What is the best kind of hummus, from traditional to beetroot?

Two journalists from 'The National' try out various versions of the chickpea dip — so you don't have to

The Great Arab Food Fight: Traditional hummus versus flavoured hummus

The Great Arab Food Fight: Traditional hummus versus flavoured hummus
Powered by automated translation

The battle between tradition and innovation is a mainstay of all rich culinary traditions.

Middle Eastern cuisine is no different, with many staples being “elevated” or reimagined to suit the palate of a more globalised world.

Can that quest for originality and creativity, however, come at the price of diluting historically popular foods?

It is a debate triggered when two of The National's journalists — Arab affairs editor Mona Farag and arts and culture features writer Saeed Saeed (me) — taste test different kinds of hummus available in UAE restaurants and supermarkets.

Watch the video above to see the results.

In honour of International Hummus Day on May 13, we questioned whether modern takes of the traditional spread are better than the original.

"I like the original flavour of everything: I like my tea and coffee black. I like everything the way God intended it to be," Farag says, to which I reply "but variety is the spice of life".

Hence, we begin our foodie adventure, sampling seven different kinds of hummus widely ranging in flavour, from cauliflower mixed with turmeric and beetroot to pesto and roasted red pepper.

Unsurprisingly, these versions elicit various responses.

"I can only taste a little bit of hummus but the beetroot really does overpower it. It's not bad, but is it hummus?" Farag says when tasting the shiny pink variety.

"I don’t think this works at all. This is confusing and sludgy," I say when trying the sun-dried tomato hummus. "I can’t see this being had with any falafels or sandwiches."

When it comes to the punchy spicy chilli pepper hummus, we're both impressed.

It nears more towards the hummus characteristics I like. It's smooth and the spice is there. It would go really well with falafel.

As for canned hummus, we're united on that front, too: with disdain.

"This tastes miserable. This is a really depressing hummus," I tell Farag.

She is underwhelmed and confused by the flavours: “This smells like tuna, how can this be?”

The hummus taste test is part of a series of spirited conversations on the culinary and cultural value of dishes and treats the region holds near and dear.

Updated: May 31, 2023, 11:11 AM