3.334 Emirati Bamiya

Cycle 3 – Item 334

4 (Tue) December 2012



at Layaly Dubai

-Itaewon, Yongsan, Seoul, Republic of Korea-

with DJ

Project 30/30/30: 34 of 45 (see also 45/45/45)

Throughout the past November, I challenged myself to eat 30 dishes from 30 countries over the course of 30 consecutive days – and succeeded.  I will continue the project until I run out of dishes or countries or restaurants or steam or money, aiming for 50.

Dubai (United Arab Emirates) is the 34th country.

Layaly Duba is an Emirati restaurant.  Possibly the only restaurant in Korea attributed officially to the United Arab Emirates (“officially” = “Dubai” is part of the restaurant’s name).

Prior to this evening, I’d never been to a restaurant from any country in the Middle East – the closest has been Morocco or Turkey.  Even casually, my experience through the years has been limited to incidental and sporadic exposure to certain regional staples (e.g., a plate of communal hummus at a cocktail party).  Accordingly, I had only vague notions concerning the food in general and certainly no clue about Emirati food in particular.

Nevertheless, I wasn’t surprised to find that Layaly Dubai offered a lot of lamb, in stews and on skewers, as well as chick peas, in the form of falafel and yes hummus, all served with flatbread and/or rice and/or potatoes.

Based on a pair of dishes ordered on the server’s recommendation, Layaly Dubai made for a decent showing.  The bamiya – a stew of lamb and okra in a thick, spicy tomato broth/sauce – was pretty good, especially the taste/texture combination of the lamb and okra, a vegetable that I can’t recall ever before seeing in restaurant here in Korea.  Not too bad for 9,000 won (+10%).  On the other hand, the sheesh tawook – chicken skewers – were dry and burnt to black in some pieces; DJ liked the fries.  Not really worth 12,000 won (+10%).  But overall, we enjoyed the meal.

The food was more or less what I would’ve expected from a Middle Eastern country.  It reminded me of the culinary commonalities shared by neighboring countries within various regions throughout the world: South Asia (e.g., India/Pakistan), Southeast Asia (e.g., Thailand/Cambodia), Central Asia (e.g., Uzbekistan/Mongolia), just to name other regions in Asia.  In the comments under a prior post, reader GK and I have been discussing the difficulties of attributing a given dish to any single country (see comments at 3.327 Norwegian Smørbrød with Moose Sausage & Aioli), a recurring theme on this blog.

By contrast, the cuisines of Korea, Japan, and China in East Asia seem so distinct from one another, though the distinctions may seem especially clear to me because I’m so intimately familiar with them all; then again, kimchi is so distinctly Korean, sushi is so distinctly Japanese, and fortune cookies are so distinctly Chinese that I dare to be challenged on this point.

The owner gave DJ a hat.



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