Arabic Foods That We Will Miss Once We Go Back Home

Who doesn’t love food? Or who is not bold enough to sample and indulge the eclectic cuisines in GCC?


Arabic foods are visually appealing. After all, our eyes (and noses) whet our appetite. So if a dish is pleasant to look at, we usually end up tasting it.


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Filipino cuisine is very different from that of the Arabs that we, OFWs in the Gulf slowly adapt to the culture and taste buds of the Middle Easterns as we fulfill our employment contracts.


Wikipedia stated Arabic recipes are often centuries old and reflect the culture of great traders in spices, herbs, and foods. Meals are generally a large family affair with much sharing and a great deal of warmth over the dinner table. Formal dinners and celebrations usually involve large quantities of lamb, and every occasion entails large quantities of Arabic coffee or Arabic tea. The spices and herbs used to make these foods are flavorful and aromatic. I am amazed with these spices because I have only discovered a number of them when I came here in the Gulf.


What I like most about these foods is that they are not only palatable, they are also very filling. These dishes don’t fail to make me salivate every time and I end up with a big smile and full tummy after every meal.


Now, that there is a large number of expats including OFWs and dependents leaving the Kingdom due to Saudization and expensive levy on dependents, this article would remind you of those foods you have enjoyed for years (and made you gain weight) and would surely miss once you leave the scorching desert went back to our humid home for good.



(Ang pagkain ng madaming gutom. Masarap na kanin na may karne)


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It’s like Saudi’s national food. Everybody likes it, no I stand corrected, loves it.


Kabsa is made up of rice, meat, vegetables and spices.  The spices used are largely responsible for its taste; these are generally black pepper, cloves, cardamom, saffron, cinnamon, black lime, bay leaves and nutmeg. The main ingredient that compliments the spices is the meat. The meats used are usually chicken, goat, lamb, camel, beef, fish or shrimp.


It is still fresh in my memory the very first time I tasted this dish.


My husband has been an OFW in the Kingdom for a while before I arrived together with my daughter, and that gave him a chance to explore the Arabic foods beforehand and he introduced this dish to me with a trick.


The habibi brought Kabsa from Al Romansiah, one of most popular restaurants that serve this.  I was stunned with the amount of cooked rice and the chicken (it’s for sharing for 4-5 persons, kung sa Pinas nagtitipid sa kanin, dito parang unlimited).


While we were enjoying the food, my witty hubby uttered “try the grilled chilies, it goes with the chicken and it’s not that spicy, I promise”. With a smile, I bit it and darn my ears felt like they were burning and the hot feeling went straight to my brain (kala ko sasabog ako sa sobrang anghang). I was so mad, he tricked me into eating an Indian chile.


But in spite of my husband’s failed attempt on pranking me, I Iove Kabsa because it is tasty and will make you really full to the brim for an affordable price.


Broasted Chicken

(Fried chicken pero ang kapatner hindi gravy kung hindi garlic mayo)


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If there’s chicken joy or chicken Mcdo back home, here in the Kingdom, there is the famed broasted chicken.


This is one of my favorites. It’s fried chicken but different than our usual. It is chicken rolled in batter with spices then deep fried in pressure fryer.


It is served with pickled cucumber, radish and carrots, French fries and pita bread. The dipping is garlic mayonnaise.


McCoys and Al Baik are the well-known restaurants that offer this meal.



(Ang pagkain ng OFW na nagtitipid kasi malayo pa sahod. Isang order lang panalo ka na dito.)


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There is a difference between the taste of shawarma that are being sold in the Philippines and the shawarma in Saudi Arabia.


Here in the Kingdom, the meat (mostly chicken) are with Arabic spices. Pita (Arabic bread) is the wrapping bread. Aside from the meat, it has fries, onions, pickled cucumber or radish, lettuce and garlic mayonnaise within the wrapped meat.


There are stalls in every streets that offer shawarma but In Riyadh, the most famous restaurants are Mama Noura ,Yamal Asham, Baba Bazil in Sulemaniyah and of course City Food Court in Batha.


This is a take away food , you can eat it anywhere and anytime (pwede pang-almusal, pang-tahalian, merienda o pang-hapunan).


Some of our Kababayans bring this home as pasalubong during vacation for their family to enjoy the unique taste of shawarma from Saudi Arabia.


Arabic Meat Skewers and Grilled Meat

(Ang BBQ nila hindi matamis, kakaiba talaga ang lasa)



Aside from Kabsa, skewered meat cubes BBQ’ed, kebab and grilled meat are the most popular foods in Arab countries. These are well-known cuisines during gatherings.


It has an authentic taste because it is marinated with Arabic spices then grilled in charcoal or oven. Best to be partnered with fattous salad, tabbouleh, hummus and fries.


Foul (pronounced ful)

(Kung may sardinas or cornbeef  na pang palaman sa pandesal, ito naman ang palaman/sawsawan sa flat bread. Ito ang almusal ng bayan)


Photo credit to Pinterest


Every morning, I always see men carrying bunch of flat bread and plastic bag. The bag contains foul madame. This is a breakfast meal good for sharing with family, friends or workmates.


Fūl, is a dish of cooked fava beans served with vegetable oil, cumin, and optionally with chopped parsley, garlic, onion, lemon juice, chili pepper and other vegetable, herb and spice ingredients, and accompanies Arabic bread (kobz).



(Sawsawan/palaman sa tinapay or pang partner sa green salad, kabsa or grilled meat)


A bowl of creamy hummus with olives and pita

Hummus is a Levantine dip or spread made from cooked, mashed chickpeas or other beans, blended with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and garlic. It is an appetizer and dip, hummus is scooped with flatbread, such as pita. It is also served as part of a meze or as an accompaniment to falafel, grilled chicken, fish or eggplant.


This one of my favorite too. Added bonus? It is healthy. Perfect for your vegan or always dieting friend.


Arabic Dessert and Sweets

(Walang kasing tamis, minsan parang arnibal na sa sobrang tamis)


Photo credit to fact-magazine


Arabs have sweet tooth. They love drinking coffee partnered with Arabic sweets or chocolates after meal or break. There are several varieties of Arabian sweets but the popular one are baklava and kunafa. Sweets are best to enjoy with qawa (Arabic coffee) or Turkish Coffee.


Baklava is a rich, sweet dessert pastry made of layers of filo (a very thin unleavened dough) filled with chopped nuts and sweetened and held together with syrup or honey.


Photo credit to : aswaqmecca


Kanafeh (Kunafa) is a traditional Arab dessert made with thin noodle-like pastry, or alternatively fine semolina dough, soaked in sweet, sugar-based syrup, and typically layered with cheese, or with other ingredients such as clotted cream or nuts, depending on the region.



Photo Credit to Maggwire


My former boss always brings these sweets and his famous qawa. We, OFW staff like it so much. This is the same reason why we now have natural added insulation during winter.



(Wala din nito sa Pinas)


Photo credit to puma-catchup


Date palm is very significant to Saudi Arabia. There are talks that if you hit one tree this will cost you SAR 100,000. Oh yes! Such an expensive tree.


Date fruit is very nutritious though.


As per Natural Society , date fruit is one of the sweetest fruits. Although dates can be eaten fresh, the fruit is very often dried, resembling raisins or plums. But whether fresh or dry, the health benefits of dates are still just as plentiful. If you’re looking for fiber, potassium, or copper, look no further than dates.


For sure you have your own story when it comes to these foods and you have more in your list. Try and cook these foods when you are back in the Philippines to let your love ones taste these dishes that you loved during your time as OFW and will serve as a reminder of how good the Arabian cuisine is.


Credit to Wikipedia for the descriptions of foods.

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