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Savouring the delights of Dubai

Eat | Drink | Explore

A short stop-over to break up a long-haul flight gave SA writer Amanda McInerney the chance to tick off an item on her bucket list – a Dubai food tour. And she certainly didn’t go hungry.

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When we fly home from Europe we usually stop over in Hong Kong or Singapore, but on our last trip we came back via Dubai. Now I know that this city is popular for shopping, but for me the thought of a Dubai food tour was far more attractive.

I love Middle Eastern food and the opportunity to try it at the source was very exciting.

Felafel with deliciously creamy hummus. Photo: Amanda McInerney

Felafel with deliciously creamy hummus. Photo: Amanda McInerney

Dubai is big, modern and a shopping mecca – and that is all most people experience of the place, but by taking part in a Frying Pan Adventures Dubai Food tour we visited a part of the city not frequented by most tourists – the old town.

Dubai is not a particularly old city, but there are two distinct parts. Heading north and crossing the Jumeirah Creek places the traveller in the back streets of a vibrant neighbourhood where the locals live their lives.

Musakhan – a Palestinian chicken pie with onions, sumac and olive oil. Photo: Amanda McInerney

Musakhan – a Palestinian chicken pie with onions, sumac and olive oil. Photo: Amanda McInerney

This town is hot and, as a South Australian born and bred, I’m used to summer heat, but I don’t function at all well in it, so was quite pleased that the tour began in the (relative) cool of the evening. A small group of us met up on a street corner and began our food adventure, winding our way through the back streets – all the while eating. And eating.

Preparing the shredded pastry base for the wickedly delicious kunafa. Photo: Amanda McInerney

Preparing the shredded pastry base for the wickedly delicious kunafa. Photo: Amanda McInerney

I soon lost count of the number of restaurants and food stalls we meandered in and out of, following the delightful Stephanie, our guide, like ducklings behind a mother duck. Some of the dishes we tried were familiar to me, others not – but there was no shortage of food on this tour.

Kunafa – a syrup-soaked cheese based pastry. I might have eaten quite a lot of this. Photo: Amanda McInerney

Kunafa – a syrup-soaked cheese-based pastry. Photo: Amanda McInerney

Which brings me to my big tip – do not eat before going on one of Frying Pan Adventures’ tours. This was probably one of the most generous food tours I’ve ever been on (and I’ve done a lot of food tours).

The food was amazing and I wanted to try everything – by the end of the evening I was groaning with the extra weight of the food baby I was carrying around.

A family meal of lentil soup, Emirati Chicken Machboos, a meat stew called Laham Salona, Tahta Malleh a preserved salted tuna dish – all served with saffron rice. Photo: Amanda McInerney

A family meal of lentil soup, Emirati Chicken Machboos, a meat stew called Laham Salona, and Tahta Malleh, a preserved salted tuna dish – all served with saffron rice. Photo: Amanda McInerney

Our final stop for the evening was at Sadaf Iranian Sweets and Spices where, miraculously, I was able to find just enough room for Iranian faloodeh, an icy dessert of sweetened noodles with rosewater served with saffron bastani (ice cream). This store was a spice lover’s heaven, full of nuts, spices, spice blends and the cheapest saffron I’ve ever seen.

I came home with heaps, but still wish I’d bought more.

Frying Pan Adventures conducts a range of food trails all year round. All details are on its website.

South Australian writer Amanda McInerney writes about travel and food on her Lambs’ Ears & Honey blog, where this article was originally published.

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