Citizens, The United Arab Emirates, often referred to as the UAE, is a federation of seven emirates on the eastern side of the Arabian peninsula, at the entrance to the Persian Gulf.
It has coastlines on the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf, with Saudi Arabia to the west and southwest, and Oman to the southeast.
It is a country rich in history and culture. You can find everything here, from the extraordinarily modern malls with crazy entertainment centers in Dubai, to the magnificent desert dunes on the edge of the Empty Quarter.
Emirati cuisine is a blend of many Middle Eastern and Asian cuisines. The traditional food of the United Arab Emirates uses a lot of meat, grain, and dairy. Vegetables are easy to grow in some areas, and are strongly featured in the diet.
Camel milk is highly regarded, so camel meat is normally reserved for special occasions. Saffron, cardamom, turmeric, and thyme are the core flavors used in Emirati cookery.
I made a popular main course meal called Ro-be-yann nashif, which is basically fried shrimps in a fabulous spice paste. This is super flavor packed and the kitchen smells wonderful. The onions are fried in quite a bit of oil, the spices are added and cooked until fragrant, and finally the shrimps are cooked in the onion mixture on low heat. The shrimp remains so moist and have taken on all the flavors. And it is a very quick dish to make. Serve with rice and some veggies.
As noted in the book “The Complete United Arab Emirates Cookbook” by Celia Ann Brock- Al Ansari
This is a very popular main course meal. The dried jumbo shrimps are ideal, but fresh locally caught prawns are just as tasty.
Some people add a little more oil at the frying stage which gives a richer flavour, while others may add one or two finely chopped green chillies during the cooking stage.
When this is served as a luncheon dish it is normally accompanied by plain boiled rice, but as an evening meal, it is more common to serve paratha or chapati bread, hot from the pavement baker.
For the cook who hasn’t ready access to these types of bread, try pita bread which has been warmed in the oven or microwave.
Side dishes of sliced limes and mixed salad would be the normal accompaniments for this modern dish.
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- 1 lb (450gms) fresh shrimp
- 2 large onions, sliced
- ½ cup corn oil
- 1 tablespoon Emirati bzar spice mix, made as follows:
- ⅛ cup black peppercorns
- ⅛ cup cumin seeds
- ⅛ cup coriander seeds
- ½ tbsp. cloves
- ½ tbsp. green cardamom seeds
- 2 small dried chiles de arbol, stemmed
- 1 sticks cinnamon, broken in half
- ½ whole nutmeg, broken into pieces
- ¾ tbsp. ground ginger
- ½ tbsp. ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- pinch of freshly-ground fennel seeds
- 2 garlic cloves crushed
- 1 jalapeño pepper, deseeded and minced
- 1 tablespoon grated loomi (dried lime)
- ½ teaspoon freshly-ground cumin
- 6 curry leaves
- 1 ½ teaspoons tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon grated ginger
- salt to taste
- To make the bzar spice mix:
- Working with one spice at a time, grind peppercorns, cumin, coriander, cloves, cardamom, chiles, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a spice grinder until finely ground; transfer to a bowl and stir in ginger and turmeric. Store in an air-tight container for up to 1 year.
- For the main dish:
- Fresh shrimp should be rinsed, shelled and left to soak in heavily-salted ice water for 20-30 minutes, then rinse and drain.
- Fry onion in oil until brown, then add remaining ingredients except shrimp.
- Fry gently for 2-3 minutes. Add shrimp, and a little chicken stock (preferred) or water if necessary. Turn heat to low and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently to avoid sticking. Watch the shrimp, you don’t want to overcook them!
- Chopped fresh coriander can be sprinkled over the top as a garnish. Serve immediately.
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