UAE National Day 2020: A recipe for every day of the long weekend

UAE National Day 2020: A recipe for every day of the long weekend

Try 5 different recipes including an Emirati classic to celebrate UAE's 49th National Day

National Day 2020
The National Day weekend is a time to bond with your family through cooking and learning about new cultures Image Credit: Pexels

In the last 49 years, the UAE has been home to over 200 nationalities. To put it in terms of flavours, there are over 200 different cuisines and culinary traditions tucked away across the nation’s skyscrapers, and bylanes waiting to be discovered. Not to mention the 11,813 restaurants in Dubai alone, according to a 2019 Dubai Economic Department report.

To celebrate the spirit of the nation’s tolerance and its diversity, we’ve rounded up five dishes from five different nationalities (including a quintessential Emirati fish dish) for you to try making at home over the five-day weekend. A dish for a day.

What better way to learn about the UAE’s cosmopolitan makeup and engage with new cultures than through a scrumptious meal?

Jisheed (spiced fish and rice)

Jisheed (spiced fish and rice)
Jisheed (spiced fish and rice) Image Credit: Dubai World Trade Centre

There’s no better way to start celebrating UAE’s National Day than with a dish that serves up distinctive, bold Emirati flavours. Jisheed traditionally consists of minced baby shark, but this recipe by UAE-based Executive Chef Mosleh Ismail from Dubai World Trade Centre sustainably uses sheri (emperor) fish instead. The fish is gorgeously infused with turmeric and the Emirati spice mix Bezar, plus both dried lime and lemon juice for an added depth and complexity of flavours. All beautifully served on a bed of rice. This dish is a taste of tradition, and it sure has got all the winning ingredients.

Preparation time: 25 minutes

Cooking time: 15 minutes

Serves: 2-4 people as a main course


2kg sheri (emperor) fish

1/2 cup corn oil

4 small onions, sliced

1 tbsp garlic cloves, chopped

5 tsp fresh green chilli, chopped

2 pcs bay leaves

3 tbsp Bezar spice mix (to make at home toss whole spices such as peppercorn, cumin, coriander, cloves, cardamom, chilli, cinnamon, nutmeg and turmeric in a pan just until the oils come out.)

3 pieces dried lemon

100gm ghee

2 tbsp ginger, chopped

Salt, to taste

1 tbsp ground turmeric

Lemon juice, to taste

50gm fresh coriander (garnish)


1. Place the sheri in a pot filled with water and boil for a few minutes.

2. Separate the meat from the bones. Tie the meat in a cloth, strain and squeeze to release the as much moisture as you can. Blend the meat until you get a powder-like consistency.

3. In a pan, add oil and sauté the onion until golden, then add garlic and chilli and sauté for a few more minutes.

4. Add the fish and pan-fry for 2-3 minutes, then add the Arabic masala and all the other ingredients except coriander. Mix well and fry until the fish is evenly cooked on both sides.

5. Serve on top of plain white rice and garnish with some ghee or clarified butter and fresh coriander.

- Recipe courtesy Chef Mosleh Ismail, Executive Chef at Dubai World Trade Centre

Butter Chicken (Murgh Makhni)

Butter chicken (murgh makhni)
Butter chicken (murgh makhni) Image Credit: Indego by Vineet, Grosvenor House Dubai

Buttery gravy, cream, velvety tomato puree, tender chicken… murgh makhni screams comfort, and makes for the perfect addition to Day 2 of your long weekend. Despite having originated in northern India, the butter chicken's spicy-sweet appeal doesn't end at India's borders, and finds popularity from Europe to the Middle East. This recipe from chef Irshad Qureshi of Indego by Vineet consists of two marinades for the chicken, which means it packs some serious flavour. No need to shout out that dinner's ready - this dish's heavenly aroma will have everyone racing to the dining table!

Preparation time: 15 mins plus marination time 6 ½ hours

Cooking time: 40 minutes

Serves: 4

For chicken tikka:

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast (600gm) cut into 2 Inch cubes

For the first marinade

1 tbsp ginger paste

1 tbsp garlic paste

1 tbsp lemon juice

Salt, to taste

For the second marinade

100gm Greek yogurt

1 tbsp ginger paste

1 tbsp garlic paste

1 tsp green chilly chop (optional)

1 tbsp lemon juice

½ tsp red chili powder

½ tsp turmeric powder

½ tsp ground cumin

½ tsp ground coriander

3 tbsp vegetable oil

2 teaspoon garam masala

Salt, to taste

For the makhni sauce:

2 tbsp vegetable oil

150gm tomato puree

1 tbsp ginger paste

1 tbsp garlic paste

1 tsp turmeric

¾ tbsp red chilli powder

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

4 green cardamom, whole

1 blade bay leaf

1 tsp dried fenugreek leaves, roasted and powdered

2 tbsp granulated sugar

Salt, to taste

4 tbsp single cream

2 tbsp unsalted butter


Chicken tikka:

1. Put the chicken in a bowl with all the ingredients for the first marinade, rub together and leave to marinate for 30 minutes.

2. Whisk all the ingredients for the second marinade in a bowl and rub it on to the chicken. Leave to marinate in the fridge for 6 hours.

3. Thread the chicken cubes on to skewers and cook on a charcoal grill (alternatively, place on a wire rack and cook in a pre-heated fan-assisted oven at 180⁰C for 9-10 minutes). Remove from heat and leave the chicken to rest for a couple of minutes.

4. For the makhni sauce, mix the vegetable oil, tomato puree, ginger and garlic pastes and all the ground and whole spices except the dried fenugreek in a deep pan. Cook over a medium heat until the mixture bubbles, then add about 2 ½ times its volume of water and bring to a boil. Cover with a lid, boil for 5 minutes, then reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the sugar and salt, then pour in the cream and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for a further 4 minutes. (It’s optional to remove the whole spices at this stage)

5. Stir in the cooked chicken tikka and dried fenugreek leaf powder; simmer on medium heat till done and finish with single cream and butter. Serve hot in a bowl, garnished with swirls of cream.

- Recipe courtesy Chef Irshad Qureshi, Chef de Cuisine at Indego by Vineet, Grosvenor House Dubai

Pandesal (Filipino Milk Bread rolls) & Salted Red Egg Butter

Pandesal Image Credit: Anas Thacharpadikkal/Gulf News

The Pandesal is to Philippines what the croissant is to France. The aroma of freshly-baked (or warmed, if they’re store-bought) pandesals mixed in with coffee are what most Filipino households wake up to. Usually dunked in a strong cup of coffee but as a mid-morning snack, it’s customary to prise apart the fluffy rolls into crumbly chunks and generously smear them with dollops of salted butter to offset the pandesal’s milky sweetness – a flavour that is at odds with its name pan de sal (Spanish for salted bread), a colonial-era bequeathment. The name itself is said to have emerged from a Spanish-Filipino attempt to create a bread that could rival the French baguette.

If you ask any Filipino national, that 16th century dream has well and truly come to fruition as there’s nothing that measures up to the pandesal for a Pinoy.

Paired with the salted duck egg butter – Chef John Buenaventura’s gourmet treatment to the pandesal’s usual companion to this recipe, this just might tempt you to bag away the baguette and forsake all other dinner rolls for a couple of days at least.

Preparation Time: 45 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Serves: 4

For Pandesal Bread 


1kg all-purpose flour

80gm powdered milk

200gm granulated white sugar

1 tbsp salt

2 tsp bread improver

4 tsp dry yeast 

2 large eggs

30gm (2 tbsp) shortening

90gm unsalted butter

¾ cups (450gm) water

3 tbsp coarse bread crumbs


1. Dissolve yeast in warm milk that is at room temperature and add 2 tsp of sugar. Stir to combine. Let the mixture stand 5-10 minutes until yeast has activated and mixture is foamy.

2. In a large bowl mix all the dry ingredients – the flour, milk powder, bread improver, sugar and salt – and set it aside.

3. In a separate bowl, mix the butter, shortening, water and eggs and lightly whisk it. Add the yeast activated milk to this.

4. Now, combine the wet and dry ingredients until it forms a dough.

5. Dust your counter or work surface with flour and knead the dough in a circular motion until all ingredients blend together to form a smooth ball.

6. Check if gluten has formed in your dough – gently tease the dough apart with your fingers and if it forms a thin film as it breaks apart, your dough is ready.

7. Rest your dough for around 20 minutes.

8. Roll the dough out into a log and use a knife to slice it into equal parts of 2 inches.

9. The sliced dough will have tapered ends from the knife pushing down on it. Do not reshape it and retain this slightly oval form which is the key feature that distinguishes pandesal from other white bread rolls.

10. Coat the portioned dough in breadcrumbs for extra crunch and texture. Lay them out on a well-greased baking tray.

11. Proof the portioned dough – cover it with a damp cloth and let it rest for 30 minutes, so the dough rises to become fluffier and airy. At the end of the 30 minutes, your leavened dough will have doubled in size.

12. Preheat oven to 180⁰C. Bake the pandesals for 15-20 minutes until fragrant and golden brown.

For Salted Red Egg Butter

Itlog na pula (which translates to red egg in Tagalog) are a cheerful fuchsia presence in Asian supermarkets and instantly grab eyeballs. Dyed red to distinguish them from unsalted duck eggs, these are usually cured in clay, salt and water.


2 Salted Red Duck Eggs (available in Asian supermarkets)

500gm unsalted butter


1. Let your refrigerated butter sit in a bowl outside until it softens to room temperature. Put the softened stick of butter in a bowl and whisk well to aerate it. The butter turning a lighter shade of yellow is you cue that it has become airy.

2. Peel the salted duck eggs and cut them into halves. If you prefer a chunky texture, throw in the eggs straight into the bowl of butter and mash it up with a fork to blend it in.

3. For a smoother texture pass the yolks through a sieve and blend the smoothened egg paste into the butter with a whisk, fork or spoon for 15 minutes.

4. Refrigerate the egg-mixed butter for 10 minutes so it sets and attains a thicker consistency.

- Recipe courtesy Chef John Buenaventura, Executive Chef at Hilton Abu Dhabi Yas Island

Shepherd’s pie

Shepherd’s pie
Shepherd’s pie Image Credit: Camera Press

This classic British dish has every ingredient to make it the epitome of comfort food - ground meat, check. Mash potato, check. Rich gravy, check. One of Britain’s most beloved dishes, Shepherd’s pie was traditionally made using leftover roast meat. It might take hours to whip up, but it’s comfort in one layered flavour-packed serving. For a twist, you can also use beef to make this into a cottage pie.

Prep time: 20 mins

Cooking time: 11 hours

Serves: 4


3 medium carrots, chopped coarsely

3 stalks celery, trimmed, chopped coarsely

1 large onion, chopped coarsely

2 cloved garlic, crushed

4 sprigs fresh thyme

2 sprigs fresh rosemary

3/4 cup tomato paste

2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

2 ½ cups beef stock

1.5kg lamb shoulder

½ cup frozen peas

150gm baby spinach leaves

1 tbsp cornflour (corn starch)

1 tbsp water

800gm potatoes, chopped coarsely

40gm butter

½ cup hot milk

½ cup coarsely grated cheddar


1. Combine carrot, celery, onion, garlic, herbs, paste, sauce and stock in a 5-litre slow cooker. Add lamb, turn to coat in mixture. Cook, covered, on high for about 2 hours. Reduce to low, cook for about 8 hours.

2. Remove lamb from cooker; shred meat coarsely, discard fat and bones. Discard herbs from cooker. Return lamb to cooker with peas and spinach.

3. Blend cornflour and the water in a small cup, stir into cooker; cook, uncovered, on high, for 20 minutes or until thickened. Season to taste.

4. Meanwhile, boil, steam or microwave potato until tender; drain. Mash potato with butter and milk until smooth; season to taste.

5. Preheat grill.

6. Transfer lamb to a 2.5 litre ovenproof dish. Spoon potato over lamb mixture; sprinkle with cheddar. Grill for 5 minutes or until top is browned lightly.

7. Serve with green leafy salad or coleslaw.

- Recipe courtesy Camera Press

Sweet pumpkin and coconut pudding (Fak Thong Gang Buad)

Sweet pumpkin and coconut pudding (Fak Thong Gang Buad)
Sweet pumpkin and coconut pudding (Fak Thong Gang Buad) Image Credit: Anas Thacharpadikkal/Gulf News

Why dig into a sugar-rich fruit salad when vegetables make an equally deliciously similar yet nourishing sweet treat? This speedy dessert falls under the gang buad variant of Thai desserts where vegetables or fruits, and in some cases legumes, are simmered in creamy coconut milk. Other ingredients that can be added to this dessert if you’re reeling from a post-Halloween pumpkin overdose are taro and bananas. Traditionally though, this dessert doesn’t include sago but Chef Wichit Panyo’s (Chef de Cuisine at Benjarong, Dusit Thani) interpretation throws in a liberal helping of the chewy pearls. It props the dish up with some bite when the pumpkins dissolve into a melt-in-your-mouth mushiness with every spoonful.

Cooking and preparation time: 15 minutes

Serves: 1


200gm pumpkin, peeled and diced into 1-inch cubes

200gm coconut milk

50gm (3 tbsp) palm sugar

1 pandan leaf

50gm (3-4 tbsp) sago

3 pcs gelatine sheet

20ml (4 tsp) pandan essence (available in supermarkets)

20gm (4 tsp) white sugar


1. Soak the gelatine sheet in cold water. Meanwhile, heat the coconut milk in a saucepan.

2. Once the milk starts simmering, add the pumpkin pieces, palm sugar and pandan leaf. Leave it on low heat until the pumpkin is cooked through but ensure they aren’t soggy.

3. Mix in the diluted gelatine into the saucepan and stir until it blends well.

4. Pour the gelatine-infused pudding into any freezer-safe silicon moulds of your choice of shape, and refrigerate to set.

5. While the coconut pudding sets, cook the sago in boiling water and cook until the sago pearls become translucent. About 10 minutes should do.

6. In a separate bowl, mix the cooked sago, pandan essence and white sugar.

7. Remove the set pudding from the moulds and plate them with the sweetened sago.

- Recipe courtesy Chef Wichit Panyo, Chef de Cuisine at Benjarong, Dusit Thani

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