Karama: unmissable meals

Eat your way around the area

Karama: unmissable meals

Before we begin you should know, we hold Karama’s hustle and bustle, cheap eats and never-ending ability to surprise us in the highest regard. This guide could be classed as more of a love letter to the Curry Corridor. It’s often overlooked by tourists, so familiar at seeing the glitzy hotels and the crème de la crème of TV chefs they attract, but the Old Town’s backstreets are bursting with undiscovered talent. Thanks to Dubai’s 80 to 90 percent expat population the city is a melting pot of culture, which only makes for a better cooking pot. And in culinary terms, Karama is Dubai’s secret ingredient.

Aappa Kadai

Home of the appam, this canteen-style favourite serves them in a variety of ways. Butter paneer, chilli chutney, fried egg, chicken kheema and even Nutella appams can all be ordered. For the uninitiated, there really is no better place to become acquainted with these bowl-shaped pancakes made from fermented rice and coconut batter. Not only that, but you’ll find some brilliant value biryani, combo meals and curry platters served on banana leaf. Down tools and get stuck in with your hands.
Open daily 11am-3.30pm, 6pm-11.30pm. Near Karama Park, Karama (04 354 8080).

Al Hara Cafeteria
In this, the city of superlatives, there’s one quest to find the best that you have to go through: trying to find the ultimate chai. For many, it’s Al Hara Cafeteria that claims the title. People flock here from across Dubai and beyond purely for the milky, sugary, cinnamon and cardamom-spiced elixir. You’ll also find an array of milkshakes, too, as drinks are the specialty here, food is not. Instead you’ll find an uninspiring affair of burgers, fried chicken and kebabs. But does it really matter when you can fill up on perhaps Dubai’s best chai, 24 hours a day?
Open 24 hours. 12 8 B Street, Karama (04 396 5133).

Bringing the authentic taste of Indonesia to Karama since 2007, Betawi has rightfully cemented its place on the list of greats. If you’re not au fait with Indonesian cooking – chicken satay aside – you’ll be in safe hands asking the staff for recommendations. Go for the nasi goreng or nasi padang and prepare for mouthfuls of spice and punchy, aromatic flavours. Portion sizes are generous, the décor is basic and staff are always helpful.
Sat-Thu noon-11pm; Fri 1.30pm-11pm. 4B Street, Karama (056 759 8118).

Calicut Paragon

We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again and, trust us, you’ll be saying too it if you go. This place is absolutely unmissable. If there are only two words you should know about of Calicut Paragon it’s these. Forget the no-frills décor, this place is all about incredible Keralan flavours where mains often cost Dhs25. Seafood reigns supreme in Paragon. And, for us, the crab tushar takes the crown for the best. It’s a thick, bubbling clay pot of fiery-yet-creamy gravy. Mop it up with up an appam, or five. It’s a huge space with dining tables continuing upstairs, too. Like many spots on this list, don’t be surprised to see queues out the doors on Thursday or Friday evenings. Jump in line, the ever-smiling staff will keep you entertained and brace yourself for many, many months of telling anyone who’ll listen about this restaurant.
Open daily 7am-12.30am. Mattar Al Tayer Building, 20 B Street, Karama (04 335 8700).

Chef Lanka

Love Sri Lankan food? Thankfully for us Dubaians, the island nation is on our doorstep. And, thankfully for us Dubaians, Chef Lanka is even closer. So, if you’re yearning for the flavours you enjoyed on a beach holiday or just want to see exactly why your mates, colleagues, travel guide keeps harping on about the country head here for some authentic fare. You can enjoy a street food buffet on Wednesday nights and fill up on devilled chicken, prawn kothu roti, Sri Lankan curries, string hoppers and sambal.
Sat-Thu 7.30am-11.30pm; Fri 7.30am-noon, 1pm-11.30pm. 27 B Street, opposite Lulu Centre, Karama (04 335 3050).

Little China
It’s not just about Indian cuisine in Karama as this diminutive spot has been dishing out the competition to curry stalwarts for years. Little by name, little by nature, it’s a small space so be prepared to queue or book ahead. Once inside, take a seat next to the fish tank and pick from the classic Chinese takeaway menu. Think prawn toast, beef in black bean sauce and egg fried rice. Wherever you hail from in the world you’ll no doubt have spent many an evening waiting in excitement for your Chinese delivery. Here, you’ll get a taste of nostalgia and some truly excellent grub. Ours is a No. 14 with a side of No. 37 and half chips, half rice.
Sat-Thu 11am-3.30pm, 7pm-11.30pml Fri 1pm-3.30pm, 7pm-11.30pm. Zabeel Road, near Emirates Post Office (04 397 6068).

Paratha King
If you’re so bold as to call yourself Paratha King you best live up to the hype as the self-declared ruler. And, without doubt, this Karama oldie still rightly wears the crown for its exceptional and sizeable food. It focuses solely on the popular stuffed flat bread with more than 100 vegetarian variations available. Chinese noodles, sprout and potato, chilli cheese, green pea curry, paneer tikka, chocolate or a little bit of everything if you really can’t decide. It’s cheap, delicious and will leave you stuffed.
Open daily 8am-11pm. Shraifi II, opposite Emirates Post Office, Karama (04 397 9110).

SS Bucket Biryani
We all have that dish that’s so good we could demolish it by the bucket load. So, biryani fans step forward: that’s exactly what you can do here. Aptly named SS Bucket Biryani, the late night spot dishes out four versions of the Indian staple straight into a plastic bucket. But be prepared to line up alongside other biryani buffs, this place is known to have queues out of the door. Punt for chicken, mutton, veg or egg and tuck in. Maybe it’s the portion sizes, maybe it’s because everyone else is eating from a bucket or maybe it’s the rock-bottom prices (the veg and egg buckets costs just Dhs13) that make this spot so birylliant.
Open daily 11am-midnight. 18 A Street, Karama (04 398 5005).

Tamarind Terrace
Sitting in the middle of full-on, fancy restaurants and the backstreet cafés with plastic tables and paper cups that make Karama tick is Tamarind Terrace. This southern Indian restaurant boasts a contemporary, chic décor inside and a good-sized dining area outside. Smiling staff are forthcoming with recommendations – so trust them when they say the seafood clay pots are a must. Prices range from Dhs10 to Dhs25 for mains. The beef fry and roast prawns to start are fiery, aromatic and lay the foundation for a tasty chicken thengapal curry (coconutty Kerala curry). Dunk in appams and enjoy.
Open daily noon-midnight. 26 Street, next to Emirates Post Office, Al Karama (04 34 03 1111).

The Meating Room

What this tiny grill house lacks in size it certainly makes up for in big, bold flavours. Make a reservation if you want to sit in – the dining room is small and fills up with groups and families. The menu can be a little too varied at times with everything from croquettes to queso, feta, walnut and beetroot salad to chicken wings available. However, we’re huge fans of the Indian dishes. Try the fish tikka or paneer tikka skewers for a smoky, seared taste. The “psychedelic” lamb chops will take you on a not-so-terrifying journey of spice and comfort while the baked chicken methi is slathered in a nutty, peppery gravy. Stick to the grill and you’ll find plenty to enjoy.
Open Sat-Wed 12.30pm-11pm, Thu 12.30pm-midnight, Fri 1.30pm-midnight. 41st Street, Karama (04 331 2567).

Al Attar Centre
This small, shiny shopping mall sits slap-bang in the middle of Kuwait Street, and houses a range of tiny shops and kiosks selling everything from colourful smartphone covers to hair accessories, affordable clothing to tasty Filipino snacks. There are also a couple of casual eateries inside too.
Kuwait Street (04 334 4455).

Karama Souk
If you came to Dubai for the bargain handbags, this is where you should be heading. Pick up leather goods in a huge range of different colours and styles – but be sure to visit a few shops before parting with your cash, as prices for the same items can vary wildly. Do also keep an eye out for the smaller shops selling pashminas in a variety of qualities (from Dhs10 to Dhs500 apiece) and small souvenirs.
18B Street.

Street art

Practically overnight and without any social media hype, many of Karama’s longstanding and traditional buildings were given a fresh and colourful new coat of paint. It is now one of the city’s coolest graffiti spots and boasts 24 different murals. It’s a burst of colour that’s not to be missed.
18B Street.

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