This week, we paid a visit to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates for Nokia World 2013 (you can check out our coverage of the event over at Gizmodo). During our brief stay, we got to partake in some authentic Arabic cuisine. Choice items on the menu included camel milk, turkey bacon and uncooked lamb. Read on for our taste-test verdict.
Abu Dhabi picture from Shutterstock
As regular readers of Lifehacker will know, we’re not adverse to sticking weird or unpalatable things in our mouths — from the world’s hottest chili sauce to DIY bacon milkshakes, we’re game to try pretty much anything. I therefore make it a personal mission to sample outlandish cuisine whenever I travel abroad. With that in mind, here are a few of the traditional dishes of the Emirates along with what my heathen taste buds thought of them…
Despite having one of the largest camel populations in the world, Australia has never really gone for camel’s milk. It’s not something you can readily find in local supermarkets or even specialty stores. And yet, it contains antimicrobial proteins that are not present in cow milk, significantly higher amount of iron and vitamin C as well as less lactose and cholesterol. The only explanation is that it must taste absolutely awful.
In fact, it was pretty delicious! The flavour is smooth and creamy with none of that weird aftertaste you sometimes get from goat’s milk. If it was available over here, I’d even consider making it my milk of choice. If you ever get the chance, I strongly recommend trying some.
Pork is hard to come by in Abu Dhabi due to its predominately Muslim population. The breakfast bistro at our hotel got around this by offering turkey rashers, which are made from smoked turkey meat reformed into pan-fried strips. In Australia, the majority of bacon substitutes are of the vegan variety although it is possible to get hold of turkey version if you look hard enough.
Personally, I wouldn’t bother. While it’s a pretty interesting novelty (and contains significantly less fat), turkey bacon isn’t a patch on the real thing — the rashers are drier, less flavoursome and have an unappetising colour ranging from dark pink to grey. Also, bacon is perfect as is — opting for turkey is the equivalent of using square car wheels. Unless your religion demands otherwise, stick to the pig.
Kibbeh Nayeh (raw minced lamb)
One of the delicacies of the United Arab Emirates is raw, minced lamb meat mixed with spices and sprinkled with crushed wheat, capsicum and raw onions. To be honest, I was a bit leery of trying this dish — not because of the “ickiness” factor (it’s basically no different to steak tartare) but due to the higher likelihood of contamination by bacteria compared to cooked meats. As I’m sure you’ll agree, getting food poisoning just before a 14-hour flight generally isn’t recommended!
Despite the risk, I threw caution to the wind and dove in. In hindsight, it probably wasn’t worth the risk. The dish tastes about as palatable as it sounds. The meat has a velvety-soft texture which, while not unpleasant, does drive home the fact that you’re eating an uncooked animal. I barely got through half my plate. I think it’d work better as a dip or bread filling as opposed to straight off the spoon. All in all, it’s probably not something I would order again. (And that’s coming from a guy who willingly ate human placenta.)
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten while traveling abroad? Share your stories in the comments section below!