By Radhina Almeida Coutinho: I set out to experience a different taste of Dubai with Arva Ahmed’s Frying Pan Adventures’ Food Lover’s Morning March. And their website shouts out the truth in their disclaimer: Not Suitable For – Those who don’t enjoy (a) smelly markets! (b) walking (c) any severe food allergies (d) eating on carpets (e) homestyle cooking – our captain and his helper are not pro chefs, they cook from the heart!
Something smells fishy… and that’s the start of my morning march with Frying Pan Adventures!
There aren’t many mornings in Dubai that start off with fish so fresh they literally jump out of their baskets and make a valiant attempt at a getaway. An 8am start at Dubai’s famous Deira Fish Market rewards us with an insider’s guide to the best fish to buy (and the overfished varieties to avoid!), tips on picking the freshest catch of the day and the truly rewarding sight of a bustling market swirling with clamorous clouds of people and seagulls.
A cool hit of coconut water straight out of a Sri Lankan King Coconut and a scrape of tender coconut flesh make for the perfect pick-me-up after a hectic march through the fish market.
We jump onto a rickety abra for a trip back in time down the Deira Creek – lined with mosque domes, minarets and wind-towers – for a taste of some local specialties presented in a fresh new way. Delicate iced rose tea, red velvet lgeimat, fluffy French toast topped with hickory-smoked date jam and pomegranate syrup… there’s something for everyone.
Think you’ve done the Deira Spice Souq to death? You will never look at those lotions, potions, petals and powders the same way again after playing a round of Frying Pan Adventures’ Spingo! (Spice Bingo). East Indian Screw Tree? Purging Cassia? Felty Germander? Get ready to tick off the strangest things you’ve ever heard of – may the spiciest food lover win!
Before leaving the souq, a sweet treat to beat the heat – Iranian Faloodeh with snow white vermicelli doused in lemon, rose water and sugar syrup is definitely a winner.
Then it is time to fight the mid-morning slump with a smooth cup of Turkish coffee boiled over hot sand and some sweet loqum while taking in the fascinating history of the world’s most addictive beverage at the little gem that is the Dubai Coffee Museum in the Al Fahidi Heritage Village.
Down to Earth Dining
A secret Iranian kebab shop tucked into the wide back streets of one of Dubai’s oldest neighborhoods holds a lot of promise. And it definitely delivers! Lush kebab koobideh (twice minced lamb cooked on skewers), tangy lemon grilled meat chunks stuffed into bread hot from the tanour oven, and tender chicken washed down with salty minty doogh – Iran’s favourite yogurt-based dinner drink. The best bit? No tables and chairs, just colorful carpets rolled straight onto the pavement and everyone cross-legged tucking into the spread.
Aromatic, sticky Omani halva – still warm from the pot and very lickable – makes for the perfect sweet ending to a fantastic morning delving into the heart of Old Dubai. Some hot Iranian tea, sipped in the traditional fashion – through a cube of saffron-flavoured sugar held between the teeth – and you are soaking in a side of Dubai you don’t often see, but one that definitely is worth seeking out.
Do read Arva’s epic round up post on Arabic sweets – The Halawiyat Collection!