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I was born and raised in Dubai in a home that celebrated dinners around the table. We didn’t go out much, and back then our choices were really limited compared to the foodie capital we live in today. That being said, one restaurant from my childhood I could never forget was China Man. It was this little hidden gem in Karama that literally had four tables and my whole family would gather there and fill up the entire place.
The first dish I ever learned to cook was spaghetti bolognese and it’s still a favourite. For me, it’s the definition of real comfort food.
With Dubai being the food capital it is now, there isn’t just one restaurant I love – I have a few favourites. I’m a fan of pan-Asian cuisine so I often find myself going back to Kinoya, Tan Chà, Hutong and Calicut Paragon, either for Malabar or coastal cuisine. My favourite Dubai opening of late has been SumoSan – the Wagyu Beef Tataki is particularly good.
Being a chef also means that I have a lot of food heroes. Some I know personally, and others I don’t. I love what Chef Izu does and have been watching his journey – I really admire what he’s built in this city. I also really respect Neha Mishra, the founder of Kinoya. I admire her dedication, focus and grit – and of course, I love her ramen.
My most memorable meal was when I was nine years old. My mum, my sister and I had been in Shimla, which is a hill station retreat in India for the summer holidays. We had stayed in an army guest house that had a self-service kitchen. After a long day of walking, my mum cooked up a feast of simple Indian staples – keema matter, which is a dish of spiced minced lamb and peas, band gobi, which is essentially made from cabbage, a simple daal and rotis with Amul butter. I have never forgotten that specific meal. It was magical.
My favourite bar in Dubai is really hard to choose… but I love Blind Tiger – it’s visually stunning, has great live music and a mysterious speak easy vibe. I also like JBs on JBR – it’s a chilled gastro pub that serves good food.
My top Dubai recommendations for dinner are LPM, The Maine, Gaia, Kinoya, Tan Chà, and 3Fils. If you’re looking for something more rustic and down to earth, then Bu Qtair is great for simple but amazing seafood, and I also love Calicut Paragon and Hashmi’s for delicious kebabs. KunLun – out in International City – does great Chinese, too.
After a long, late shift I always reach for instant ramen. Terrible, I know, but so satisfying. I never really get a chance to eat after work – I’m always too tired to make anything. I do sometimes crave a dry but delicious Indomie made with bacon and my friend Avanthi makes one for me occasionally. Also, my favourite take-away snack is a good shawarma. But, if I’m home and I need to grab something quick, nothing beats a ham sandwich!
I love getting my ingredients from 1004 Gourmet. Chang Sup Shin, the owner, has the most delightful store full of incredible ingredients from the far east, with a lovely coffee shop on site too. Strolling the aisles always inspires me to create new recipes. My most used ingredients are probably yuzu, Kafir lime leaves and lemongrass.
A signature dish I’ve been cooking at home recently has been fresh red chili garlic prawns that have been cooked in olive oil and butter, with lots of parsley and a warm baguette on the side. Compared to what we cook and serve our clients, it’s a relatively simple dish – but that’s what I love about it.
My dream dinner guest would be Anthony Bourdain. To be able to cook for him and then eat with him and really have the chance to get into his head would have been a dream. Other than being a celebrated chef, he was also a gifted storyteller; he used his words and the camera lens to transcend cultures through food and human connection.
The secret to a good dinner party is simple – all it needs is great food, flowing drinks, easy music and flowing conversation between guests. If you want to know my drink of choice, it’s a cocktail of gin and water with lots of berries, or a simple glass of rosé.
A dish I always order if it’s on the menu is a Pad Gra Prow – otherwise known as Thai basil beef and any dish cooked or simmered in coconut milk. Equally, I love ramen, or any beautiful broth made with noodles and crispy chilli oil.
My perfect Sunday lunch would consist of pancakes, eggs, bacon and sausages – it instantly takes me back to childhood family brunches at my aunt and uncle’s place every Friday… For a weekend brunch I love to cook up a simple pasta, a beautiful salad and some roasted vegetables on the side.
The most decadent meal I’ve ever had was last year while we were in Cinque Terre with friends. We ended up at a quaint outdoor restaurant run by its owner, who was the most hospitable person who treated us and our wild pack of children like we were in his living room. His vongole was exquisite – as was everything else we ate. And the rosé just added an extra touch of finesse to the already sunkissed afternoon.
My death row dinner would be the curry beef tendon noodle soup from Kau Kee in Hong Kong. I went there for my first wedding anniversary 12 years ago and because my husband, Hemang, got stuck at work, I ended up eating there by myself. Best decision ever.
My food hell consists of a few things – but one of the worst are mozzarella sticks.
For a real dose of Dubai culture, I love going to the spice souk and also Al Serkal Avenue. There’s something so intimate about being at the latter that makes you feel like you’re part of a really special community.
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