It may be old hat now, but here at Time Out we still have a perverse fascination with Burger King’s pizza burger. Someone, somewhere thought it would be a marvellous idea to marry two of the world’s best-loved fast foods, and the result is the culinary equivalent of rubbernecking past a car accident on Sheikh Zayed Road – there’s something so unhealthy about it, but it’s very difficult to turn the other way when faced with it. After all, it’s a meal that incorporates two of the best things ever invented: burgers and pizza. What’s not to love?
Well, if you listen to the medical experts, quite a lot. When the pizza burger hit the menus a few months ago, doctors and nutritionists alike had a collective coronary – Dr Qazi Ahmed described the health implications of the pizza burger as ‘frightening’ in local press.
‘The limited-time-offer pizza burger is designed to be shared, as clearly communicated in our ads, and is sliced into six pieces before it is served,’ responded a Burger King representative. It’s as though doling out this calorific wonder among your friends suddenly makes everything okay.
The UAE seems to have developed a worrying addiction for fast food. A national study found that 27 per cent of children in the emirates are overweight and, despite its relatively small population, the UAE is the 10th most obese nation in the world. Part of the problem is that junk food here is so darn cheap (the pizza burger costs just Dhs39), meaning anyone on a budget in need of a quick bite will always be tempted to pop into a drive-thru. The other problem? Well, junk food just tastes so good.
The furore surrounding the pizza burger got us wondering: what are Dubai’s most calorific foods, and are they tasty enough to warrant ruining your own health? We thought we’d find out by tucking into the usual suspects (an excuse to try the pizza burger), as well as sample some of the less obvious options that still pack a calorific punch. Our journey took us from drive-thrus to fish and chip shops to more refined restaurants, where we tested the taste as well as counted the calories of a colourful array of foods.
So, without further ado, loosen your belt, and prepare to pig out...
Dhs39 from Burger King, www.burgerking-me.com/uae
Estimated calories: 2,246
Taste test: Perhaps we were expecting too much from the pizza burger (we were giggling with excitement when we bought it), which is why we were disappointed when we actually got around to trying it – it’s all bun. At least it tastes that way, and there’s not much to the beef patty and pepperoni other than a slathering of pizza sauce. While the idea of the pizza burger is wonderfully absurd, the actual eating experience proves that pizzas and burgers are best enjoyed separately.
Worth it? Considering the average person’s recommended daily calorie intake is around 2,000 (this, of course, varies depending on the individual), the pizza burger would have to be The Most Delicious Food We’ve Eaten, Ever to warrant the silly amount of calories. It isn’t, so it doesn’t.
Alternative: Try an honest old-fashioned spicy salami pizza straight from the wood-fire oven at Bussola (04 399 4141). It costs just Dhs56 and only contains about 300 calories.
Deep-fried Mars bar
Dhs10 from Fish & Chips Room, JBR (04 427 0443)
Estimated calories: 932
Taste test: We’re not quite sure who originally decided that a Mars bar would taste infinitely better if it was coated in batter and plonked in a deep-fat fryer for a few minutes. Initially, we were horrified by the idea of battered chocolate, so were surprised that it actually tastes okay – the crisp batter and sweet, melting chocolate complement one another rather well.
Worth it? We think the reason deep-fried Mars bars haven’t really caught on outside Scotland is because anyone with a passion for them probably dies of heart disease before they can spread the word. Definitely worth trying once, but once only.
Alternative: What’s wrong with eating a regular 284-calorie Mars bar like everyone else? Nothing. Exactly.
Deep-fried ice cream
Taste test: Again, who first came up with the idea of deep-frying ice cream? Well, someone, somewhere did, and we have to say we approve. The warm, crispy exterior gives way to a sweet icy treat within – a great sensation that tastes fantastic, but will leave you feeling a tad sickly and very guilty.
Worth it? If you’re going to ruin your health, you may as well do it in style.
Alternative: Try the sin-free, 150-calorie strawberry sorbet (Dhs40) at BiCE (04 399 1111).
Dhs12 each from Sugar Daddy’s, available at Milk & Honey, Palm Jumeirah (04 432 8686)
Estimated calories: 200
Taste test: It’s pretty much a given that something that’s bright blue and edible is going to give you one hell of a sugar rush, and the Sugar Daddy’s cupcake doesn’t disappoint. One is enough to keep you wired for the best part of the day. More than one will have you bouncing off the walls and probably double your annual dental bill. Still, they’re devilishly delicious.
Worth it? When you think about it, 190 calories isn’t that much (a Krispy Kreme doughnut contains 250), so having a cupcake with your cup of tea every now and then can’t hurt – providing you can manage to limit yourself to one.
Alternative: Try the scones (about 95 calories each) at the Ritz Carlton’s high tea, daily 2pm-6pm (Dhs125). Not only are they healthier (depending on how much butter you slather on them), but you get to gorge yourself and feel sophisticated at the same time.
Taste test: The combination of chicken, bacon, cream and pasta is never going to make the healthiest meal, but it certainly makes for a delicious one. We’re fans of Carluccio’s carbonara because whichever outlet you visit, they serve up consistently decent, rich and creamy portions.
Worth it? Damn straight – though if you’re having it for lunch, it’s best to rule out doing anything mildly productive in the afternoon.
Alternative: Try the 220-calorie spicy and sour noodle soup with shrimp and chicken (Dhs40) from Thai Kitchen at the Park Hyatt Dubai (04 317 2222).
Chicken Caesar salad
Dhs12 from McDonald’s, www.mcdonaldsarabia.com
Estimated calories: 310
Taste test: It’s a long-standing myth that McDonald’s Caesar salad is more unhealthy than a Big Mac, (the latter is actually worse for you, with 540 calories). Even still, the Caesar salad’s not far off, which defeats the object of having a salad in the first place. What’s more, it doesn’t taste particularly great: the sauce is a little too rich and smothers the lettuce, rendering it a soggy mess.
Worth it? If you’re going to go to McDonald’s, you may as well order a Big Mac – at least then you know what you’re letting yourself in for.
Alternative: Create your own (healthy) salad at Freshii in DIFC (04 327 8083). Custom-made salads start at Dhs26. Premium toppings start at Dhs3 (the ready-made chicken tikka salad has around 270 calories).
Dhs10 from Jedoudna, Jumeirah Beach Residence (04 423 0766)
Estimated calories: 430
Taste test: Like the pizza burger, the shawarma marries two of the world’s best foods: kebab meat and chips. Unlike the pizza burger, however, it actually works. The tender chicken is perfectly seasoned, the sauce has a great tang, and the chips – well, everyone loves chips (though too many can make the shawarma a bit stodgy).
Worth it? Yes, a thousand times!
Alternative: Why would you want an alternative? If you’re worried about the calories, take out the chips (though admittedly this would ruin the fun).