Emirati chef Khulood Atiq offers her modern take on traditional favourites

Atiq is behind cookbook 'Sararid', which includes recipes passed down from generation to generation

Chef Khulood Atiq was first female national chef of the UAE.
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With rich spices and ingredients, Emirati dishes are flavourful and aromatic; meat, fish and rice are often staples, and recipes are handed down through generations.

Khulood Atiq, who has been a strong force in keeping the cuisine alive, started her culinary journey in 2008 and has had a passion for cooking since childhood.

“In 2006, I noticed that there was almost no Emirati food available in the tourism industry. You could generally only find Emirati food cooked at home or in restaurants for delivery during feasts,” Atiq tells The National. “I decided that I wanted tourists to discover authentic Emirati cuisine for themselves. So, I started creating and cooking it.”

As the first female national chef of the UAE, she now works with the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi as a culinary development specialist.

“Cooking has always been a big part of my life. Inspired by the strong women in my family — my mother, grandmother and aunts,” she says.

Atiq grew up watching them masterfully create beautiful meals in the kitchen and learning their skills and techniques, which she continues to apply until this day.

“I was everyone’s favourite cook in the house, everyone wanted to taste my food again and again.”

Atiq, in her pursuit of continuing traditions, wrote a cookbook called Sararid, which includes recipes passed down from generation to generation. Her book features new authentic recipes using Emirati ingredients, such as dates.

“As a chef, I have developed my style and created my own signature, initially starting with a clear focus on traditional food but, more recently, working on adding new flavours and moving away from pure, traditional cuisine to fusion.”

Iftar meals you will find in Emirati homes

Atiq’s favourite Ramadan ingredients include rose water, saffron, cardamom and dates to add authentic tastes to her dishes.

A traditional Ramadan Emirati iftar meal would generally consist of “dates and milk to break the fast. This follows the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad,” she says.

This is then accompanied by “soup, harees, luqaimat and any kind of bread, with sharbat, a drink of berries, oranges or lemons, diluted with water and ice.”

After Taraweeh, which is a sunnah prayer that is performed after the Isha (night) prayer in Ramadan, people gather at the Fawala, a dining table of traditional Emirati desserts, light meals and snacks.

“Fawala is an Emirati term for the generosity displayed when you offer food to family, relatives or friends who come to your home.”

Advice for aspiring young culinary students

Atiq believes that you shouldn't pursue a journey like hers with the intention of becoming famous, you need to love and be passionate about the culinary arts.

“Love food — creating it, making unique dishes, using different ingredients, concocting different tastes,” she says. “And, if you are Emirati, be passionate about our cuisine and wanting to share it with the world.

“This field has no limits, and no matter how much you have learnt, there will always be new techniques and experiences to explore.”

Updated: April 28, 2022, 3:58 AM