Finding expat comfort food in Dubai

From Alaska to Australia, where to find produce from your home country

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Missing your favourite comfort foods? We do a sweep of Dubai’s supermarkets to find out where you can pick up imported groceries from around the world.

In a city as multicultural as Dubai, where many residents are away from home, demand for foods from around the world is high. Of the several million tonnes of produce imported by the city every year, it’s little surprise that just under 50 percent is then re-exported. And given the city’s penchant for dining, it’s even less surprising that by 2016, the UAE’s food retail market is expected to be worth a whopping US$10 billion. As a result of a booming business and growing population, more edible international treats are stocking our shelves than ever before – from little luxuries to what you might have considered everyday staples in your native land, we’ve hit the city’s hypermarkets and corner shops to help you locate a little piece of home.

America
Among long-time expats, there are some well-known spots to pick up imports from the US. Whether you’re craving a cold can of root beer, Pop Tarts, or starting to worry about where you’re going to pick up your canned pumpkin pie filler ahead of the holiday season, fear not. Park n Shop sells all of the above – and more – and has locations across Dubai, including Al Wasl Road (04 394 5616) and Dubai Investment Park (04 394 5671). Safestway on Sheikh Zayed Road (04 343 4590) has also been a go-to for many years, though US imports have dwindled in recent months. You can still pick up certain cereals, crackers and Hersheys chocolate here.

Australia
Despite its reputation for dividing opinion, the old favourite of Australians all over the world, Vegemite, can be found reasonably widely in the city, specifically at most branches of Choithrams, including the one in The Greens (04 366 3160). Treats such as Tim Tams (chocolate covered biscuits to our non-Aussie readers) can be found at most supermarkets, including Spinneys, at branches such as The Springs Town Centre (04 360 6511), while Twisties cheese-flavoured snacks can be found at Milk & Honey, which has a branch on Palm Jumeirah (04 432 8686).

Great Britain
Homesick Brits can find own-brand food from Marks & Spencer at Mall of the Emirates (04 377 2000), Waitrose-branded goods at Waitrose and Spinneys stores across Dubai, including Marina Mall (04 434 2624) and frozen foods such as pizzas from budget chain Iceland and Tetley tea at Al Maya stores, including Dubai Marina branches (04 432 7191). Park n Shop stores (see America for number) sell a huge range of otherwise not widely available crisps, nuts, biscuits from the UK, while at many branches of Choithrams (see Australia) you can pick up imported chocolate bars such as Crunch.

France
One of the largest ports of call for French fare is Carrefour, and the hypermarket doesn’t disappoint. Pick up French cheeses and tinned delicacies such as foie gras and confit de canard, right down to own-brand rusks, yoghurt, juices, cereals and more. Géant’s own brand, Casino, also features a range of affordable French products, including fromage frais, quiches, fruit syrups and more. For high-end produce, Lafayette Gourmet (04 339 9933) at Galeries Lafayette in Dubai Mall is worth taking a look around, while syrup lovers can choose from a range of different flavours of Monin at Market & Platters in Dubai Marina (04 450 4466).

India
Almost all of Dubai’s supermarkets and convenience stores stock a range of Indian products, from rice to spices, stacked on anything from a single shelf in a corner shop to lining aisle after aisle of sprawling hypermarket. Lulu’s in Al Barsha (04 341 8888), Géant in Ibn Battuta (04 368 5858), Carrefour in Mall of the Emirates (04 409 4888), HyperPanda in Festival City (04 203 7505) and Union Coop in Al Barsha Mall (800 8889) stock Indian spices, pulses, rice, ready-meals and more in vast quantities. Elsewhere, Al Adil supermarkets, including on Bank Street in Bur Dubai (04 397 3318), trade exclusively in Indian imports.

Ireland
If you’re from Ireland and looking for some comfort food and a taste of home, you will find Irish dairy products such as Kerrygold butter and cheddar cheese in most of Dubai’s major supermarkets, including Spinneys, Waitrose, Géant and Carrefour. Love seafood? This month, Kush organic mussels from County Kerry became available at Spinneys stores. In March earlier this year (on St Patrick’s Day, to be precise), Lulu supermarket in Al Barsha held an Irish Food Festival to highlight the range of imports from the country available in store.

Germany
Expats from Germany (and neighbours Austria) have more than a few options in the city. Organic Foods & Cafe on Sheikh Zayed Road (04 338 2822) offers perhaps the city’s widest range of German and Austrian foods, including Andechser dairy products such as cottage cheese and yoghurt and Beutelsbacher apple vinegar. Home delivery is also available through the store’s website (www.organicfoodscafe.com). Head to Park n Shop, which also sells a limited number of goods from both nations, including sweet wafers, crackers and Coppenrath biscuits.

China
Chinese vegetables such as large white cabbage and leafier bok choy are increasingly common in supermarkets such as Choithrams, Spinneys and Carrefour. Further afield, Dragonmart houses a small supermarket selling canned products such as chilli bean paste, as well as dried noodles and snacks, while over in nearby International City, you can find a wealth of both fresh and preserved imports at authentic Chinese supermarket Wen Zhou, which is located in China Cluster (050 551 1508) and can get crowded on the weekends.

Korea
For convenient kim chi, head to Carrefour’s refrigerated foods section. To satisfy any possible Korean craving, stop at Asiana Supermarket (no number), which is located in the Safestway building on Sheikh Zayed Road. Here you’ll find dried noodles, frozen dumplings, gummy sweets, juices, tea and even hot plates for a true Korean-style barbecue. Also try A-Mart in Al Safa (04 480 8080) where Korean staff can answer any questions you might have, and 1004 Mart in Al Barsha’s Coral Al Khoory Hotel Apartments building (04 323 4536) which stocks Japanese and Korean produce.

Japan
Stock up on miso paste, udon noodles, dried seaweed, sushi rice and more by visiting almost any major supermarket in the city. Carrefour sells a range of direct-from-Japan imports, while Deans Fujiya Supermarket in Oud Metha (04 337 0503) near Lamcy Plaza, dedicates its shelves to everything from authentic yakitori seasoning sauce to fresh veggies such as yuzu and naga imo (a citrus fruit and a type of yam, to the uninitiated).

Philippines
Hit SM Supermarket in Satwa (04 345 0178) or De Belchior Supermarket in Deira (04 228 0132) for Filipino sauces, noodles, canned and dried goods. Goldilocks polvoron (a Filipino powdered milk candy) can also be found in these stores. Most major supermarkets carry more mainstream Fiipino products in a designated ‘Kabayan’ section, with items such as noodles and the Mama Sita’s range of dried sauces and spice mixes the most common.

Russia
While Park n Shop stores sell a small range of Russian imports such as buckwheat, long-life milk, tinned fish, aubergine paste and various pickles, you’ll find a huge array of goods – from sour milk products to cured meats to confectionary – at Lucky Supermarket in Deira (04 297 0950). Over in Jumeirah Lakes Towers, convenience store Mohed Grocery (04 457 2944) also sells a modest range of Russian cooking products and snacks.

South Africa
Though the import of South African meat products remains banned in the UAE (a result of foot-and-mouth disease and Rift Valley Fever in the country), protein-loving expats in Dubai can get their mitts on some of the city’s best biltong at Butcher Shop & Grill in Mall of the Emirates (04 347 1167) – admittedly not a supermarket, but too good not to include. If you’re missing SA-style marinades, head to Park n Shop, where you can also find Eleven O’Clock Roiboos tea, while Carrefour stocks a small range of preserved goods including Mrs Balls chutney.

Thailand
There’s more to making a Thai curry than just chucking in a tin of coconut milk, as expats from the coutry will tell you. Thai curry and soup pastes, sauces, jasmine rice and even certain fruits can be found easily in stores such as Choithram, as well as in dedicated international food sections in Hyperpanda, Carrefour and Géant. Visit the Thailand Foodstuff Store in Karama (04 334 2133) behind Lulu’s for fresh Thai veggies, noodles and anything else you’ve a hankering for. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, the Thai shop owner should be able to help.

Turkey
Most supermarkets offer at least a handful of Turkish products, and with so many similarities between Levant and Turkish cuisine, it’s easy to assemble your favourite dishes using most of the ingredients widely available here. Delicious Turkish cheese such as penir are available in the city’s supermarkets including Spinneys and Carrefour (the latter also has a dedicated baklava counter to satisfy sugar cravings), while lemon, pomegranate and apple flavoured Turkish tea are available in stores such as HyperPanda.

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