Dining on cuisines from around the world is one of the “musts” when visiting Dubai. The city is a gourmet metropolis that offers the best Arab fare and the most popular flavors from different parts of the globe.
In recent years, this great food city has fallen in love with Filipino food which is a delightful amalgamation of everything from Spanish to Chinese, Indian, Malay, and American flavours. Home to about 450,000 Filipinos or 21.3 percent of Dubai’s population, Filipino restaurants emerged to cater to the discriminating palate of Filipinos (also known as Pinoys).
At first, there were only small family-owned canteens that offered home-cooked meals. In the last 20 years, however, top restaurant chains from the Philippines such as Barrio Fiesta Buffet, Jollibee and Max’s Restaurant have crossed the seas as well. This is to satisfy the demand for Filipino food from an expanding market that’s no longer restricted to Filipinos working in the city.
The Growing Love for Filipino Fare
Gourmands and famous international chefs rave about Filipino food. Many are impressed at how humble ingredients are turned into dishes that are beautifully colorful and incredibly savory.
Likewise, they enjoy the “counterpoint” feature of Philippine cuisine. This is perfectly demonstrated in the common pairings of sweet with something salty, such as the famous sweet rice cake or puto that’s topped with salted egg, or champurrado (sweet cocoa rice porridge) and dilis or tuyo (two kinds of salted dried fish).
Famous people who love Filipino dishes include Anthony Bourdain, a renowned chef, author, and travel show host who is a big fan of sisig (a pork hash consisting of diced-up pork face, ears, cheeks and snout, served sizzling hot with raw egg that pairs well with rice and beer), and Andrew Zimmern, also a chef and television personality. Zimmern has sampled sisig and other Filipino delicacies both in the Philippines and abroad.
Top Dining Places to Sample Philippine Cuisine
There is a long list of Filipino restaurants in Dubai. If you’re sampling this unique cuisine for the first time, here are five of the highly recommended dining establishments to try.
You can find this fast food restaurant in several locations in Dubai. It’s family-friendly and it has offerings that are familiar to foreigners such as spaghetti, crispy fried chicken (Chicken Joy), hamburgers, hotdogs, and others, but all of these are given a Filipino twist. Jollibee also has authentically Pinoy items as well such as palabok and halo-halo.
2. Max’s Fried Chicken Restaurant
This is another wholesome dining establishment that’s considered a classic by Pinoys. Foreigners who are taken here by Filipino friends always have something good to say about the menu items of Max’s, which include kare-kare (a stew of beef, tripe or oxtail in a rich peanut sauce with fish paste served on the side), sinigang (sour soup with pork, beef, seafood or chicken), chicken sisig, and many other dishes that never fail to tickle the palate of diners.
Another thing many appreciate about Max’s is that it regularly comes out with special menu inclusions. These are limited period items that never fail to excite and delight diners.
3. Barrio Fiesta
Every Barrio Fiesta restaurant will automatically take you to the Philippines. The interior design showcases iconic components of Filipino culture, such as colorful bunting, capiz (shells) lighting, jeepney décor, and tribal masks. As for the food, you’ll get treated to ingredients that are most commonly found in the Philippines and other tropical countries of Southeast Asia.
This is another popular fast food restaurant from the Philippines but its offerings are mostly Chinese dishes that Filipinos adopted.
You’ll enjoy the different noodle soups, the Chinese-style fried chicken, and the all-time favorite desserts, buchi (a sweet rice cake covered intoasted sesame seeds, with a sweet bean paste filling), and halo-halo (cold dessert with shaved ice, milk, sugar, a scoop of ice cream, and a variety of sliced fruits, flan or custard, and ube or purple yam jam).
This is a top destination for Filipinos and their foreign friends. Lamesa at Al Muraqqabat offers a casual dining experience that’s packed with Filipino and other Asian cuisines.
If you’re looking for a place that serves good pork in a city where pork dishes are not easily accessible, this is the place to go with its lechon kawali (deep fried pork belly), crispy pata (boiled and then deep fried pork leg or knuckle), and pork sinigang.
There’s no doubt that Dubai offers a kaleidoscope of dining possibilities. So, if you’re interested in specific cuisines, such as Filipino, you will certainly not be disappointed.
Kumar Samtani is the co-founder of MenuPages.ae. With an educational background in Industrial & Operations Engineering from the prestigious University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Kumar’s expertise lies in process improvement & operations management for all types of organizations. He is also an experienced entrepreneur with business interests in consumer goods, hospitality supplies & real estate.
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