From chicken to chilli and fish to fruit, we sample them all!
Diwali, or the Festival of Lights, begins on Wednesday October 26 – a huge event for Dubai’s Hindu and Sikh communities (which account for nearly 50 per cent of Dubai’s approximate 2.6 million population). The festival, which commemorates Lord Rama’s victory over the demon Ravana and his return from exile, is celebrated by feasting and the exchange of sweets between friends and family.
It’s the feasting aspect that Time Out is particularly interested in, and is the perfect excuse for us to round up some of the city’s tastiest curry offerings. Rather than categorise the curries by region, we’ve decided to define dishes by key ingredients – from coconut to chilli to chicken – to illustrate what a diverse cuisine curry is. The result? We present 10 very different tastes in one comprehensive curry feature (listed alphabetically and by type). Just don’t forget the yoghurt!
Balti (British) Shahee lamb balti at Brit Balti This Brit curry still uses the best of Indian spices. Chunks of lamb in a tomato-based and heavily spiced sauce sing with fresh coriander, and the balti also contains keema (lamb mince) for that extra-rich and hearty kick.
Taste test: Spicy without being fiery, the complexity of the spices contrasts with the tender lamb, while the addition of the mince makes this the ultimate comfort curry.
Eat it with: Plain naan to mop up the juices. Curry Dhs36, naan Dhs8, rice Dhs10. International City, www.britbalti.com (04 432 7528) If you like this, you’ll like: The balti rogan josh at Coconut Grove at the Rydges Plaza in Satwa (04 398 2274) is a very good (and unique) vegetarian alternative. We also recommend the balti imli paneer at Mezbaan Hyderabad Restaurant in Bur Dubai (04 351 7863) – it’s tangy, cheesy and spicy all at once.
Coconut Kozhi Varutharacha at Nalukettu ‘Varutharacha’ is not the name of one curry, but rather a style of curry-making that’s common in south India. As most know, Keralan curries are almost always gloriously coconut-based, and the grated coconut used here means this dish is no exception.
Taste test: You can really taste the coconut – it’s roasted before being used, giving an almost nutty, earthy flavour – and coats the tender chunks of chicken rather well. The curry leaves, onions and other spices complement the coconut and give a unique kick that you won’t find in any north Indian dish.
Eat it with: Light and fluffy layered Kerala parathas. Curry Dhs22, parathas Dhs3. Dubai Grand Hotel, Al Qusais (04 263 2555)
If you like this, you’ll like: If you prefer a subtle hint of coconut, try the chicken korma at British Tandoor (04 321 1778), or the navratan korma at New Sind Punjab in Karama (04 337 5535) for a spicy vegetarian alternative.
Chillies Mirch Baingan Ka Salan at Qureshi’s Kebab & Kurry Made from peanut and green chilli, the mirch ka salan should be hot – and Qureshi’s offering doesn’t disappoint. Hailing from Hyderabad, the curry is not to everyone’s taste, but if you can handle heat, this is as bold as it gets.
Taste test: Alongside the scary-looking chillies, baby eggplant also features here, enhanced by a deliciously flavourful medley of spices, peanuts and seeds. The curry only gets fiery hot if you choose to bite into the chillies. Go on – we dare you.
Eat it with: Plain rice or naan to offset the spice. Curry Dhs39, naan Dhs8. The Country Club Hotel, Bur Dubai (04 398 8840) If you like this, you’ll like: The mirch ka salan at Mezbaan in Karama (04 351 7863) is one you’re never likely to forget. If you’re just after a taste, have it as a side with your biryani from Biryani Express (800 247 9264, www.biryaniexpress.ae).
Chicken Murgh Achari at Gazebo This flavour-packed dish is made with pickles and red chillies, mixed together to create a rich red gravy. Achari (southern Indian) dishes originate in the north of the country, in areas such as Rajasthan.
Taste test: The pickle ensures the dish is full-bodied yet not too spicy. Fenugreek, turmeric, cumin and mustard all feature alongside the chillies, leaving a subtle tingle in your mouth and an explosion of flavour on your tongue.
Eat it with: Gazebo’s taftan: an unusual, puffy bread with a milky, yoghurty flavour. Great for soaking up the last globs of sauce from your plate. Curry Dhs30, taftan Dhs5. Mankhool Road, Bur Dubai, www.gazebo.ae (04 359 8555)
If you like this, you’ll like: The madras homestyle chicken curry from Indego by Vineet at the Grosvenor House (04 399 8888), which will transport you right to Chennai, or the classic butter chicken at Asha’s in Wafi (04 324 4100).
Dal (lentils) Dal fry at Ravi Restaurant Staple curries such as dal tend to be deemed ‘boring’, but there’s something very comforting about Ravi’s version. The soft yellow lentils are cooked with onions and plenty of spices, including turmeric and hot green chillies.
Taste test: Just the right consistency (not too runny or gloopy) and made with yellow lentils, Ravi’s dal is delicate without being bland. That’s until you get a mouthful of green chilli…
Eat it with: Ravi’s famous butter naan (dal fry’s perfect partner, in our opinion). If you’re feeling virtuous, it’s almost as good with white rice or plain roti. Dal Dhs7, rice Dhs5, roti Dhs1. Satwa Road, near Satwa roundabout (04 331 5353)
If you like this, you’ll like: The dal makhani at Aangan at the Dhow Palace Hotel (04 359 9992) – the creamy black lentil curry is as indulgent as it gets – while the kali dal at The Rupee Room (04 390 5755) features lentils, tomatoes, ginger and garlic, simmered overnight for a full-bodied flavour.
Fish Fish Masala at Delhi Darbar Delhi Darbar’s version of this colourful curry contains Tilapia fish, onion, chillies, red masala paste, whole cardamom pods, ginger, tomato and fresh coriander.
Taste test: It’s not for the meek. This deep red curry looks as though it packs a punch (and it does) – it’s super spicy and very saucy, with a slight fish flavour and a tomato tang. The fish comes with the tail and fins still attached, so look out for those little throat-chokers when devouring your curry. Eat it with: White rice to soak up the juices and oil, and make sure you try the delicate, almost pancake-like paratha to mop up the sauce. Curry Dhs32, rice Dhs7, paratha Dhs3. Zabeel Road, Karama (04 334 7171) If you like this, you’ll like: The mahi qaliya at (a hammour dish basted in a creamy coconut broth) at Chutneys at the Mövenpick Hotel in Bur Dubai (04 310 4340). Incidentally, Chutneys is also holding a special Diwali promotion.
Fruit Mango Fish Curry at Calicut Paragon This tangy, lip-smackingly good curry is made with coconut milk and curry leaves, while turmeric gives it that distinctive yellow hue.
Taste test: The raw mango takes centre stage – with chunky bits to sink your teeth into, you won’t miss its bold punch of flavour. The chopped green chillies add heat.
If you like this, you’ll like: The different take on the same dish at Aappa Kadai in Karama (04 334 8030) – it’s always the day’s fresh catch, tangy from raw mangoes and rich in spices. If you don’t like fish, you can opt for the mango prawn curry.
Greens Palak Paneer at Foodlands This saag (spinach) dish, originating in northern India, features puréed greens and cheese. The smooth spinach is punctuated by amply sized and flavoursome paneer chunks, making it fresh, hearty and wholesome.
Taste test: Don’t expect a spicy surprise in this palak paneer. The dish is all about smooth textures and fresh ingredients.
Eat it with: Warm garlic naan. Curry Dhs22, naan Dhs4. Al Safiya Building, Salahuddin Road, Deira (04 268 3311)
If you like this, you’ll like: The hearty palak paneer at Gazebo in Bur Dubai (04 359 8555) is another favourite. If you’re not a fan of spinach, try the sarson ka saag, a classic Punjabi dish made from mustard leaves, at Curry ‘N’ Grill in Karama (04 335 7151).
Mutton Gosht Qualiyan at Ashiana Don’t fear mutton! This dish will change your culinary perspective of the meat. The large, tender cubes of sheep sit in a cashew and onion gravy that’s delicately spiced with cardamom and pepper.
Taste test: The perfectly cooked mutton melts in the mouth, and the flavour is complemented by rich, nutty gravy, which is just the right combination of sweet and savoury (and it’s incredibly moreish).
Eat it with: Steamed basmati rice, plain yoghurt and buttered roti. Curry Dhs78, rice Dhs27, roti Dhs13. Sheraton Dubai Creek Hotel & Towers, Deira, www.starwoodhotels.com (04 207 1733)
If you like this, you’ll like: The mutton masala at Ravi Restaurant in Satwa (04 331 5353) or the nalli gosht at Aangan (04 359 9992) – lamb shanks so tender the meat falls off the bone, with lots of tasty gravy to mop up.
Nuts Murgh Ejazi Korma at Khazana Nuts do feature prominently in this creation, but so do chicken, cardamom and white peppercorns.
Taste test: The gravy’s only real kick is the gentle spice of cardamom, while the smooth peanut and cashew mix makes for an intensely rich (but not buttery) consistency. Many nut curries are too cloying for our palate, but this had enough peppery punch to rip through the richness. Eat it with: A wholemeal tandoori roti and a refreshing cucumber raita (Dhs35). Curry Dhs65, roti Dhs12, raita Dhs35. Al Nasr Leisureland, Oud Metha (04 336 0061) If you like this, you’ll like: The jhinga methi at D’fusion at the Grandeur Hotel in Barsha (04 341 8777) is worth a try if you’re looking for a twist – the prawns, onions, fenugreek and tomatoes work wonderfully with the cashew gravy.
Diwali sweets Three tasty treats for the Festival of Light As much as we love curry, the dish doesn’t take centre stage during Diwali – sweets do. Many Indian families choose to spend time with their relatives and friends to exchange sweets of various colours, shapes, sizes and flavours. We’ve rounded up a few favourites.
Burfi Regular burfi is made from condensed milk and then cooked with sugar until it solidifies. It comes in a wide range of different flavours – fruit varieties such as mango or coconut, and nut flavours including kaju (cashews) and pista (pistachios), are all common during Diwali, as is cardomom, but our favourite is chocolate.
Jalebi Made from flour, this sweet is instantly recognisable thanks to its unique spiral shape. The flour is deep fried, then soaked in sugar syrup so that when you take a bite, it’s crispy and warm with a crystallised sugary exterior coating.
Ladoo Made of flour and sugar (the other ingredients vary), ladoos are cooked in ghee and then moulded into balls. The classic boondi ladoo is delicious, but try the rava (semolina) variety too. Where to buy? Diwali sweets can be bought from all good Indian confectionary stores in Bur Dubai. Try Puranmal (04 396 8486), Mithai (04 359 2261), Chhappan Bhog (04 396 8176), Bikanerwala (04 396 8813) and Sri Krishna Sweets (04 397 3132).
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Sharmishtha Feb 02, 2012 12:31 pm
Love the list. My only question is, why are you showing a picture of the crab curry at Paragon if you're talking about the fish mango curry?
Ben Holliday Nov 01, 2011 08:57 am
A very useful article here Time Out, and more so because I run the Dubai Curry Club: a group for expats to meet new people and share great moments over Britain's favourite dish! Please feel free to subscribe at http://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/218151674885408 and http://www.meetup.com/Dubai-Curry-Club and I look forward to meeting more new people at the next event, with suggestions always welcome as to venues.
Robert Oct 22, 2011 08:29 am
This is the best British curry house in Dubai in our opinion. The food is excellent and the service is great. We have been using these guys since they have opened and they have got better and so much busier now. If you haven't tried them they deliver to a lot of out of town places. Try the Nantera if you are into spicy food. I trust you will be hooked!!!