28 (Mon) October 2019
Grilled Shaari Eshkeli and More
in our room
-Dubai, United Arab Emirates-
with the Family
Family Holiday Fall 2019 in UAE, Day 2.
In Dubai. We’re spending the boys’ fall break in the United Arab Emirates, both Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
When travelling, I am usually dissatisfied with the foods available at hotel breakfast buffets, which tend to lean western with items like breads and pastries, bacon and sausages, baked beans, hash browns, eggs – oh god, how I detest those tubs of undercooked/watery scrambled eggs.
We were happy to find that the breakfast buffet at the Shangri-La Dubai also offered eastern fare, like dumplings, vegetable stir-fries, congee, and made-to-order noodles.
Even better, the congee and noodles came with a full range of condiments, which are essential, including my favorite zha cai (pickled stem of the mustard plant).
We spent the morning in The Dubai Mall, the second biggest shopping center in the world by area (second to New Century Global Center in China).
We had lunch in the food court, everyone getting their own thing.
Looking for something local or close thereto, I went with Iran Zamin, a Persian stall specializing in mixed grill platters. It was quite good.
Afterwards, we had dessert at Yogurtland, a frozen yogurt stand in which customers serve themselves yogurt and toppings of their choosing and pay by weight. I’m not much for dessert, certainly not frozen yogurt, but I was totally blown away.
We took a guided tour of the city in the afternoon.
For me, the highlight of the tour was sniffing, negotiating, and buying saffron.
When the shopkeeper accepted my offer and called me a thief, I realized just then that I’d been scammed, but the experience was fun – totally worth getting ripped off for 95 bucks.
GMTD can look forward to many saffron dishes in the coming days.
For dinner, we were again too tired to go out.
Fortunately, the room service menu offered a broad range of items. And the boys just adore ordering room service – I take full blame for that.
Unfortunately, nothing on the menu was strictly “local” or at least not identified as such. Turns out that Emirati food culture isn’t really a fully developed brand as yet, even while sharing similarities with what would generally be characterized as Arabic/Middle Eastern cuisine. Also, Emiratis themselves aren’t much for running small businesses, like restaurants, so their food isn’t commonly found in commercial settings (but see 5.091 Chicken Shawarma Sandwich (with “Salad”), 4.301 Arabic Spiced Chicken Kofta with Beans & Potatoes, 3.334 Bamiya). The gaps are filled with cuisines from neighboring countries with well-established food cultures and food business practices, such as Lebanese (see midnight snack yesterday), Iranian/Persian (see lunch today), and Indian (see butter chicken tonight), as well as global cuisines like Chinese, Italian, and American.
Regardless of attribution, we enjoyed a feast that included Fattoush (3.5), Arabic Mixed Grill (2.5), Butter Chicken (3.25), Grilled Shaari Eshkeli (2.5), and a ridiculously wasteful amount of breads.
While scouring the menu for something local, the mention of shaari eshkeli did catch my attention. Turns out, it’s a fish caught in the Persian Gulf – aka pink ear emperor – recommended by the World Wildlife Fund as a sustainable food species (see “The UAE’s First Sustainable Fish Cookbook a Wise Choice,” 2011).
We had also wanted to make good use of the dining table in our suite – seriously.