Koshari at Al Amoor Express
If you’re yet to come across Koshari, it’s an Egyptian rice, macaroni and lentils dish, all jumbled up together. This delightful veggie and carb mix is then topped with a spicy tomato sauce and garlic vinegar, and is garnished with chickpeas and crispy fried onions. A sprinkling of garlic juice or garlic vinegar and hot sauce are optional. It’s glorious, and you need it in your life.
From Dhs17. Open daily 24 hours. Al Barsha (04 347 0787).
Kunafa at Feras Aldiyafa Sweets
This famous Middle Eastern dessert is a cheese pastry soaked in sweet syrup – so, we’re sold. The salty, stretchy cheese makes it one of best sweet-savoury dishes around. It comes in a few styles, with varying crust and a variety of dough. The one you’ll find here features a sweet base, with a stretchy layer of cheese, drizzled with loads of sugar syrup, and we wholeheartedly approve.
Dhs22. Open daily 8am-1am. Al Barsha (04 341 3123).
Mac ’n’ cheese melt at Melt Room
This is an absolute delight. It combines the best of our favourite two carbs – bread and pasta, obviously – and sees them grilled together with a bunch of cheese wedged in the middle. The top is coated in butter, and it’s put in a hot press for a few minutes to really crispen it up. This is a once-a-week treat, kids.
Dhs32. Sat noon-9pm. Ripe Market, Al Barsha Pond Park (04 315 7000).
Toshka at Hannouf
This traditionally Syrian dish is an almost wafer-thin slice of bread stuffed with sujuk and kashkaval (or in this case, mozzarella) cheese. It’s then grilled and flattened to give you a properly flavoursome treat to enjoy at almost literally any time of the day.
From Dhs15. Open Sat-Wed noon-4am; Thu-Fri 11.30am-4.30am. Al Barsha (04 420 4229).
Bur Dubai & Deira
Anday Walla Burger at Billo
Imagine this, and tell us you’re not desperate to try it right now. A bunch of yellow lentils, all blended up with herbs, spices and egg to make a patty, which is then fried and served up with fresh onions, chillies and mint yoghurt in a toasted bun. Go get one for lunch or din dins. Oh, and it costs less than Dhs10.
Dhs8. Open Sat-Wed noon-12.30am; Thu-Fri noon-1.30am. Oud Metha (055 941 3658).
Chicken tikka at Ravi Restaurant
Ah Ravi, we love this place, and its chicken tikka is the one. The meat is full of flavour – especially for a dish that can, in other establishments, sometimes run a little flat. While the tikka is a star, you should also get your hands on the daal fry, because it’s not always about what you can find on the grill.
Dhs8. Open daily 5am-3am. Near Satwa Roundabout (04 331 5353).
Chilli cheese vada pav at Chaat Bazaar
It’s got all the words we’re looking for in a dish considered to be a signature at this Karama classic. Vada pav is sort of like a bao, which is sort of like a little bun, only this one is stuffed with grated amul cheese that has been infused with spicy potato masala, battered and deep-fried. We hope you’re paying attention, because it’s then coated with a sweet tamarind chutney, spicy green chutney, garlic sauce and garlic chutney, served with salted fried chillies. You need this.
Dhs10. Open daily 8am-11pm. Karama (04 396 8810).
Dahi vada at Chaat Station Cafeteria
Another entry on the vada list and another one to check out while you’re at Meena Bazaar. This one is something a bit different, though. The vada (fried flour balls) are actually made from soaked lentils. After deep-frying the batter, it’s then soaked in fresh yoghurt and coated in an array of herbs, spices and more. It’s a savoury treat, and one that dates back as far as the 12th century.
Dhs7. Open daily 10.30am-11pm. Meena Bazaar, Bur Dubai (04 550 9183).
Samosas at Al Abra Cafeteria
This unassuming café is the perfect place to put your feet up if you’ve been stomping your way around all the old souks (which you definitely need to visit, by the way). Grab a samosa or some deep-fried chillies for less than pocket change, and be sure to rehydrate properly on the warmer days. You can do that by grabbing one of the electrolyte-packed coconuts served fresh, for less than Dhs10.
Dhs2. Opposite Al Sabkha Water Taxi Station, Deira (no number).
Samosas at Satwa Palace
One of the all-time kings of street food, samosas are hard to beat, especially when these deep-fried, flavoursome little treats roll in at just one dirham each (subject to change since VAT, of course). Crispy, crunchy, but soft and reserving a taste explosion on the inside, embrace the greasy fingers you’ll be left with afterwards, chuck the cashier a tenner through the window and walk off with a bag of these beauties.
Dhs1. Open daily 5am-2am. Satwa Road, Satwa (04 342 2070).
Shawarma at Al Mallah
It’s our cover star, and for good reason. The shawarma at Al Mallah is borderline legendary, and as well as top-quality shawarmas you can also get a range of freshly grilled meats stuffed into a sarnie to take away. We also love the cheese manakish.
From Dhs11. Open Sat-Thu 6am-2.30am; Fri 6am-noon, 1.30pm-2.30am. 2nd December Street, Satwa (04 398 4962).
Downtown Dubai & Sheikh Zayed Road
Costilla taco at Maiz Tacos Food Truck
The food truck in Downtown Dubai near the Burj Khalifa serves up this beefy treat. Among the many tacos available, the costilla is filled with eight-hour slow-roasted and smoked short rib. It’s then served with jitomates (tomato) salsa, pickled radish, red onion and coriander. Other Maiz trucks can be found around Dubai, including at Kite Beach.
Dhs40. Open Sat-Wed noon-9pm; Thu-Fri noon-10pm. Maiz Tacos Food Truck, Downtown Dubai (050 151 7665).
Egg and cheese feteer at Zaroob
A layered Levantine bread (kind of like a thick, puffy paratha) is worked like pizza dough by a pastry chef, filled with egg and Kraft soft cheese then baked in the oven until golden and pillowy. And it’s yum.
Dhs27 plus VAT. Open daily 24 hours. Sheikh Zayed Road (800 927 662).
Okonomiyaki at Bentoya
Literally translating to “grilled as you like it”, this Japanese savoury pancake can comes with a whole bunch of different flavours. A traditional okonomiyaki, as you’ll find here, is the seafood pancake mixed with an arrangement of vegetables and lightly drizzled in a spicy sauce.
Dhs42. Open Sat-Wed 11.30am-11.30pm; Thu-Fri 11.30am-midnight. Al Kawakeb Building, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 343 0222).
Dubai Marina, JLT & JBR
Jamaican Mosa at My Mosa
This is a contemporary twist on the classic samosa. My Mosa dishes up brilliant variations from its JBR location and accompanying food truck you’ll find at various events. One of its top sellers are these proper hot, hot Jamaican beef samosas. Sort of like the traditional Jamaican patty, only in Indian form, these come with lashings of “Passion” hot sauce. We’re intrigued, slightly fearful, but definitely excited.
Dhs30. The Beach, opposite JBR (056 408 8688).
Labneh and vegetable kaak at Kaek Kaeeek
This Lebanese spot in JLT (yes, with three es) is a real delight and provides a growing community neighbourhood with more street food options, and we couldn’t be happier with that. This labneh and vegetable bread treat is gloriously light yet indulgent, and needs to be on your foods to try list.
From Dhs15. Open Sat-Wed 8am-11pm; Thu-Fri 8am-midnight. Cluster B, JLT (04 553 0395).
Mexican Shawarma at Shami Gourmet
Another shawarma on the list, and Shami’s in Dubai Marina serves up one of the best this side of the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah. If you’re after a twist on the usual, you can get the Mexican shawarma, chicken shawarma pieces cut up with onion, mixed peppers, cheese and chilli, and it’s simply outstanding. At Dhs33, this one is a little pricier than the regular shawarma wrap (from Dhs12 for a small and Dhs23 for a regular), but it’s well worth the extra dirhams.
Dhs33. Open Sat-Wed 10am-2am; Thu-Fri 10am-4am. Torch Tower, Dubai Marina (04 552 1402).
Chebab at Logma
The chebab is a traditional Emirati dish that sort of looks like a pancake, but comes served with cream cheese and topped with a generous drizzle of date syrup or honey. The warm cheese dish combines cardamom, saffron and dates. Logma at BoxPark has various traditional Emirati dishes with a slight twist, and you’re bound to love them.
Dhs25. Open Sat-Wed 8am-midnight; Thu-Fri 8am-1am. BoxPark, Al Wasl Road (800 56462).
Cheese manakish at Al Reef Lebanese Bakery
Serving up quite possibly the best manakish in the city is this charming little gem of a spot. You’ve not truly lived in Dubai until you’ve savaged your way through an akawi cheese manakish. Frankly, it’s the only food you need in the morning, and if our conscience would let us tear our way through this cheese and carb feast every day, we would.
From Dhs8. Open daily 24 hours. Al Wasl Road, Jumeirah (04 394 5200).
Chips Oman paratha at HumYum
Grew up in Dubai? Eat chips/crisps/whatever you call them? If you’re a Dubai kid, you’ve probably got used to seeing Chips Oman on pretty much every supermarket shelf. Crush them up, roll them up in a paratha or chapati, chuck in some mayo and chilli sauce and you’ve got yourself a crispy stuffed sandwich. Over the years, various mash-ups have evolved and you’ll definitely find some top options at HumYum in Umm Suqeim.
Open daily 6.30am-3am. Jumeirah Beach Road, Umm Suqeim (04 388 3332).
Churrasquinho at Taste of Brazil food truck
This is a traditional pulled beef and cheese sandwich from Brazil. And it’s mighty. Seasoned and spiced pulled beef comes topped with gooey, molten mozzarella cheese, served with a splash of house vinaigrette and black olive mayonnaise sauce. What’s not to love? You had us at “pulled beef”…
Dhs35 plus VAT. Open Sun-Wed 8am-10pm; Thu-Sat 8am-midnight. Kite Beach, Umm Suqeim (050 357 0007).
Halloumi wrap at Paratha’Ta
Because few things are better than salty, squeaky, perfectly grilled halloumi cheese. This food truck at the ever-popular Kite Beach serves up the traditional Indian and Pakistani flatbread with global flavours stuffed inside. From the aforementioned halloumi, tomato and thyme wrap, to mozzarella, sun-dried tomatoes and rocket, and even a Nutella and banana concoction.
Dhs24. Open Sun-Wed 8am-10pm; Thu-Sat 8am-midnight. Kite Beach, Umm Suqeim (050 357 0007).
Hassan mathar at Al Ijaza Cafeteria
This cafeteria is one of the main stopping points on Jumeirah Beach Road, and you’ll always spot a queue of hungry drivers waiting for a takeaway order here. Somewhere between a traditional meat-filled roll and a grilled cheese sandwich, the hassan mather is a crunchy bread wrapped around a filling of slow-cooked chicken, pickled vegetables, hummus, fries and cheese. Wow. This little bite is worth every dirham.
Dhs7. Open Sat-Thu 9am-3am; Fri 11am-3am. Jumeirah Beach Road, Umm Suqeim (04 344 4874).
Musabbahha at Operation Falafel
There are few better options for a bit of street grub than this start-up gone big. A traditional Syrian breakfast dish, musabbahha is made from chickpeas and tahini, then topped with olive oil and garnished with mix of spices. It’s similar to hummus in many ways. It comes with some freshly baked pitas, too, and we can’t help but smile while devouring it.
Dhs21. Various locations including Kite Beach, Umm Suqeim (04 321 2378).
Shawarma at Eat & Drink
One of the best shawarmas you’ll find in town, simply put. It’s mega, and the constant stream of customers you’ll find in this Al Wasl store proves it. Roasted chicken and fresh veggies stuffed inside traditional bread with a slick of garlic. Perfect, and don’t be surprised if you bump into us inhaling one at any given moment.
Dhs23. Open daily 9am-2am. Al Wasl Road, Jumeirah (04 394 3878).
Tofu bao at Take A Bao
Firstly, we’re a sucker for a good pun, so we love Take A Bao at Kite Beach. Secondly, we’re big fans of tofu, the amazingly versatile bean curd. Five-spice fried tofu, served alongside avocado, pickles, red onion and kimchi mayonnaise. This little grabbable bun is well worth spending a day on the beach with.
Dhs25 each, Dhs45 for two. Open Mon-Wed noon-10pm; Thu-Sun noon-midnight. Kite Beach, Umm Suqeim (050 747 4211).
Cheese sambousek at Al Arrab
If you’re yet to come across sambousek, they’re freshly baked little parcels stuffed with loveliness. The cheese sambousek at Al Arrab in Motor City is just heart-warming, and you need these packets of awesome in your life. Get five pieces for just Dhs18.
Dhs18. Open daily 10.30am-1.30am. Green Community Centre, Motor City (04 447 8930).
Luqaimat at Smat
For something a bit sweeter, try this classic Emirati dessert from Smat in Mirdif, where for Dhs25 you can get your hands on a luqaimat. They’re like beautiful little doughnut balls, and this version of the dish comes in three flavours: original style, with cheese, or with Nutella. We’ll see you there, with chocolate smooshed around our moosh.
Dhs25. Open daily 9am-midnight. Mirdif (04 224 2474).
Pakistani bun kebab at Desi Adda
Known as the Anday Wala Burger, this Pakistani street dish is a beautifully soft bun filled with a chicken or beef patty, then topped with a fried egg, onions, ketchup and green mint chutney. You can expect some pretty lively flavours from this funky little shop in Al Qusais.
From Dhs12. Open Sat-Wed noon-11pm; Thu-Fri noon-midnight. Damascus Street, Al Qusais (04 261 2399).
The chicken drifter at Burger Pit
Meanwhile, over at Meraas site Last Exit Mad X on the E11 (Abu Dhabi-bound), you’ll find a post-apocalyptic-themed food truck park with a van serving up a mean chicken burger. Quite simply, the chicken drifter at Burger Pit is a monster piece of crispy fried buttermilk chicken, drizzled in garlic aioli. Delicious, and filling, and satisfying. Perfect road trip fodder.
Dhs30. Open daily 24 hours. Last Exit Mad X E11, Sheikh Zayed Road (800 637227).