If you, like me, have a passion for shawarma that rivals all – these are 6 of the best spots in Dubai you can’t afford to miss on your next trip in the city!
Best described as the sweet spot between love and lust, with meat lovingly tossed in garlic paste/tahini, and placed in the gentle embrace of a warm khubz (pita bread), shawarma is an emotion.
Between Dubai’s rising global status and Iron Man’s mention of the dish several years ago, the humble shawarma (or shawerma) has grown in popularity immensely over the years. From bowls to wraps and burritos, there is a shawarma variation of almost anything the culinary world considers trendy.
A popular Levantine Arab street food, shawarma consists of meat cut into thin slices typically served with garlic sauce, pickles, and fries. There are several variations to the same across regions, however, the shawarma technique of meat preparation remains uniform. The marinated meat is stacked in a cone-like shape, roasted on a slow-turning vertical rotisserie or spit before being sliced off for the final dish.
With its origins somewhere in the 19th century of the Ottoman Empire (parts of Turkey), both Greek gyros and the Mexican tacos al pastor are popular cousins of the dish. Another common version of a shawarma is the Israeli style of preparation, that substitutes chicken with darker meat options, and garlic paste with tahini or hummus, alongside some pickled vegetables.
In spite of not being a traditional part of UAE’s culinary culture, the dish has earned its spot as a delicious and super quick kerbside snack. There’s a shawarma shop at almost every turn, each offering its own take on the classic. Being pocket-friendly doesn’t hurt its reputation either, making it the perfect snack for everyone from hungry school-goers to tourists.
As an NRI currently based out of India, my one bone to pick with the country is all the criminal ways in which they continue to desecrate the shawarma. So on every visit to Dubai, I’m sure to load up on enough and even carry some back home. That being said, here are 6 spots you can’t afford to miss the next time you’re in town and craving a delicious hot shawarma to-go!
An international chain of fast food restaurants, Al Farooj’s roots in UAE trace all the way back to 1994. Since then, they’ve grown to have 14 branches across the Emirates, each one a popular haunt for shawarma lovers.
Their best selling dishes include the Shawarma Saj Platter, Original Shawarma Combo, Shawarma Saj Platter Combo, and the Shawarma Box, although you can’t go wrong with a simple spicy shawarma! They also have a delicious selection of Grills on offer, each as tempting as the last.
Priced moderately at Dhs 7, these french fry stuffed shawarmas are to die-for. And you can hold me to it.
For Sharjah kids, a trip to Al Qasba (a cultural landmark) would always be incomplete without a shawarma from Laffah. Since its first cafeteria there, the outlet’s popularity has grown leaps and bounds, with five branches as of this time across Dubai and Sharjah.
With a focus on Syrian cuisine, the shawarmas and broasted chicken you get here are prepared in an authentic Syrian style according to the restaurant. The thinly sliced chicken is seasoned in a beautiful rub – spicy yet sweet, peppery yet fragrant – and rolled between thin bread and slathered in sauce before being toasted between a hot-press for a crisp finish.
In keeping with their commitment to making good food accessible, the shawarmas here too start off at Dhs 7. A definite topper on shawarma lists!
Belad Al Sham
Nestled in an unsuspecting corner of the road at Al Twar, Dubai, Belad Al Sham is unassuming at first. It looks like every other typical Arabic joint, and you know you won’t be disappointed as far as the chicken and meat grills are concerned.
What you won’t expect is how mind-blowing their shawarmas can get. Be it in a wrap, in a platter, chicken or beef, or all of the above – there’s no wrong way to eat your shawarma right. They also have a wide range of meat wraps, one of the highlights on the menu. Unlike most places, Belad Al Sham is open to lovers of the dish even past midnight, making shawarma accessible for the real 1 am cravings.
A fairly new entrant on the scene, this particular UAE outlet has already clawed its way onto many shawarma lovers’ lists.
In spite of serving an array of Lebanese dishes on the menu, it’s the shawarmas that keep you coming back to Allo Beirut. Go beef, go chicken, or go for either on a platter instead of wrapped and ready.
A controversial offering at Allo Beirut is the choice to have your shawarma on freshly baked saj as opposed to classic Arabic bread. While I’m not getting into which one’s better (khubz, of course khubz), their shawarmas still pack a flavourful punch. While ten bucks get you a small one, it could cost you up to 19 dirhams for a large chicken shawarma. Which is pretty up there as far as the humble snack is concerned.
But hey, you are what you eat, and you don’t want to compromise on that!
Think of Al Hallab’s shawarmas as that rich NRI aunt who’s essentially the same as the rest of them. But not in a bad way.
It’s a level up from the stop your car in the streets and honk at the cafeteria shawarma, but they don’t mess around with the classic flavours. At Dhs 11, you’re still getting all the goodness of a well seasoned Lebanese shawarma, replete with pungent garlic paste and crispy fries. Yep, no shawarma is complete without fries and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Present at 4 different locations across Dubai, you can also indulge in a complete Lebanese meal, and even pack some signature sweets to take home. If it’s your first visit to the Emirate and you’re looking to glam it up a bit, then Al Hallab guarantees you the taste with a little bit of style to go!
Few know that Al Mallah originally kicked off as a humble juice bar in the 70s. Four decades later, the place has come to be the ideal spot for everyone looking to kick back after a long day.
With a delicious shawarma in hand, of course. Their bread is fluffy like only dreams are made of, and the rest is standard protocol delicious. While the Dhs 9 price might have you do a slight double take, it’s more than worth it given the size and supremely stuffed nature of the shawarma. Like their counterparts, you can spend time waiting for your order here just looking at the mouthwateringly efficient assembly line making falafels. To spice things up a bit, you can always get a falafel shawarma too!
Although if you’re in the mood to explore a little, their Garlic Cheese Manakish simply oozes with heavenly flavour, making it one of the best items on their menu!
Bonus: Sultan Al Arab, Al Barsha
Measuring over 20 inches (yep, you read that right!), this shawarma has gone viral across UAE as the biggest one of its kind! Entitled the ‘Sultan’ sized shawarma, it’s definitely fit for a king, and very tasty to boot!
Costing just 18 dirhams, it can easily be split across 2 or more people. Or eaten by one shawarma loving person. Gram-worthy spots are always worth a visit, especially when they justify their deliciousness!