I didn’t really partake in foodie tourism on my visit to Sharjah. While in the UK earlier in the year I became tired of taking pictures of my food but kept at it because I was thinking I would need it for the blog. This time I just said no. I also didn’t seek out any specifically vegan-friendly restaurants. It was kind of liberating.
My hotel provided an excellent (if samey, after ten days!) buffet for breakfast, lunch and dinner, which took care of my hunger and thirst. I would primarily hang in the salad area and load up with fresh raw veggies, bean salads, okra salads, hummus (the babaganoush was way too smokey for me), olives, pickles and pita bread. There was usually a hot option also, whether a simple hash brown for breakfast or veggie curry for dinner. (Though visits to the hot food section became infrequent once chicken was discovered in a veggie rice dish. Our waiter assured my friend Sahar that it was ‘just a little bit of chicken’. Oh phew, then.) One night there was dhal – that was a good night. Breakfast was the best, as I had a big salad plate as mentioned above PLUS foul medames (aka my new favourite foodstuff) PLUS stewed figs, dates and apricots. YUM!
I became so enamoured with foul for breakfast that my driver and friend Mohannad took me to a little restaurant that serves a really amazing, tasty, blow-your-mind, way-better-than-the-hotel traditional version – and I couldn’t help but take a pic (above). It was served with chopped tomatoes, tahini and about half a cup of olive oil – seriously. It was EPIC, so tasty, and soon after eating I had to retire back to the hotel for a small lie-down. It kept me full till dinner, and with the felafel only cost like AUD$3. (Funnily enough that is the only felafel I ate my entire trip.)
Mohannad also took me to a Syrian restaurant where I almost blew my load over a chickpea fatteh dish served with warm puffy bread. On another day I was drooling over tadiq in an Iranian restaurant – ‘bottom of the pan rice’ (as mentioned by David Lebovitz here). I will be teaching myself to make foul and fatteh and tadiq very soon.
Starbucks and Caribou were pretty much the best place to get coffee. Le sigh.
In my admittedly limited experience veganism isn’t really hard to manage in UAE. Although meat is often at the centre of a meal, sides are usually vegetarian. Because there isn’t a heavy reliance on dairy, the mezze style of serving up meals means that there’s usually at least one, often many more, vegan options! When Sahar and Zohra and I went to have dinner at our new Emirati friend’s house, we told them we were veg and the meal was naturally vegan, and amazing (chickpea soup, and puffy doughy donut type things, and a sweetish semolina dish – YUM.)
My favourite food moment and indeed one of the best moments of the trip as a whole was discovering Chettagong, an unassuming little drive-in juice bar serving up the incredible drinks. I will go so far as to say, the best juice I have ever tasted. After that first day, my standing order was a large cocktail hold the milk:
Looks unassuming but this is mind-blowing juice. MIND. BLOWING. The fruit is so fresh and juicy, with mango as the main ingredient (say no more?) and bits of strawberry, banana and who knows what else. Creamy, refreshing and delicious. I can taste it now. Magic.