowl,
that’s packed with tuna, spring onion, edamame, mango, avo and wakame. And, sticking with an Asian-cuisine theme, Zuma in DIFC is up next. This superlative Japanese spot has, and always will be, my number one place to dine. I wish I knew their secret to the miso marinated black cod. I’ve always loved Peruvian fine-dining restaurant
Lima Dubai at The Square – City Walk. And their latest ceviche experience is intimate, informative and good fun. Head chef Diego Sanchez talks you through all seven dishes as he makes them in front of you – my best was the cured hamachi done gravalax style with a tiger’s milk, yuzu and soya sauce that really should be bottled and sold.
My Lebanese friend Hala Khoury introduced me to Samad Al Iraqi on Beach Road in 2011. Their masgouf (a carp-like fish) is slow-smoked on an indoor fire pit and is glazed in sticky pomegranate molasses. Waitors whizz around with baskets of fresh bread straight from the tandoor and the amba (mango pickle) and stuffed vegetable sides are moreish. I talk about this restaurant so much, that another friend suggested I write a book called Tiffany and the Masgouf – about a girl who maybe eats too much!