Where to try and buy traditional Holy Month desserts
Ramadan has just begun, and with it comes the exciting culinary explosion of different dishes available at iftars and suhoors. This time of year gives venues the opportunity to showcase a diverse range of Middle Eastern food, and many traditional local desserts, normally not available on restaurant menus, suddenly add a new experience with which to round off your meal.
What’s more, the starting point for any iftar is the iconic date, inspiring many local companies to introduce sweet treats and gift options that feature modern, innovative methods of featuring these traditional local ingredients. We’ve searched the city for the perfect sweet dishes, modern or traditional, but all with a local influence to round off your meal this Ramadan.
Al Bahou This North African-themed venue at the Mövenpick Hotel Ibn Battuta Gate hosts an iftar throughout Ramadan, as well as the Mistral brunch during the rest of the year. At both events, guests can enjoy local-inspired sweets. For a modern take on the classic use of dates and dairy in Middle Eastern desserts, tuck into date cheesecake, while the more adventurous can try something out of the ordinary in the form of saffron mouhalabieh. This traditional Lebanese milk flan is made with milk and gelatin, but the version at this venue gets extra marks for local authenticity: it features saffron and camel’s milk instead of the more usual cow’s milk. Dhs150 per person (iftar buffet). Open daily 6.30pm-8.30pm. Mövenpick Hotel Ibn Battuta Gate, The Gardens (04 444 5613).
Almaz by Momo Dates are a common ingredient in Middle Eastern recipes and are synonymous with gestures of hospitality, thanks to the ritual of welcoming guests with coffee and dates. They are also a big part of Ramadan because of the similar ritual of dates and coffee by which people usually break their fast. Moroccan-inspired venue Almaz by Momo serves a date pudding all year round, using this traditional ingredient in a modern and creative context: the date-inspired adaptation of a chocolate fondant is served with fresh dates and vanilla ice cream. Dhs35. Open daily 7pm-2am. Harvey Nichols Dubai, Mall of the Emirates (04 409 8877).
Anise Guests at this international venue’s Arabic-themed Saturday lunch can try a local dessert in the form of khabeesah, one of the most famous traditional Emirati desserts. It’s usually served at wedding banquets and other feasts, and is made with roasted flour, cashew nuts, ghee and milk, and flavoured with saffron, sugar, cardamom and rose water. Many countries in the Middle East make their own versions of the dish, but it’s especially traditional in the UAE, and Anise’s rendition is much more crumbly, rather than creamy. The restaurant recommends that the dish is best served with good-quality Arabic coffee. Dhs165 (buffet lunch). Lunch served daily noon-4pm. InterContinental, Dubai Festival City (04 701 1127)
Asateer Atlantis’s Ramadan tent is hosting iftar and suhoor buffets that feature several traditional desserts, including umm ali, one of the most famous Egyptian puddings. The name translates as ‘mother of Ali’: this warm treat, similar to English bread-and-butter pudding, is made with puff pastry, cream, nuts and dried fruit. Another dish introduced at the Asateer tent especially for Ramadan is kellaj, historically eaten as a dessert at iftar meals during Ramadan. It’s made by filling pastry with cream and topping it with syrup. Also on offer is katayef with walnuts. Popular in the Middle East, and served during Ramadan, it’s a simple dough made with milk, stuffed with walnuts, pistachios and sugar. Dhs175 (iftar buffet). Daily 6.30pm-8pm. Atlantis The Palm, Palm Jumeirah (04 426 2626).
Carluccio’s The Italian chain has launched a new range of festive confectionery for Ramadan, created by Italian confectioner Maglio, based in Puglia in Italy. The collection includes fichi al cioccolato – Italian figs covered with chocolate and stuffed with fresh lemon peel and almonds – and a selection of locally inspired dates filled with almonds and covered chocolate. From Dhs55. Open daily 9am-11.30pm. The Dubai Mall, Downtown Dubai (04 434 1320).
Ewaan This Middle Eastern all-day-dining venue (even during Ramadan) is serving local desserts as part of its iftar buffets this Ramadan. Luqaimat is a local Arabic delicacy: small deep-fried dough balls made from flour, yeast, warm water and sugar and served with date syrup. Also on offer is local favourite kanafeh, available all year round. It’s a dessert made from thin, crispy noodles and cheese, made by heating pastry with butter, margarine or palm oil. A soft white cheese such as nabulsi is then spread over the pastry and topped with another layer of pastry. The finishing touches come from orange blossom-flavoured syrup and a few crushed pistachios sprinkled over the top. From Dhs45. Open daily 6am-midnight. The Palace, The Old Town, Downtown Dubai (04 428 7888).
Forrey & Galland This fine French chocolatier has looked to the Middle East for inspiration this Ramadan by introducing the Peacock collection of gift boxes, filled with delicious sweet treats. All dressed up in some beautiful packaging, the collection includes traditional walnut-stuffed dates, ‘oriental meringues’ (aka chocolate-dipped meringues in flavours including halwa, rahash, date, rose, orange blossom and cardamom) and petits financiers, which are tiny chocolate-coated cakes in apricot, pistachio or orange flavour. From Dhs440. Open daily 10am-1am. The Dubai Mall (04 339 8850).
Hey Sugar Introduced especially for Ramadan, this Dubai-based bakery is selling a date cake with a difference. Dubbing it an ‘ooey-gooey’ sticky date bunt cake, this concoction boasts whole, organic, grade-A UAE khoolas dates and is topped with soft and chewy caramel made according to Hey Sugar’s secret recipe. If you fancy the sound of that, remember to pre-order the cake 24 hours before you intend to devour it. Also on offer for the Holy Month are new Ramadan-inspired cupcakes in flavours such as pistachio, saffron, cardamom and Arabica coffee. Dhs220 (date bunt cake). Open daily 9am-10pm. Village Mall, Jumeirah Beach Road (04 344 8204). Other location: Park Island Building, JBR.
Magnolia Bakery A popular haunt for sweet baked treats, the Dubai branch of this American cupcake institution lives inside Bloomingdale’s Home in the basement of The Dubai Mall. Its Ramadan treat this year is a date-saffron cupcake, infused with juicy pieces of date and topped with a saffron-vanilla meringue icing. Dhs14 (each). Open daily 10am-1am. Bloomingdale’s Home, The Dubai Mall (04 350 5440).