A few of Panda’s favourite foods to eat in Kuwait

Middle Eastern food, culture and cuisine really intrigue me. The wonderful use of delicate spices, yoghurt, grains and pulses in their dishes makes my belly grumble with hunger. I would love to know how the creator of hummus decided to turn the humble and not so good-looking chickpea into the most wonderful and velvety dip. Every culture has a distinctive cuisine and the Middle East is no exception.

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This isn’t a post about the Middle Eastern burrito (shawarma), the North African pasta (couscous) or the Arabian veggie burger (falafel). You know about all of those things because you are informed readers with a basic knowledge of international cuisine. Instead, here are a few things I have eaten in Kuwait that are a little less well known to people not living in the region. They aren’t dishes native to Kuwait but rather, have been brought over by Arab expats (Lebanese, Jordanians, Egyptians etc.) and are widely available here. So next time you are thinking of going out to eat, skip Chilli’s or Cheesecake Factory and try some of these dishes:

  1. Muhammara

Everyone knows hummus and maybe baba ganoush, but do you know its spicy cousin – muhammara dip? It’s a red bell pepper and walnut spread that’s delightful especially when served with Arabic bread. Sometimes this dip is blended with pomegranate molasses and walnuts; muhammara brings the exotic fl­avors of Syria to your plate and is a great starter to any meal.

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Best place to order it:

  • Ayamme (Marina Mall)
  1.  Koosa Mashhi

This roughly translates to stuffed zucchini, Middle Eastern style. In this dish, the humble zucchini act as vessels for a special stuffing of ground beef with tomatoes, rice and fresh herbs depending on how it is prepared. ! The trick here is to order the koosa (courgette or zucchini) with a creamy yoghurt sauce called labniya. (Please forgive my bad spelling of Arabic words!)

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Best place to order it:

  • Naranj (Hilton Hotel)
  1. Warak Enab or Dolma

Warak refers to the grape leaves used in this dish but dolma is what most Turkish people sometimes call this dish. A perfectly stuffed Arabian grape leaf is a thing of beauty, and this version can be found throughout the Gulf. After slowly simmering in a bath of olive oil and lemon juice, she’s plump, tart and silky rich. Inside is a glory of rice, laced with fresh mint and parsley, and a smattering of tomatoes and green onion. The cold version of this is palatable but the hot version, served with lamb chops is out of this world! Try both and you will see what I mean!

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Where to try it:

  • Zwarah (Abu Halifa)

 

4. Umm Ali

This is an Arabic dessert worth trying.  If I can compare it to anything, I would say it is the Middle Eastern version of bread pudding. The contrast between the creamy bread pudding and the crunchy nuts, the  sweet milk and cream versus the spicy tone of the cinnamon and cardamom makes  Umm Ali dessert irresistible warm or cold. Unlike conventional bread puddings, which typically use stale bread , Umm Ali uses freshly baked puff pastry for an extra level of deliciousness.

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Where to try it:

  • Mais Alghanim (Mahboula)

5. Fattoush

Fattoush is essentially a chopped salad with endless variations. It’s the sort of salad where I imagine every grandma in Arabic countries has their own recipe and deems it, “the best”. Essentially Fattoush is a bread salad. Stale or crisped pita bread is mixed with a variety of chopped vegetables, handfuls of herbs and a light dressing of yogurt, lemon juice, a bit of oil and sumac (Sumac is the ground fruit of a Sumac tree). Fattoush is derived from an Arabic word that means “small crumbs.”  Its name describes the bits of toasted pita bread that are tossed throughout the salad that give it the signature  crunch- like a Middle Eastern crouton.

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Where to try it:

  • Burj Al Hammam (Kuwait City)

 

Other things I would include on this list include muhallabia (a creamy-milky dessert) and shish taouk (a marinated chicken dish). Middle Eastern cuisine isn’t particularly extravagant when you come to think of it; it is not as rich as French or Italian cuisine and not as weighty as some Indian food. Oh and it also doesn’t rely on a massive amount of spices. It is very simple, and this simplicity is what makes it very tasty.

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A lot of the food on the menu relies heavily on vegetables and legumes rather than meats, same as it has been for millennia, mainly because veggies are much cheaper than meat. However, you will find that a lot of items on the list above are very much of the meat variety, after all, a balanced diet of meat and vegetables does wonders for the body.

Like all food, anywhere in the world, each dish is different and how heavy or different they are depends largely on which place you are eating the food in. Each place adds its own unique flavour or twist to the recipe and this is what keeps things interesting for me!

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What are your favourite Arabic foods and where should I go to try them?

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6 thoughts on “A few of Panda’s favourite foods to eat in Kuwait

  1. Hmmm i miss middle eastern food! In Jordan we had a couple of places we would often go on friday for lunch. One of them was in Madaba – 20km south of Amman. I can still taste their food. One of the things i loved there was there small lamb sausage in a spicy tomato sauce.

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  2. I need to try Muhammara and vegetarian version of Koosa Maashi.
    Hey Umm Ali is my favourite too. Fattoush is what started me on salads, before that I felt salads are boring leaves… haha
    Kuwait is where I first ate Middle eastern food – baba ghanouj, fatayer, falafel etc.
    My favourite so far is Koshari (egyptian)..I eat it from anywhere I can get it. I also like Mushkal which is vegetarian fatayer. Oh yes how I can forget Shakshouka ; frekkeh at Enab .. I think the list is long.

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