In honour of Ramadan we check out Dubai’s date-inspired dishes
Dubai loves its dates and never more so than during Ramadan when residents and tourists prepare to break their fast with this fruit, as well as to offer it as gifts to friends and family. Date specialists Bateel sells more than 2,000 tons of dates in an average year in Dubai, with sales nearly tripling in Ramadan. This week, in honour of the Emirate’s favourite fruit, we’ve searched for the city’s most inventive and delicious date-stuffed dishes for you to try.
Apple and date crumble This neat update on traditional English apple crumble is made in-house with a biscuit base, caramelised apples, dates, organic oats, maple syrup and organic raw honey. There’s also a touch of salt caramel in the mix, and it is served in a glass jar for a twist. This Ramadan, the Pantry Café will also be serving an iftar menu, which will include dates and it will be also have packs of dates available to buy. DhsTBC. Pantry Café, Al Wasl Square (04 388 3868).
Crème brûlée Villa Beach is an alfresco, beachside dining restaurant with a Mediterranean inspired menu. This Ramadan it is introducing a crème brûlée with a difference to the menu, made with Arabic coffee and served with a date and rose water compote to pleasingly hit serveral local food notes in one dish. Dhs55. Villa Beach, Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Jumeirah Beach Road (04 406 8999).
Date eclairs French café, Paul, will be serving an iftar menu, with some locally inspired date-filled sweet treats to finsih off any meal. Options include date eclairs, as well as a cheesecake or halawa ice cream, both topped with jellab syrup (made with date and rose water). Dhs99 (iftar menu). Paul Café, BurJuman, Bur Dubai (04 351 7009). Other locations: Deira City Centre (04 295 8404); Mercato Mall (044 344 3505); Mall of the Emirates (04 341 4844); The Walk, Jumeirah Beach Residence (04 437 6494); Wafi (04 327 9669).
Date khameer At Mama Tani, you can try traditional Emirati breads khameer, stuffed with sweet and savoury combinations. ‘The date one’ is a delicious signature mix of whole dates, an intensely aromatic saffron cream and a sprinkling of roasted nuts. Dhs24. Mama Tani, Jumeirah Town Centre, Jumeirah Beach Road (04 385 4437).
Date pudding For a sweet date treat with Morrocan flair, try Almaz by Momo’s sticky date pudding – a warm sponge with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce. Moroccan cooking is also famous for tagines, a stew which traditionally combines meat with fruit. At Almaz by Momo, one tagine to try is the lamb tagine, made with dates, saffron, orange juice and almonds. Dhs35. Almaz by Momo, Mall of the Emirates, Barsha (04 409 8877).
Date syrup If you want to try making your own date treats and smoothies at home, head to Baker & Spice, a regular (but limited) supplier of pure, additive free date syrup, produced by local company Al Foah. The café uses it in many of its own recipes and suggests the syrup is particularly good added to pastries and cakes and even salad dressings. Dhs14 for 380g. Baker & Spice, Souk Al Bahar, Downtown Dubai (04 425 2240). Other locations: Dubai Marina, behind Marina Promenade Building (04 362 4686), Dukkan Al Manzil, Downtown Dubai (04 427 9856).
Khoshaf helio rolls Helio’s update on Egyptian feteer pastries, are its helio rolls, served in elegant bite-sized slices, with the fun gimmick of a pincher-like wooden instrument for serving. One of the savoury varieties to try is khoshaf, which is a modernised version of a traditional Egyptian mix of sweet dried fruits, including dates (of course) and teamed with honey and rustic cottage cheese. DhsTBC. Helio, Trident Bayside Tower, Marina Walk, Dubai Marina (800 43546).
Jellab Beiruti café Leila serves well-known Lebanese drink jellab. It’s made with date syrup and rose and contains raisins and pine nuts giving a crunchy consistency, like Lebanon’s answer to bubble tea and the perfect mix for Ramadan. Dhs22. Leila, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard, Downtown Dubai (04 448 3384). Other location: Mirdif City Centre (04 251 5161).
Ryoog yerena We’re fond of the plentiful and exciting egg-based dishes on the menu at this all day UAE-inspired breakfast spot. In particular, we recommend the ryoog yerena. Described on the menu as a ‘date omelette’, it is a delicious caramel packed concoction of eggs baked on a bed of dates. If that isn’t enough to tempt you, for Dhs37 you get a basket of fresh local-style bread and a karak chai too. Dhs37. Klayya Bakery and Sweets, Barsha Mall, Barsha (04 325 5335).
Saloona laham del tamor At this quirky Emirati restaurant, you can try a traditional Emirati dish of saloona. It is a simple stew usually made with large, hearty chunks of meat and potatoes. Among the recipes on the menu at Al Fanar is saloona laham del tamor, which is made with lamb and dates, giving an extra sweetness and richness to the sauce. Dhs55. Al Fanar, Dubai Festival City Mall, Festival City (04 232 9966).
Sticky date cupcakes Inspired by and especially for Ramadan, Kitsch Cupcake introduces a date recipe to its repertoire. The sticky date cupcake is comprised of a fluffy, moist and richly date-packed sponge, topped with creamy icing and a solitary sliver of the fruit itself. Dhs14 per cake. Kitsch Cupcakes, Jumeirah Beach Road, Umm Suqeim (04 395 6963). Other location: DIFC, Marble Walk (050 336 8280).
Sticky toffee pudding fudge Based in Dubai, Toffee Princess makes (confusingly) fudge to a traditional Scottish recipe, known as ‘tablet’. One of our favourites of the many available varieties is the sticky toffee pudding fudge, which is made with dates grown in the company’s own garden. From Dhs25. Toffee Princess, www.toffeeprincess.com (050 350 1804).
Tamaras enroladas For something date-heavy, but savoury, head to Portuguese restaurant Picante. Here, you can try a hot appetisers of tamaras enroladas em bacon, which is a little bar snack of whole dates wrapped in crisp beef bacon. Dhs35 (nine pieces). Picante, Four Points by Sheraton Bur Dubai, Bur Dubai (04 397 7444).
The energiser Lime Tree’s date and banana based smoothie will give you a (natural) sugar boost and shake you into action. It’s made with date paste, fresh banana and yoghurt (for a healthier base). We like the way the cobweb of date syrup floats through the glass for a nice visual touch. Dhs26. Lime Tree Café, Jumeirah Beach Road (04 349 8498). Other locations: Ibn Battuta Mall (04 366 9320); Al Quoz (04 325 6325); Media City (04 349 8498) (04 349 8498).
Season of giving
Since many in Dubai will be looking for dates for their guests and hosts this Ramadan, we take a look at two gift pack options available in the city.
Bateel Perhaps the city’s most famous option for dates, Bateel is selling a range of date gift boxes, in different styles and in three different sizes. The collection this year includes the ‘mounira’; a green embroidered box with a space to place a personalised photo in a frame in its lid. We particularly like the ‘ivory’ range, which are sleek and elegant white gift boxes. The selection includes whole dates, but uniquely they are available different varieties, as well as date shaped truffles, and dates stuffed with a range of dried fruit and nuts. From Dhs170 (small mounira). Locations citywide, including: Atlantis The Palm (04 422 0257). Burjuman Centre (04 355 2853), The Dubai Mall (04 339 9819).
Carluccio’s As part of its deli selection this Ramadan, the Italian chain is selling dates sold individually by weight (from Dhs10 per 100g), as well as gift boxes with a selection of date-themed confectionary inside. The range includes two sizes of box (priced Dhs25 and Dhs75), which contain a selection including plain dates, dates stuffed with candied orange or hazelnut and date covered chocolates. From Dhs25 (small size). Deira City Centre (04 434 1320). Marina Mall, Dubai Marina (04 399 7844).