Ethnic food experiences in Kuwait
Kuwait is incredibly diverse; innumerable ethnicities can be found within blocks of each other. Different languages are spoken on every block, people walk around the malls draped in their traditional attire, and the selection of international food is plentiful. When money’s tight but you still have the jet-set itch, forget trying to travel the world in 80 days and attempt globetrotting right here in Kuwait. All you need is some cash and an empty stomach and you can experience culture and cuisine from across the globe.
Ethnic food: A definition
“Ethnic food” simply means food that is not part of mainstream cuisine, generally produced by or originating from an ethnic minority group. Apparently this term is very controversial so internet trolls please don’t jump on me. I have been an ethnic minority everywhere I’ve lived and I don’t think the term is offensive at all!
In this post I am referring to certain cuisines that are not native to or in abundance here in Kuwait. I’ve collaborated with three other bloggers in the sampling of some of these cuisines so I am quite confident in my choices and recommendations! I have listed the establishments in order of preference so here we go:
Having traveled to Thailand twice, I have been in search of delicious and authentic tasting Thai food ever since my last trip there. After a few years of disappointments, I am so glad I stumbled upon this unassuming little establishment in Kuwait. Its situated in the suburb of Fintas (so close to my apartment!) and at first glance you might miss it. But once you find it, head inside for a treat.
This place has a chic, modern tone with a minimalist decor and an impressive Thai-inspired menu. The best way to experience the cuisine is to look at the ipad menu which provides gorgeous pictures.
My favourites include a fiery, crunchy green curry with bird’s eye chili, long beans, chicken and carrots. If you’re a pad Thai fan, sample the ultra-fresh rice noodles, chicken, peanuts, eggs and prawns it creates a sweet, but complex iteration of a Thai staple. The Tom yum soup takes Thai soup to new heights, as it benefits from creamy coconut and peanut flavours.
Tips: Book ahead if you are going with a large group and try the iced tea which is made fresh on the premises. I like mine with milk but Bee likes hers with lemon. Lots of options available! I have lost count of the amount of times I have visited this place because it is just THAT good.
Budget: Around 8KD for two people including two mains, one rice and drinks.
Address: Fintas, Street 6, Block 1
Contact number: +96569966163
Al Habesha (Hawally)
Located on a dodgy looking street in Hawally, this is a quintessential hole-in-the-wall Ethiopian restaurant. The walls are painted with the colours of the Ethiopian flag, the large TV plays Eritrean music and you seat yourself. Servers speak little to no English so Google was our best friend when Agroudy and I headed there on Wednesday evening.
If you are one of those people who loves “spiced” food, but not “spicy” food, then you should definitely check out the phenomenal Ethiopian food at Al Habesha. The cuisine uses quite a few spices, including fenugreek, coriander, cardamom, cumin and the classic Ethiopian blend of berbere.
The best way to experience the menu here is to order the combination platters, which lets you choose a wide variety of dishes, both vegetarian and meat. All the dishes are served on a spongy bread, injera, which serves as both an vehicle for getting the flavourful food into your mouth and a plate. On the meat side, make sure to order the Doro w’et (a chicken stew cooked with berbere) and the Awaze Tibs (beef cubes simmered in a special sauce with spices and herbs). On the vegetarian side, check out the Foul (crushed fava beans with onion, tomato and jalapeno and the Kik Aletcha (yellow split peas cooked with ginger, garlic, onion and turmeric).
Tips: Not a place for a first date but great for a foodie friend who is keen on international cuisine. No matter what you order here, you can count on it tasting authentic and distinctly homemade especially the Ethiopian coffee. Just be prepared to eat family style and wash your hands beforehand. Silverware is unlikely to be anywhere in sight.
Budget: Platters are around 3.5KD each and can feed 6-8 people.
Address: Hawally, Ibn Khaldon street, Behind Al-Bassam Complex No. 3
Contact number: +96597744531
Korea Grill (Hawalli)
Tucked away in Hawalli’s enclave of cafes, eateries and restaurants is the Korea Grill Restaurant, an under-the-radar family eatery nestled in the Nu Park Hotel that serves excellent Korean cuisine. And after living in Korea for 2 years, I can assure you that this stuff is the REAL DEAL.
Agroudy and I headed out to find this establishment on Friday evening and we were not disappointed. When you find it (be sure to ask at the reception of the hotel), you will be greeted by graffiti covered wall (decorated by diners) and sparse decor. The menu is simple and easy to understand with explanations of each dish and pictures too. Dishes to order include the flavourful bulgogoi (beef strips to be eaten inside lettuce leaves) and the mince dumplings (gunmandu). Both emerge from the kitchen piping hot. All their food also comes with complimentary banchan (side dishes), a collection of small Korean side dishes we could not do without.
The other dishes, although wonderful, merely pave the way for the bibimbap dolsot. Korean bibimbap bowls are a good way to tuck into meat, vegetables and carbs all at once. Served in a hot stone bowl with a raw egg on top (it will cook in the bowl), it has a variety of vegetables (bean sprouts, mushrooms, julienned radish, carrot and cucumber) and rice. Mix everything with the spicy gochujang (red pepper paste) and it makes a filling meal. The robust bowl is just the right amount of spicy, sour and sweet. It is flavourful and yet has a clean finish on the palate. It isn’t too cloying either.
Don’t forget the kimbap for the Korean version of sushi and do complete your meal with an order of hotteok (sweet Korean pancakes) accompanied by complimentary Korean coffee. The pancakes, which are filled with sugar, cinnamon and honey, are not too chewy. I also liked that the dough is light and the edges are crisp.
Tips: Go in a large group and order a variety of items. You are guaranteed to find something you like and that way, you can try many of the items on the menu. Take some markers along so you can also decorate their walls!
Budget: Main dishes are around 5-7KD each and can feed 3-4 people comfortably.
Address: Wasil Bin Ata Street, Maidan, Hawalli
Contact number: +96566192848
Saravana Bhavan (Fahaheel)
When fellow blogger, Mini first suggested this South Indian restaurant, I was IN! When another blogger, Jeena Sue, seconded the recommendation, I was doubly as keen. So one evening for iftaar I gathered up a few ladies and we headed down to Fahaheel to locate this infamous South Indian restaurant. I later learned that they are “one of the largest vegetarian restaurant chains in the world” according to Google and it isn’t difficult for me to see why. The restaurant itself was clean, spacious and full despite us going just after its opening time. That gave me high hopes. It wasn’t particularly posh and it reminded me of a particular restaurant I visited in Kerala when i was in India many monsoons ago.
I am addicted to dosas and this was the first thing I judged the place on. For those not in the know, this is an Indian breakfast/snack food; it is a thin, crispy crepe made from a lightly fermented batter of ground rice and lentils. The batter is ladled onto a hot griddle and then quickly spread to paper thinness by circling the ladle on the griddle in ever-expanding circles.
We ordered a masala dosa which comes wrapped around spiced potatoes as well as a rava dosa which is made out of a wheat batter (semolina) and both were pretty addictive.
Wee also ordered medu vada (indian doughnuts), ghee idli (savoury cakes cooked with clarified butter and served with chutneys), ven pongal (a savoury pudding made with beautiful combination of lentils and rice tempered with spices and nuts) and a few sweet and mango lassis. Honestly I can say that everything was UTTERLY DELICIOUS! I highly recommend all those dishes.
BUT the dosa here was a true winner — most notable for the distinct tangy taste that comes from fermenting the batter, and which makes the dosa addictive. The coconut chutney here was also a standout, tasting strongly of coconut and specked with fried spices such as mustard seeds without being overwhelming and the the sambar was perfectly cuminy and only slightly spicy.
Tips: Inform the waiters if you need your food to be less spicy and eat Indian style- everyone using their hands and tucking in to one plate!
Budget: Main dishes are around 1KD each and can feed 2-3 people comfortably.
Address: Humoud Towers, 4th Floor, (Above Centre Point), Gulf Road, Fahaheel.
Contact number: +96523929098
A lot of people are keen on Caribbean food and there is a restaurant that caters for this cuisine. It is called Caribbean Hut and is situated in Mangaf. According to Tripadvisor, it is the number 1 restaurant in Kuwait. I wouldn’t even rate it as the 1000th best restaurant in Kuwait. The food is mediocre at best with sloppy service. The owner berated us for coming a little late (?) even though his place was empty. Then he proceeded to insert himself into our personal conversation (without any invitation to do so) and rambled on about his marriages for 20 minutes non-stop while we tried to digest the dry chicken served to us which was the texture of sawdust. Try at your own risk (opt for delivery) but I definitely rate this place as the WORST restaurant in Kuwait.
I apologize in advance if this post made you hungry and you are fasting! Are there any places you would like to add to this list? Comment below!