If you grew up in the UAE, chances are, your daily diet comprised a chilled laban (yoghurt drink) and a bag of trusty Oman Chips – often enjoyed together and in different variations and a dash of Kraft or Kiri cream cheese.
So was it any surprise that some enterprising minds would pick up this childhood memory and repackage it in a contemporary manner? We look at eight food adaptations that are completely unique to the UAE.
1. Nutella and Oman Chips Regag
On the side of a bustling street in Dubai’s Jumeirah, is a small grocery store that serves a popular Emirati snack with a twist.
Nutella and Oman chips together in a Regag (a crispy crepe-like Emirati delicacy), who would have thought? Regag is a traditional Emirati homemade bread that is typically served for dinner. The word Ragag comes from word raga meaning thin. The dough is made using whole-wheat flour that is sometimes mixed with all purpose flour that contains fine bran, water and salt.
At Al Labeeb Grocery, a store that has existed in Dubai since the 1980’s, you can learn the art of making a crêpe watching an old man, named Shaikh Ismail, who sits in front of a super-hot griddle making fresh regags.
His customers stop by on the side of the road in luxury cars, order and wait patiently. He spreads the unleavened dough and water evenly on the girdle and cooks it until crispy. As it cooks, a thin layer of Nutella is spread on it.
A helper then opens a packet of Chips Oman and they crush the chips on to the crepe. Once crispy it is folded twice into a quarter and handed to you on a paper plate. It all takes under five minutes. What you bite into is a hot crispy outer layer and a mix of chocolate but mildly spicy, crusty stuffing. If you try taking a photo for your Instagram, they will suggest you eat your regag while it is still warm and forget about taking that photo.
2. Hummus Ice-cream Burger
Things often tether on the wild side when you venture into a Scoopi Café branch. The ice-cream parlour has a knack of creating unique blends of everyone’s favourite dessert treat, adding their own spin on traditional flavours that you wouldn’t dream of ever adding to a sweet ending to a meal.
Popcorn ice-cream anyone? Scoopi’s distinctive experiments have turned the popular venue into a hotspot of sorts with dessert aficionados. This is the cue for the café’s ice-cream burger. Snap up a crispy bun, with a dash of liquid nitrogen, and melt in your mouth ice-cream, and you have the perfect recipe for those who dare to try. Warning: this may not be for the faint of heart of the ice-cream purists.
The popular ice-cream has rolled out several far-flung creative imaginations in the past with a hummus ice-cream that captures the flavours of the region’s beloved appetiser, along with India’s paan-flavoured treat, a taste of Japan’s matcha or a whole nachos-inspired menu. Try one out, if you dare.
Prices for each ice-cream concoction varies.
3. Cheetos sandwich/burger
Spicy Cheetos chips pack everything that one would like in a snack, crunchy corn-based puffed up chips with a kick of red spicy coating. What is there not to love?
So when Dubai restaurants started incorporating them into sandwiches and burgers it was nothing less than a genius idea. Currently, there are chicken sandwiches in which the patty is coated in spicy Cheetos before being fried. In some versions, the chips are simply sprinkled on top of the patty before the top bun is placed.
This also comes in the form of beef burgers. But why add chips to sandwiches like these which is not typically considered a burger topping? It’s simple – the chips give a spicy kick to the dish and also add a crunchy texture all in one bite. Have you tried a Cheetos coated burger in in the UAE yet?
Price: Around Dh40
4. Cheetos covered corn on the cob
The UAE is known to take things to the next level and that is exactly what has happened with this version of a Mexican dish. A popular South American corn-based street food called ‘Elote’ has gotten a makeover in Dubai. Elote traditionally consists of cooked sweet corn slathered in a spicy mixture of mayonnaise, sour cream, and chili powder and then sprinkled with cheese. Restaurants in in the UAE have added another layer to the dish – crushed Cheetos. Just like in the Cheetos burgers, the crumbly chips provide a punch of extra spiciness on top of the chili powder as well as the signature crunchy texture. This version of the dish is a corn lover’s dream. Will you be trying it?
Price: At a popular Dubai restaurant it is served at Dh28
5. Oman Chips Sushi
Moshi – Momo & Sushi has combined the flavours of Oman Chips and melted cheese, to bring it to its sushi platter. What you get is the Cheesy Chips Oman. Now wait, before you dismiss this concoction, every bite of the maki roll adds a dash to your childhood days of basking in the flavours of your favourite treat.
For those who want a variation can also try the Cheesy Chicken Chips Oman because why not?
Price: The Cheesy Chips Oman is priced at Dh29, while the chicken add-on is Dh34. Other interesting combinations to try include Falafel, Hummis and Cucumbur maki rolls and the Flamin’ Chicken Cheetos.
6. Paratha with Oman chips
Like the name suggests, this snack has four main ingredients, a warm, flaky paratha (a type of flatbread), a generous spread of processed cheese, a dash of hot sauce and the main ingredient - crushed Chips Oman. Most old cafeterias across the UAE serve this snack that is usually called a Chips Oman sandwich.
HumYum in Umm Suqeim, Abdul Omar Cafeteria near the Eppco gas station by the Dubai-Al Ain highway in Dubai Silicon Oasis and Baith Al Baraka in Abu Dhabi are some of the oldest and most popular cafeterias that serve this popular snack. Many of these cafeterias are run by expats from the Indian state of Kerala. So, the paratha is actually porotta, a layered flatbread that originates from the southern part of the Indian subcontinent. Made with white flour, it is a common street food especially in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and the neighbouring country of Sri Lanka.
As you bite through the flaky outer bread, your taste buds are greeted with thick already creamy cheese, melting in the warmth of the bread, interrupted by the crushed chips and the hot sauce. Dubai expat Rishika Gupta, 33, has one almost every weekend on her “cheat days”. She said: “When I see Chips Oman Sandwich, it is good-bye diet and hello yummy calories.”
There are some varieties too, some restaurants add a layer of egg or a sausage to the regular Chips Oman Sandwich.
Price: Dh 3-5 at cafeterias, Dh10-12 at some restaurants depending on customisations.
7. Cheetos pasta
The simple, yet incredibly cheesy and gooey macaroni and cheese pasta is often considered to be ‘comfort food’ by many. Throw in some flaming hot Cheetos chips, and you’ve got yourself a snack that seems to have gotten popular - Cheetos pasta. This combination might not sound too appealing at first, but not only is it tasty, it is also an Instagram favourite.
How is it served? Most restaurants use Flaming hot Cheetos chips in their signature mac and cheese pasta to make it extra spicy. The Cheetos chips can be added as a garnish or can be mixed together after the mac and cheese is prepared. Another common way to serve it is to crush the chips into a powdery form, and use it as a topping for the pasta. The addition of the Cheetos chips, adds a crunchy texture to the dish.
At Global Village Dubai, food stall Aballii serves a version of the Cheetos pasta, using flaming hot Cheetos that are mixed in the dish and are crushed and added as a topping. They serve the portion in a small Cheetos packet, which adds to the experience of eating it. While it is not for the faint hearted as your taste buds will be put to the test, this messy cheesy dish is definitely worth a try.
Price: Aballii (Global Village Dubai), Cheetos Pasta Dh35, Parkers (Dubai Mall), Mac and Cheetos Dh39.
8. Chai Latte or Chai tea latte
Chai Latte or Chai tea latte is found in most big coffee shop chains and literally translates to ‘tea tea milk’. The ‘chai’ which could be a sweet syrup of spices and black tea or in a powdered form, is served with hot milk.
The drink takes its flavours from the Indian masala chai (spiced tea) but it is the large quantity of milk that makes it different in taste and texture. If you’re a tea drinker, chances are you won’t put more than two spoons of milk in your cup of tea, if not at all. However, in the chai latte, milk dominates the beverage. It is the strong aroma and taste of spices like cardamom and cinnamon that give it its masala tea-flavour. The drink is sweet – some might consider it too sweet, and is also much lighter than a cup of regular tea. While tea is usually had after a meal to help digestion, this beverage might not be easy on an already full stomach. However, if you’re a fan of spices and are looking for a drink that feels like a coffee but tastes like tea, you should try this the next time you find yourself in a coffee shop.