MUST-TRY AUTHENTIC EATS OF SAUDI ARABIA
One of the primal joys of travel is the discovery of new food. That delectable moment where you see something wholly unknown to you and taste it for yourself is the culinary equivalent of stepping out onto the surface of the moon — it’s chicken masala for the soul. Nowhere is quite as rich with untried dishes for the western world than Saudi Arabia. After all, they only just recently opened their borders for tourism. Sure, there are plenty of tried-and-true possibilities for you to order when visiting (we’re looking at you, sambousek, falafel and shwarma), but consider seeking out some of the below dishes to feed your sense of curiosity. You’ll be thankful that you did.
This is a far cry from your typical American latte, and the perfect pick-me-up to start your day. Qahwa (or Gahwa in some spellings) is Arabica bean coffee, ground and mixed with a medley of spices (typically cardamom, saffron, cinnamon and cloves). In addition to supplying a morning caffeine fix, Qahwa is served as a symbol of hospitality when greeting visitors and is therefore available all night and day (and often served with dates). Because the spices lend themselves to such a strong flavor, the beverage is typically served in small cups.
Camel milk has been integral to the Bedouin desert-dwelling lifestyle for millennia. The beverage provides a good source of fat, protein and vitamins, in addition to a rather smoky and nutty flavor. And besides, how many chances in life are you going to have to try a unique cultural delicacy like this?
One of the country’s most popular breakfast dishes, Shakshuka serves as a savory start to your day. Eggs are poached in a tomato-based sauce, with onions, olive oil, paprika and cumin swimming in between.
Think of these as “Saudi Arabian pancakes” — except, instead of simply being a dish in and of itself, murtabak is filled with flavors. Savory options can be stuffed with egg, cheese, curry and various herbs, while sweet possibilities might contain crushed peanuts, chocolate sprinkles or sugar.
If there was one absolute must-try dish while visiting this country, it would be kabsa. As the national dish of Saudi Arabia, kabsa is prevalent on almost all eatery menus. Consisting of spiced rice and meat (or fish) on a large platter, this dish’s secret savoriness comes from the fact that the water that was used to cook the meat is then used to cook the rice — efficiency at its finest! For a truly authentic experience, put down your spoon and eat this with only your right hand.
Saleeg is a prime example of the individual ingredients adding up to flavor greater than the sum of the parts. Its construction is similar to kabsa: Meat is boiled with spices (think cinnamon, cardamom and black pepper), then the rice is cooked in that flavorful broth. From there, the meat is plated atop the rice, and possibly served with spicy tomato sauce and a helping of ghee as a garnish. Some palates have compared saleeg to Italian risotto.
The unofficial king of all savory oatmeal. Wheat is crushed and boiled before being cooked with rice, meat and a who’s-who of your spice rack (think parsley, cumin and coriander). You’ll find this more often during the month of Ramadan, as it is a popular dish for breaking fast.
The ideal scrumptious sweet to share with friends or enjoy with a cup of qahwa. Ma’amoul are shortbread butter cookies with various fillings — walnuts, figs, pistachios, almonds — but the most popular choice in Saudi Arabia is dates. Date ma’amoul cookies are a staple during holidays and celebrations.
Did this list get you salivating at the idea of a vacation to Saudi Arabia? Saudi Arabia is many things … and new to tourism is one of them. Navigating this country isn’t as simple as popping over to the U.K.; the assurance of a travel professional like me using my expertise to smooth over any complications before they can arise is literally priceless.
By Guest Contributor - Dec 01, 2022