Tuesday, November 19, 2013

"Mina Simeena Mithl 3ajeena" - Persian Dill & Lima Bean Rice

Photo credit to theshiksa.com

If you know Arabic, you can understand what the title means but not sure why I've put it. And if you don't know Arabic, you're just staring at a yummy photo of rice - and that might be enough :)

Basically, while I was a child growing up, I used to be very chubby and my skin was very white so my family decided to make a little jingle that goes like, "Mina Simeena mithl 3ajeena" which translates to, Chubby Mina like flour (cooking flour). I guess it was fine to call me chubby because it was in a song, right? 

So I decided it would only be appropriate to give praise to the yummy dishes that I used to feast on growing up, and still do enjoy them occasionally. I mean after all, there was a song involved so I think it's necessary...

The first dish that comes to mind is Persian Dill & Lima Bean Rice with Chicken and a cucumber/yogurt salad. The title self-explains what the dish consists of. So simple but so tasty. But let me tell you that the rice is the star of the dish. I used to always gobble up just the rice with the salad on top, and sometimes without, and be a happy camper. I always tell my mom when she's making it, the more dill, the better. It makes the rice greener, give beautiful fragrance and the taste is just unbeatable. I absolutely love this herb - it always livens up a dish, even with chicken, salmon and vegetables.

In Persian, this dish is called Baghali Polo, similar to Arabic as we say Timan o Baghila, meaning Rice and Lima Beans. One prized bit about this dish is the crispy part of the rice at the bottom of the pot which is actually not as easy as I thought to get perfectly. I know that in Iranian cooking, they like to add saffron to the bottom to get a yellow tinge crust which makes it look even more appealing when you unveil the rice upside down from the pot to your serving dish. The crispy part in Persian is known as tahdig and in Arabic, hakaaka. It is said that the talent of the cook is measured on their ability to produce quality tahdig/hakaaka. No pressure?

Photo credit to theshiksa.com

Have you guys tried this dish before? What dishes take you back to your childhood?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Home Sweet Home: Lamb Qeema (Minced Meat) with Saffron Rice

Lamb Qeema (Minced Meat) with Saffron Rice

Every once in a while, my mom whips out a traditional Middle Eastern dish (or feast I should say). It's usually a dish that takes a little more time (or a couple more hours) than the day to day meals we typically have on the busy weekdays. 

This past Friday, my mom treated us to a delicious Lamb Qeema served with Saffron infused rice. Delicious might be an understatement.

This dish is primarily a curry but without the runny sauce - it's more of a reduced sauce that's stuck to the meat without the liquid (Did that make sense?)

If I were to describe it, I'd say it's pulled lamb with a million and one different spices pressure-cooked for hours in a tomato based curry (hold the sauce). Some of the spices included are cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, preserved lemon, garam masala, chilli, coriander seed ... - it's kind of like all the spices you can think of? There are many different variations of this dish and the one that my mom prepared, she added lentils. But not too many. The star of the dish is the saucy (hold the sauce) meat. Just go with it.

One thing my mom taught me about this particular dish is that when you're cooking the meat in the pot while it's simmering away, you should stir it with your wooden spoon and make one wish while continuing to stir. I'm not exactly sure where this tradition has come from but we all took turns stirring and planting our wishes in there. Let's see what happens? By the way, have you guys ever heard about this or tried it? 

Wishes simmering away...

Any who, I surfed the web and saw that there are so many versions of this dish usually stemming from Middle Eastern, Indian, Mexican and Pakistani flavors. Some like to add potatoes, peas and different minimal veggies. Definitely makes sense since we all share most of the same spices that goes in this dish.

And here's my first (of many) servings of Mama's Lamb Qeema:

From FeedMyTasteBuds Instagram

To follow me on Instagram and see my food diary on the regular, please follow me on www.instagram.com/feedmytastebuds

Friday, November 15, 2013

Take me away to... Spain

I thought it would be interesting to do a tasty travel wish of the month to a place where I haven't been to yet or would love to go back to.
This month, I have my wishes set out on EspaƱa!
Besides the culture, beaches and beautiful colors, here's a couple of dishes my taste buds are lusting after...

Pisto Manchego

Coming from the region of Murcia and La Mancha, Pisto Manchego consists of tomatoes, onions, eggplants or courgettes/zucchinis and red pepper in olive oil. In some parts of Spain, they like to top it with a lightly scrambled egg. I can picture eating this in a cute village sharing it among family and friends. Delish!

Patatas Bravas

This falls under Spanish tapas and is usually served in bars or small restaurants. Fried potatoes in a spicy tomato sauce. There is something similar to this called "Batata Harra" in Lebanese cuisine which has potatoes mixed with garlic, chili, coriander and fried together in olive oil.


Empinadas! Golden pastry stuffed with either beef/chorizo/chicken/veggies. I have a sweet spot in my heart for savory pastries and this fits just perfectly.

Gambas Ajillo

Shrimp, garlic, paprika, olive oil, parsley = yummy tapa!

Seafood Paella

Paellas are like a celebration on a dish. So many flavors, colors and I do very much love the sharing concept of it too. I have tried a couple of paellas and I feel I haven't had the best one yet - probably because I need to go to Spain and have it there!


Always served in a pitcher, Sangria consists of red wine, chopped fresh fruit, a sweetener and either 7 UP/Sprite. Set against a nice beach, cool breeze, good company and you're good to go... :)

Churros with hot chocolate dipping sauce

Finish off my travel dream with a sweet. Churros are often referred to as the Spanish doughnut. It's basically a fried dough pastry sprinkled with sugar and served with a chocolate sauce. These babies are all over Spain from street vendors to restaurants and can be eaten as a breakfast, lunch, dinner or casual snack.

Have you guys been to Spain? What did you eat? Any recommendations?

P.S. All pictures are credited to Pinterest. To follow my full travel wish diary and many more, please follow me on Pinterest! You can find me on www.pinterest.com/minaghulam

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Tips & Tricks - Saltier for sweeter?

Photo credit to blog.khymos.org

Did you know that adding salt to your fruit can make it taste sweeter?

I didn't know this until recently and tried it on pineapples and it definitely brought out their flavor!

It's practiced a lot around the world and in many countries, they apply different toppings to their fruits to enhance their sweetness or flavor.

Here are a few examples:
In Mexico - they use lime, salt & chili
In Philippines - they use soy sauce
Taiwan - they use dried prune powder
In several parts of Asia - they place their cut up fruit in a bath of salted water

Next time you have fruit (especially unripe ones), try adding a tiny amount of salt and see what the difference is!

Note: Don't go crazy with the salt as this might end up taking away from the taste of the actual fruit!

Have you guys tried this before? What fruit did it work well with?

Rated: Mom's Food Restaurant

Photo credit to Mom's Food Facebook Page

I've heard about Mom's Food Restaurant and drove by every time I left from JBR but haven't had the chance to try it until a couple of days ago. It's situated right next to Park Island Residence on the street behind JBR - The Walk.

We made a reservation for 6 outside as the weather is getting nice and cool in Dubai. Once we arrived, our table was ready and staff was very accommodating (I don't know if it's just my mom but whenever we go out, regardless if we have a reservation or restaurant is full, the mission or hunt I should say, for the best table begins: which view should we look at, what's the best noise level, will the staff see us from this table and the list goes on... Maybe this is where I get my critiquing/reviewing skills - hmm).

Ok. Back to the review!

The first thing I do usually is evaluate the overall concept of the restaurant and if it's really aiming for what it's communicating in terms of cuisine, ambiance, music, decor etc. Mom's Food message is home-style cooking with Mediterranean cuisine. However, the restaurant did look like pretty much any Lebanese restaurant - Nancy Ajram playing in the background, the sheeshas and the menu includes 90% Lebanese food with the occasional Seafood Paella, Greek Moussaka and Quattro Staggioni "Saj". That was a little bit confusing.

On to the food, we grabbed an array of Mezzas (or Arabic starters for anyone outside Dubai). We chose tabbouleh, fattoush, baba ghanouj, Mom's kubba, hindbeh and Mom's hommos. The starters were served with fresh baked bread which was nice and hot and assorted pickles & olives. I have this thing wherever I go that if hommos is served, I have to try it. I have to always try the hommos. I don't know why but I have to compare it and see if it's good. Once I saw that they served a "Mom's hommos", I thought I should definitely give it a try. 

The starters came pretty fast which left a good impression of the promptness of service for the rest of the meal. The baba ghanouj, kubba, hindbeh and Mom's hommos were very good. The hommos was topped with fried almonds and cumin (Although it did say parsley as well in the menu but I guess they were out of parsley?) The only thing I would add to it is one more drizzle of olive oil as it needed a little more smoothness to garnish but nonetheless, still munched it down. Also, make sure to order extra pomegranate syrup to top off your baba ghanouj - takes it to a whole different yum level.  Since I am quite a fan of tabbouleh, I've had a couple of them in my day and I have to say that their's is not the best and did lack some seasoning. Fattoush was also a little dry.

Mom's Hommos 
Tabbouleh and assorted pickles & olives
Left-right: Baba Ghanouj, Fattoush, Hindbeh
Mom's Kubba
When ordering the main courses, I was eyeing the Sea Food Moghrabeah which was explained to me as fresh shellfish and hamour with wheat dough mini balls - sounded interesting. However, after I was ready to order it, the waiter noted that they top it off with cheese. Then I got turned off. The idea of cheese melted on seafood doesn't sound quite right to me. Anyways, our waiter also pointed out that dishes served in pots are good for two so we decided to order one Chicken Bil Hommos Fatteh and one Chicken Barley Bake as these two come in pots as well as two Sheesh Tawook. I'm quite glad we were informed on the portion sizes as the mezzas were already leaving us almost full.

The main dishes came out pretty quickly like the starters which was positive. Our Chicken Fatteh was quite disappointing as it was drenched in oil and was too heavy to eat after 3 bites. Also, the chicken was very dry and rubbery. If you're planning to try the Fatteh, I suggest trying it with the meat. I can also recommend that this dish could be for 3-4 people especially after having starters prior to it. For the Chicken and Barley Bake, it was quite tasty and had a sweet kick to it as there was a strong cinnamon flavor to it. If you don't enjoy sweet with savory food and need sauce in your meal, then this isn't for you. The sheesh tawook were very good and fresh. The chicken was quite tender so it was a little frustrating why the chicken in the Fatteh was very hard. I would recommend for future to go for the Lebanese grills as I think that's more of their specialty.

Chicken Bil Hommos Fatteh
Chicken & Barley Bake

Grilled Shish Tawook

 After being very much stuffed, we decided to end the night with a fruit platter instead of desserts and a pot of Moroccan tea. I have to say that a lot of the time when I see fruits at restaurants, even high-end buffets, their fruit are always colorless and not ripe. This platter however was so vibrant and sweet - the mangoes literally melted in your mouth. Wash it down with a cup (or three) of Moroccan tea in the breezy weather and you're good to go.

Fruit Platter

Morrocan Tea Pot

Total price breakdown below (for 6):
1 x Tabbouleh = 20
1 x Baba Ghanouj = 20
1 x Mom's Hommos = 24
1 x Fattoush = 20
1 x Hindbeh = 20
1 x Mom's Kubba = 28
2 x Sheesh Tawook = 46 x 2 = 92
1 x Chicken Fatteh = 25
1 x Chicken and Barley Bake = 50
1 x Fruit Platter = 30
1 x Moroccan tea = 22
1 x Large Still Water = 10
Total (AED) = 361

All in all, the outdoor seating was nice, majority of food was good at decent prices and they have great service. I'd probably go back there again and try out some other dishes!

I've rated Mom's Food a 3.5 out of 5!

Have any of you tried Mom's Food? What would you rate it?

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Ripe - Organic Farmer's Market!

I went to my first farmer's market visit in Dubai - so exciting! I've been to a couple in Europe during travelling but haven't had a chance to check the ones that are in Dubai. Ripe is an organic farmer's market at Dubai garden center which carries fresh and local produce.

Here's my picture diary to take you along...

Walking in to hear beautiful music by the saxophone player made the mood very much chilled and also fun!

Is there anything honestly better than the smell of freshly baked bread? You definitely know I sampled that rye bread. Mmm. Mmm. Mmm! I always find that bread with a lot more bite and crust has so much more character.

Organic and locally made beef & chicken sausages. 

They also carried a certain type of Australian dried meat called "Biltong" (shown in picture of the drying process). The texture is like beef jerky but the taste is almost like a bresaola that's been dried for much longer. If that makes sense :)

Fresh fish caught from the morning!

Seasonal vegetables and fruits. The beetroot on the right was so colorful and clean that my Dad actually uttered out the word "Beefroot" instead of beetroot when trying to call my attention to it! Haha.

Mini bananas (always just so cute) and assorted fruits and nibbles.

Vibrant green greens!

My Dad and I were so inspired after seeing these that we headed back inside the garden center afterwards and picked up Oregano and Basil seeds. So excited to start growing them!

Local fresh herb pot plants - that fresh mint smell was so enticing!

And a little something sweet to finish off your shopping. Selection included marble cake, crumble cake and brownies!

If you haven't checked out the Ripe farmer's market or any in Dubai for that matter, definitely give it a try. Even if you're not a foodie or into local/organic produce, it's a different experience and there's also a restaurant inside overlooking the garden center. After browsing on the Ripe's website, I am definitely eyeing that zucchini and cheese tart recipe! 

I will be checking out what other farmer's markets Dubai has to offer soon so stay tuned!



Thursday, November 7, 2013

"Sha3bi" Shop: Bu Qtair

"Sha3bi" Shop - my features on Dubai's sha3bi restaurants/shops (the restaurants which are on the less glitzy side of Dubai). Sha3bi is an Arabic word that means popular and is used when talking about smaller, street type of eateries.

I have to say that a lot of the time sha3bi food here can be much tastier than a lot of the more pricier places. There's something very different about the full experience when you're at a simple shack that you really look forward to after being out on the town going to the typical restaurant. 

When it comes to these types of places, it really helps if you have friends or know people that know their way around Dubai so they can direct you to these hidden yummy spots - or once you stay tuned, I will fill you in on! :)

Last night I had my first experience at the much raved about Bu Qtair in Jumeirah, right next to Burj al Arab hotel. I was told that this place has great fresh fish that is caught every morning and is served through out the day and night.  

Photo credit to TimeoutDubai
The restaurant is basically a small hut where they cook the food and plastic chairs for families and friends to sit on. 

The cool concept of ordering food is you stand in line and place your order in the restaurant and then sit on the stools in the waiting area. Once your food is ready, you are then given a table which was kind of interesting!

Their menu has fresh prawns, hammour and sherry fish - all marinated indian spices and fried. They also serve a curry sauce, onions & lemon and parathas to order.

Marinated fried prawns

Sherry fish and toppings

Sherry fish and toppings

Hammour fish

To put it simply, 1 kilo of prawns + 2 sherry fish + 1 hammour = 7 very very happy eaters. 

The spices were extremely tasty and made the fish super crispy. The fish, specifically the hammour was so tender it melted in your mouth. That was my favorite! All in all, with the weather in Dubai getting cooler at night, this place is something definitely to try with family and friends at this time! Also, the surroundings of the beach and boats while you're eating seafood kind of tops it off!

What do you guys think? Have any of you tried Bu Qtair?

Note: this isn't the healthiest of food so it's definitely for once in a while and be ready to get your hands messy because that's the only way to do it! 



Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Here it goes.

Hello... world :)

This feels a little weird but also very exciting!

I can officially say that this is my first blog post ever (well, I did do a blog post during university for media class but that was kind of a fail). Anyways, I am very excited to finally start something to do with my one and only love, food.

Food, food, food. :)

Anyone that knows me can guarantee you that I've had moments where I would be having my own conversation about the food I've just had, about to eat, or dreaming to eat (My Aunt's Xmas Turkey - mmm drool.................. wait what were we talking about?) Oh yea - Food! (See what I mean?)

Ever since I was a baby, my mom would always tell me that I would be constantly crying because I was hungry. I was always stuck to her as she was, back then, my only food source (TMI - sorry). Growing up as a child, I somehow was very picky about the food I ate and went through a phase where my mom would have to cook something different than to what the rest of my family would eat almost everyday. This phase lingered on to my early teenage years. Looking back now, I honestly have no idea why I was so picky because I can eat anything and everything and love many different types of food now. Once university came into place, I was pretty much enjoying everything and started to develop a real passion for trying new things. Being a part of the Middle Eastern culture, you can't help but become infatuated with food, eating out and taking that same mind set when you travel.

So let's get down to the wire and ask the real question, why am I starting a food blog and who am I? I'm 23 years old, living in Dubai and originally from Iraq. I've lived in Libya, Canada, and Dubai (longest here in Dubai) and I've been privileged to travel to many countries, although still many, many more to see. I've come to a point of realization that I'm happiest when I'm around food. I'm constantly watching, trying and learning about food almost all the time. I have to say that one of the biggest inspirations for this blog was my recent Family trip to Italy. I believe that Italian food is one of the best cuisines mainly because of the freshness and simplicity of their dishes. Being in Italy and getting to try their home-cooked, fresh food in their surroundings and culture pretty much blew my mind. I fell in love with the place and I feel like I fell in love with food all over again (if that was even possible).

I know that this post probably seems way too long but this is just to start and get things rolling! I promise I will be sharing many more interesting segments, videos, reviews and lots more so stay tuned. And since this is a food blog, I'm sure we need to drool over some photo right about now so I thought I'd share with you my favorite meal from my Italy trip.

Linguine all'astice e pomodoro / Linguine with lobster and tomato

One last thing, to all reading this that don't know me, thank you for taking the time to read this and I hope you stick around for more!