As Indians who have always lived outside India, we’ve gotten an “OMG! You are Indian? I love Indian food!” more times than we can remember. Its the perfect ice-breaker because we can talk about food for days. “Yeah? What’s your favourite?”, we ask eagerly. Too many times, the response is “Butter chicken and garlic naan.” While we completely understand that response because butter chicken is dee-lightful, it’s also a little predictable, no?
India is a country of so many states, sub-cultures, languages, religions and a deep and old history. With all these factors comes an expansive, diverse cuisine, more than anyone can imagine. So when we think “Indian food”, its easy to think of the Mughlai cuisine (butter chicken, chicken tikka, dal makhni etc.) which can be very mainstream. You can find it in mall food courts and in five-star restaurants, easy for the non-Indian palate to adopt.
Then you have the rest. Similar ingredients used in most Indian food, completely different taste.
Here’s a little glimpse into the diversity: the both of us are Mangalorean. Nancy grew up in a Mangalorean-Catholic home while Namrata in a Hindu Amchigele home. Our roots come from the same state, neighbouring villages even. However, our Konkani (the regional language) is as different as is our food. If you just let that sink in for a second, you will realise that this makes India the Disneyland of food.
In celebration of India’s 70th Independence Day, we thought it would be fitting to present 10 Indian dishes for you to try in Dubai, something that makes us very proud. Not intentionally but all of these places happen to be in Karama, with some branches around Dubai. So if you fancy eating more than one of these one day, you can pretty much drive around the neighbourhood and cover several in one evening!
Chicken sukka and panpole
Kicking off with this delicacy from Mangalore, all hail the chicken sukka. This dry coconut chicken dish is one any restaurant or home chef is proud of. We eat it on weekends, on Christmas Day, any ph-est (fest) really – always with lots of panpoles (thin rice pancakes).
Price: AED17 (chicken) and AED1.50 each (panpole)
Location: Behind Iranian School, Karama
A delicacy from the south of India, this is a breakfast staple and we all have our favourite kind. Crisp around the edges to dunk into a spicy sambar and chutney, or soft and thick in the centre to scoop up potatoes. The best way to judge how good a restaurant is, is by eating their sada dosa. And boy does Woodlands do a good one! Go Tamil Nadu!
Location: S Block, Karama Shopping Complex
Bombil rava fry
Also known as Bombay Duck fry. Despite its name, it’s not duck but fish! We heart a good Bombay duck pickle but slap it on some rava (semolina), generous squeeze of lime, and this one is a winner. What makes the one from Eric’s extra special is its soft flesh, and that you can taste a layer of masala under the crumbly crisp exterior – quite something!
Location: Block B2, Street 10B, Sheikh Hamdan Colony, Karama
Democratic, secular India proudly celebrates hundreds of religious holidays and festivals each year. If you are in the right place at the right time, you could enjoy a celebration most days of the year in some part of the country. These holidays sometimes come with dietary observances. Representing Maharashtra, sabudana khichdi is a staple. Sago (sabudana) are spongy balls extracted from the stem of a sago palm tree. Shallow fried and mixed with crushed peanuts, this makes for a lovely savoury mixture.
Where: The Curry Lane
Location: 3 Wasl Ivory Building, Al Doha Street, Near Karama Post Office
Eating this spicy chickpea curry with fluffy puris always makes us want to pack our bags, jump on a lorry, and drive around Punjab to the tunes of A.R. Rahman’s Patakha Guddi. Okay, maybe not a lorry but you get the gist! Up on the travel wish list is a visit to the golden temple in Amritsar where we’re certain there will be lots of dhaba pit stops and chole bature tasting along the way!
Where: New Sind Punjab
Location: Near Fish Market, Karama Shopping Complex
Dhabeli Vada Pav
Dhabeli is the “Gujarati cousin of Mumbai’s vada pav”. It is sweet, spicy, crunchy with onions and peanuts adding a unique texture to the potato mix. As I type this, my mouth is watering and I could kill one, right about NOW!
Where: Manisha’s Kitchen
Location: Shop 3 & 4, B 1, Sheikh Hamdan Colony, Karama
The original street food of India, there’s really nothing else like it around the world. Crunchy, spicy, salty, tangy, all in one tiny dish, making every bite feel like a party in your mouth.
Location: Kuwait Street, Karama
Prawn mango curry and appam
Keralan cuisine is so diverse but if we had to pick one dish, we’d say it would be the prawn mango curry. It’s beautifully fragrant, packed with flavour and goes wonderfully with fluffy appams (or even flaky parathas). No one makes this curry like our friends in the south do!
Where: Malabar Paris
Price: Based on size
Location: Crystal Music Building, Sheikh Hamsan Colony, Al Karama
When you can’t decide on what to eat, a thali comes to the rescue. Thank God for whoever came up with this brilliant idea of small servings of some of the best dishes in a restaurant! We’ve picked two here, one on the left representing north India and on the right, the south. Eating a thali is truly a feast fit for a king (or queen), without hurting your wallet.
Where: Rajasthani thali at Maharaja Bhog & South Indian thali at Saravana Bhavan
Price: AED36 and AED 18
Location: Maharaja Bhog (Hamsah Mall, Next to Ansar Gallery, Karama) and Saravana Bhavan (Abdul Aziz Mirza Building, Next to Karama Park)
A fitting end to a glorious meal, this creamy delicious ice cream. You can get different varieties of kulfi like rose, cardamom, saffron, pistachio, but our favourites are mango or malai (cream).
Location: Shop 4, Saeed Al Nabooda Building, 18 A Street, Karama
There are many other dishes we’d love to include here but maybe we’ll do it in the next round-up. Honorary mentions include: Tandoori chicken, Hyderabadi dum biryani, Bengali mustard fish curry, Lucknowi kebabs, Parsi Patra ni machi, Vindaloo, Kheema Pav and so much more! How wonderful is the world of Indian food… we just can’t get enough!
Tell us, what is your favourite Indian dish?