Several years ago when oil was discovered in the Middle East, going to Persian gulf for employment was a common trend across South India. This new opportunity brought so much hope for poor and less educated people to leave the country to make a decent living. Our food and culture followed those Arabian dreamers too.
The newfound wealth of oil dramatically changed the destiny of Dubai. With Abu Dhabi in the south, Sharjah in the northeast and backed by the Arabian desert, and far fetched vision of its ruler, Dubai designed itself as the extremely vibrant modern city.
United Arab Emirates was formed in 1971, and Dubai is one of the seven Emirates which went through rapid development and its pool of high-rise buildings symbolised the arrival of a revolution in economic growth.
In the last 10 years as a transit passenger, I have been to Dubai many times and tasted its great choice of cuisines. It was fascinating to see the growth of restaurant industry from labour camp canteens to absolute variety of world-class cuisines. People from Europe and Asia find Dubai a very comfortable midway for their holidays since it has flavours of both the east and the west.
Karama, the well-known hub of Indian people, has the best variety of Indian food here. With new restaurants mushrooming everywhere, eating out has become common to locals who are generally working class. As our host Abhi mentioned, “After long working hours and sitting through horrible traffic jams, it’s always better to eat out, especially when you can get plenty of options at very reasonable prices.”
Kerala restaurants with Muslim speciality food is very popular since Dubai has a huge population of Malabari community. A new chain of restaurants called Calicut Note Book is worth mentioning since they have a brilliant concept of blending Thai and south Indian flavours. On a quiet Monday night, we had a fabulous dinner here. Combination of these two tropical cooking styles was real magic.
Overall presentation of dishes was superb and Thai influence was the obvious highlight. The sweet-sour, spicy flavours were amazing, and colours and textures amazed us as much as the refreshing taste. A street snack called pazhassi salad (Miang Kham in Thai) was placed in the middle of a platter encircled by shallots, chillies, ginger, peanuts and palm syrup. You are supposed to wrap the leaf with a filling of all those and enjoy its spicy, nutty flavour.
Two grilled items—shrimps on avocado and chicken dish marinated in barbeque sauce—were the favourites for the meat eaters. Awesome banana crepe was an excellent finale for a satisfying meal.
Dubai doesn’t disappoint vegetarians either. Plenty of vegetarian eateries are spread across the city. Among them Mumbai-based Maharaja Bhog brings the best of royal vegetarian flavours in their Thali meals. In a daily changing menu, 30 dishes were beautifully served by staff with their unique five fingers sign language.
Good restaurants add more fascination to a city’s life; today Dubai has become a place for joyful eating for all kinds of people. When it comes to Indian food, perhaps Dubai offers the best in the world. No wonder, most world travellers stop by in Dubai for a slice of Emirati flavour and world cuisine on a plate.
The author is a London-based restaurateur who owns the Rasa chain of restaurants