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A reflection of the UAE’s trading heritage, Emirati food is infused with spices and ingredients from throughout Asia and the Middle East. Think cinnamon, saffron, turmeric, nuts, limes and dried fruit.

Emirati dishes are flavourful and aromatic, with some of the most popular dishes including Harees, showcasing meat and wheat slow-cooked in a clay oven or pot and served with ghee (clarified butter), and Machboos, made by boiling meat in spiced water with dried limes.

Being a coastal city, fish is the star of many local dishes, with Madrooba, a mix of salted fish, spices and thick sauce, being one of the most popular. Rice is ever-present and most often served with saffron, nuts and spices.

In order to make authentic Emirati food more accessible to residents and visitors alike, the Emirati Cuisine Programme has been introduced, where acclaimed Emirati chef Khulood Atiq has trained hotel chefs across Abu Dhabi to prepare and serve some of the most iconic dishes from the UAE.

Check out some of the participating hotels below – the Head Chefs at all these establishments have already updated and refreshed their hotel and restaurant menus with an exciting range of authentic Emirati dishes.


This is a delicious recipe. This dish gets its name from the very large wooden spoon used to beat the mixture until it resembles very thick oatmeal. I don’t have a “Madrooba” spoon so I use my hand mixer (though not traditional) which gives the same results (in my opinion).

Aish wa laham by Chef Khulood Atiq . Photo: DCT

Lamb Ghouzi

‎The Emirati “Ghouzi” dish, as spoken in the local dialect, is one of the most important dishes, as it is one of the main dishes usually served on occasions, where it relies mainly on meat and rice with simple additions, so al-ghozi is a popular food of high nutritional value.

Aish wa laham by Chef Khulood Atiq . Photo: DCT


It is mouth-watering dish consisting of chicken and rice with different spices and ingredients such as cinnamon, chickpeas, saffron and cardamom. It is usually served with chicken or fish and spicy sauce of tomatoes and green chilies.

Fish Machbous prepared by Chef Atiq. Photo: DCT


Emirati version of pancake. It is very similar to pancakes with a slight difference in thickness as well as in the addition of yeast, cardamom and turmeric to the dough.

Chebab at Saadiyat Rotana Abu Dhabi.


Neither a porridge nor a dumpling, this wheat-based dish is something between the two. What are its other major ingredients? Wheat, wheat, and some more wheat! Boiled, cracked, or coarsely-ground wheat, mixed with meat is what makes the dish interesting.

Harees at Saadiyat Rotana Abu Dhabi.


Vermicelli with an omelette is a favourite Emirati breakfast item. Orange blossom, saffron, cardamom, cinnamon, and pistachio are used to enhance the flavours of the dish.

Balaleet at Saadiyat Rotana Abu Dhabi


Layers of bread, chicken and vegetables – this one is irresistible. The chicken and vegetables are boiled, until soft, and then the flavourful stew is poured over a thick layer of breads.

Chicken thareed prepared by chef Atiq. Photo: DCT


A unique take on seafood. The meat of a young shark is pounded, boiled, and ground before being minced and mixed with Emirati spices. Served over rice, this may actually be the most delicious dish I’ve eaten in Abu Dhabi.

Gasheed prepared by chef Atiq. Photo: DCT

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