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FRYING PAN ADVENTURES | Middle Eastern Food Pilgrimage Tour

We recently took part in Frying Pan Adventures’ four-hour food tour of Al Rigga (Dubai’s first urbanised neighbourhood from the 70s and 80s) where we discovered classic culinary specialities from Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. Been in Dubai a long time? Think you’ve tried and know it all? Get yourselves on this tour and learn a whole new scope in Middle Eastern culinary history. This is a walking tour with headsets, so be prepared to very much look like a tourist and take on the slow pace while your guide gives you a comprehensive history lesson. You will learn a lot of firsts!



Our first stop was to Sultan Dubai Falafel (Palestinian-Jordanian) where we tasted their signature Miniature Falafels ­– these are officially the best Falafels we’ve ever had in the UAE! These miniature herb-filled chickpea falafels are served with a green pepper and lemon sauce (tatbila) over an incredibly creamy hummus. They left us speechless with their perfectly crispy exterior with the softest airy interior of goodness. These are made to not be forgotten and you will want to hold off for falafels in the future until you can make it back to this shop! It will be worth the distance, and you will want to bring all your visitors to this place from now on to order at least a dozen each. With this initial tease, we were then guided to a communal outside eating area where we were served French fries, fried cauliflower and aubergines, pickles, creamy hummus and fresh pitta breads to make our own monster falafel sandwiches with their Falafel Mahshi (Stuffed Falafel). These are made in a falafel scoop or aleb, and stuffed with sour sumac berry spice and hot shatta (a combination of sweet red peppers and red hot chillies) and adorned with sesame seeds. Utterly worth the visit. Put Sultan Dubai Falafel on your bucket list!


Falafel Mahshi (Stuffed Falafel)

Right next door is Qwaider Al Nabulsi (Palestinian-Jordanian), the sister restaurant to Sultan Dubai Falafel! You do not need to change tables for this, just pop in next door and order their Kunafa Nabulsiye. This dessert is made with the finest quality salty Nabulsi cheese that blends goat and sheep milk and topped with very fine crunchy Kataifi noodles. This one was freshly made for our group and this is honestly the best Kunafa there is out there. I’ve lost count at how many Kunafa desserts I’ve eaten over the years as I never pass one up if it’s available, but I confirm this is the first one to have blown my mind. I will be disappointed to eat it anywhere else that cannot grant this level of perfection. The same goes for those miniature falafels!



After this, the tour continues on a tangent. We were led to Al Samadi Sweets, one of the longest standing Lebanese baklava shops in the UAE for their sugar syrup filo pastry and nut confections, and coffee infused with cardamon (gahwa – a traditional drink of hospitality in the Arabian Gulf – a very weak coffee when accustomed to much stronger brews) which you expect at the end of the tour as the finale and not smack in the middle of it. If you are a long-term resident in the UAE, or a fan of baklava, you will know of Al Samadi and can be assured of their good quality products. However, having now just had two lots of desserts, it put the old appetite front on a complete halt. We can only suggest that these 2 stops be left until the very end as they are literally just around the corner from the next couple of restaurants on the tour and easy to get back to.



Next up was a stop at Farooj Al Shami, a Syrian restaurant with dining room tables and chairs set up upstairs for large meal gatherings where we tried a very mediocre and flimsy chicken shawarma (which they are apparently popularly known for). We each got served a half to try. These resembled more a half filled wrap­­ – I’ve had plenty of more plausible and tastier shawarma variants from smaller eateries around town, I’m still waiting to find ‘the one’. Shawarmas from my local neighbourhood Seashell restaurant are far more memorable. If you are old school when it comes to your shawarmas, you will ask them to skip the fries in yours – a modern take I never grew into. The fries soak up all the tasty juices, changing the consistency completely.


Chicken Shawarma

I had been looking forward to trying the grilled kibbeh in the hope they would make up for the shawarma fail, but with only being given a quarter to share between 4 of us (hence there is no photo of these), it completely failed to impress, despite its enticing description of “wonderfully smoked crust filled with a sweet-sour-savoury filling of minced meat, onions, baharat and pomegranate seeds”, there wasn’t much to try.


I had heard of Kabab Erbil (Iraqi) our last stop of the tour which I had wanted to try in such a long time. I was really looking forward to this one. They are known for their Masgouf – Iraq’s National Dish – which is the name given to the preparation of smoking freshwater fish such as Carp or Barbel around a large wood fire in which the fish is propped up on pegs. You get to watch this special cooking process from the cooler side of a glass window. The fish is cooked in about 45 mins, so it is advised to call in advance to make the order beforehand. The fish is dressed with a lot of sumac (when there’s too much it gets too sour and overpowers the fish), tomatoes and onions, and served with a side of Amba (a tart mango pickle sauce) and fresh hot tanner bread. You do need to go with quite a large entourage to order this one as we were 8 and there was still plenty of fish left. We will revisit here to try some of the other dishes at a later stage as I believe there are quite a few worth trying!


Masgouf – Iraq’s National Dish – Smoked freshwater fish such as Carp or Barbel.

This tour is pricey at AED425 per head, but you are paying for the knowledge and expertise of your guide who will give you an in-depth education about the foods we’ve grown to love over the years, but apparently knew little about! We highly recommend this educational tour. It’s a great activity to take on in a group of friends looking to do something completely different together. This is especially great for newcomers to Dubai looking to get a lowdown of the food classics from this part of the world.


Group Testimonials:

“I would recommend this tour for team building and group activities. Both tourists and residents will discover something new about Dubai and have plenty of Instagram moments during the tour. I tried the most delicious and fresh falafel and kunafa. I think I would enjoy the tour even more if the Arabic sweets were at the end of the meal, not in the middle. Make sure to choose Farida as your guide. She is very knowledgeable about the local food, culture and history. Her passion was contagious”. Elena


“I think the tour was very interesting and informative. The food was excellent, but the order was a little wrong. If they could have the kunafa and sweets at the end, this would be good. I also understand this would be difficult to organise”. Jon


“I loved the experience and Farida was a great guide! But the sweets in the middle didn’t work for me! I didn’t feel we walked that much, and the Iraqi restaurant was just a few minutes’ walk from the starting point, so we could have easily come back for the kunafa and enjoyed the fish with an ‘empty’ stomach.” Dario


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