Taste your way around the city as food explorer Arva Ahmed reveals the best ethnic eateries, old-school favourites and hole-in-the-wall culinary secrets.
- Sultan Dubai Falafel for Palestinian-style falafels
Tucked away on a nondescript corner in Deira is the city’s best Palestinian falafel and hummus spot. No ordinary dry brown-bellied falafels here, the fryers at Sultan Falafel churn out moist, vibrant green falafels loaded with parsley, coriander and dill. The fresh baked puffy pita (khubz) from their sister restaurant next door is the perfect excuse to play sandwich artist.
2. Falafel Alzaeem for smoked eggs and freshly-baked ka’ak
Funnily enough, the claim to fame of this popular haunt in Deira is actually not the falafel. It’s their fresh-rolled Jerusalem-style ka’ak bread dusted with heaps of crunchy sesame seeds. Try a fresh loaf smeared with cheese, lots of tart chilli shatta, herby za’atar, and boiled eggs that have been smoked in a bed of wood chips for six painstaking hours.
3. Sind Punjab for the best chicken tikka since 1968
Deep in the lanes of Meena Bazaar is a Punjabi chicken tikka spot that has been a firm favourite of the local Indian community since 1969. Sind Punjab threads the juiciest skewers of marinated chicken and cooks them over charcoal until smoky and delicious. No one ever left Sind Punjab without a round of some of their other signature favourites
4. Rangoli for delicious Indian street food
This old-school Indian vegetarian restaurant may be a little light on ambience, but Indian families who know their chaat (street food) will swear by the pani puri here. These one-bite globes (puri) of crunchy dough are filled with mung beans, spicy chili water (pani), and sweet date and tamarind chutney.
5. Hor Al Anz Bakery for fresh cheese and zaatar bread
The tiny Afghani/Pakistani bakeries dotted across Old Dubai churn out piping hot breads that are a worthy companion to a spicy lentil stew. They can even be enjoyed solo, out on the street by the blazing ovens.
6. Al Habasha Ethiopian Restaurant for comfort food from Africa
You’ll find this place bustling with Ethiopian diners – an excellent sign for a restaurant that serves authentic Ethiopian fare in Hor Al Anz. Al Habasha is owned by the effervescent Sara, who sources choice ingredients like butter and traditional fermented bread (injera) from her home country.
7. Foul Abu Abbas for fava favourites
No one – not even the servers – are quite sure when this Sudanese shop opened. Some say twenty years, others thirty, and many can’t remember a time when the shop wasn’t there. With an incredibly focused menu that can be read all in one breath, the main specialty of this cafeteria is its foul – slow cooked fava beans.
8. Spice Souk cafeteria for eggy rolls with Chips Oman
No one wraps an egg roll quite like the chaiwallas in this little cafeteria just behind the Spice Souk in Deira. They make a fluffy chilli-studded omelette and roll it into a flaky Keralite-style parotta flatbread that’s been smeared with cream cheese and dotted with daqoos (local lingo for ‘hot sauce’).
9. Shiraz Nights for fantastic spicy chicken shawarma
Competition is tough at this local shawarma hangout in Deira. Right next door, wall to wall, is another older Iranian kebab and shawarma restaurant Hatam Al Tai – also vying for the local palate. Each restaurant has its own set of loyal customers queuing outside its shawarma window.
10. Sadaf Iranian Sweets for irresistible Persian treats
Run by the immaculately groomed Mr. Reza, this Iranian shop is a treasure trove of exotic Persian goods. Order a scoop of bastani, a stretchy Iranian ice cream dotted with pistachios and scented with the most expensive of spices, saffron.