The Perfect Mix of Savoury and Sweet: 9 Must-Try Local Dishes in Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) is known as the birthplace of Islam and home to two of the holiest and most famous mosques in the world, Mecca and Medina. The country also has three UNESCO World Heritage sites – Al Balad, Jabal AlFil, and At-Turaif.
These attractions, plus the diverse landscape, rich history and heritage, and magnificent cultural events, make Saudi Arabia a must-visit place for anyone looking for a grand, unique holiday. In addition, the variety ofSaudi restaurants and local cuisine are cherries on top that make the country a worthy addition to everyone’s bucket list. Let’s take a look at some of the most delicious savoury and sweet dishes in Saudi Arabia.
Arabic Dishes That Will Tickle Your Taste Buds
Whether you’re planning to visit or stay in Saudi Arabia in the near or distant future, make sure you don’t miss out on these well-known, mouth-watering Arabic dishes:
If you want to sample something truly Arabic, try kabsa first, Saudi Arabia’s national dish.
Kabsa is a rice dish with any of the following: chicken, lamb, camel meat, or fish. It also comes with a variety of vegetables and spices, including bay leaves, black limes, cardamom, cinnamon, and saffron.
The rice and other ingredients are then simmered for hours in one pot. The cooking method and combination of the meat, vegetables, and spices give the dish a unique, delightful taste that you won’t ever forget. Traditional kabsa is served on a large platter. It is a dish meant to be shared and eaten with the hands, without utensils. However, many restaurants in Saudi serve this dish in smaller portions, which is good for one or two diners.
This traditional Arabic dish from the Hijaz region of Saudi is made of short-grain rice cooked in chicken or meat stock.
It is a dish with a creamy, porridge-like texture usually eaten during special occasions and colder parts of the year. Rice is cooked in water with broth from the boiled meat to make this dish. The cook will then add milk and butter or ghee to give it a creamy texture and taste. It is left to simmer until it reaches the porridge-like consistency. The beef or chicken is prepared separately. It is usually boiled in water with some spices before it is roasted. The rice is placed on a platter and the roasted beef or chicken is put on top when the dish is ready to be served.
The combination of different flavours and textures from the rice and meat won’t fail to tickle your taste buds. It is also a hearty dish that will make you feel delightfully full after the meal.
Thareed, or tharid, is said to be the Prophet Muhammad’s favourite dish. Because of this, it is often served during the month of Ramadan.
Wikimedia Commons by: Miansari66
This traditional Arabic dish can either be vegetarian or non-vegetarian, which contains meat, usually lamb. Thareed is a stew-like dish containing flatbread, meat, vegetables, and spices cooked in broth for hours. The vegetarian option does not have any proteins.
This hearty, tasty dish can be eaten alone or with a side of rice.
Harees is another staple dish during Ramadan in Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries.It is one of the oldest dishes enjoyed for centuries in the country and Gulf area as well.
Traditional harees is made of coarse ground wheat mixed with water, butter, and meat. This mixture is left to soak overnight. The following day, the mixture is cooked slowly for hours, with the meat and spices, such as cardamom, cinnamon, and cumin, added gradually. Once done, the dish will slightly resemble cooked oatmeal. Chefs often top it with local ghee and fried onions and garlic for additional texture.
Shawarma is one of the most popular fast foods you can eat as a snack or meal in Saudi Arabia. Shawarma is an easy-to-eat and easy-to-hold complete meal consisting of thin slices of chicken or beef or a combination of these two or other meat.
The meat is marinated, then cooked slowly on a spit and basted in their fat and juices for hours, making it succulent and full of flavour. The cooked meat is then layered on top of each other with sliced veggies in pita bread or lafa (a fluffy flatbread) shaped like a cone.
You can have your pick of sauce to add zest to this complete meal.
Gursan is another national dish of Saudi Arabia.
Gursan is made of baked paper-thin sheets of bread placed on top of meat and vegetables. It is then cooked in a broth until it soaks up the natural juices and broth. The resulting dish is a hearty, tasty, and texture-filled stew.
Some restaurants pour sauce on top of the bread with filling and bake it until everything is tender and the flavours come out.
Kunafa or kanafeh is a sweet pastry that comes in different shapes and sizes in Saudi and other Middle Eastern countries.
Kunafa is made of shredded phyllo or semolina strands. It is filled with cream cheese or mozzarella cheese then soaked in sugar syrup. This orange-yellow coloured pastry is usually served hot. You’ll love the combination of crunchy pastry, stretchy cheese, and sweet and savoury flavour when you bite into one.
You can also have your kunafa topped with your choice of nuts for additional texture and taste.
Also known as lugaimat and logma, luqaimats are traditional Arabic desserts that are simple and easy to prepare yet packed with flavour.
Wikimedia Commons by: Wikiemirati
Luqaimats are deep-fried brown dumpling balls. This delicacy is crispy on the outside but soft on the inside. The crunchy, soft pastry is smothered in date syrup and sprinkled with sesame seeds.
In some restaurants, cafeterias, and food stalls, this dessert is topped with honey syrup, sugar, and Nutella.
Maamoul cookies are considered the best traditional Arabic cookies.
They are shortbread butter cookies shaped into little domes. They are filled with dates when made using traditional recipes. These cookies have a buttery, almost melt-in-your-mouth texture that is hard to resist. However, other versions of maamoul contain figs, almonds, pistachios, and walnuts.These cookies go perfectly well with a cup of tea or gahwa (Arabic coffee).
Maamoul cookies are usually served during holidays and parties in Saudi Arabia. Whether you’re having your vacation in Saudi Arabia or relocating here, don’t forget to sample these Arabic treats as you explore and enjoy everything this majestic country has to offer.
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