The three-day Dubai Food Carnival – part of the Dubai Food Festival – starts today at Dubai International Marine Club. This family-friendly event will be packed with celebrity chefs, food tastings, chef demonstrations, food competitions, kids’ activities and more. Among the many notable chefs participating is Manal Al Alem, also known as the Queen of the Arabian Kitchen. She’ll be whipping up her signature cuisine in the Chef Dome each day.
What will you be cooking in the Chef Dome at the Dubai Food Carnival?
I will introduce a collection of my signature dishes, inspired by Emirati food. As always, I like to cook simple food which everyone can learn, cook and enjoy. In some of my dishes, I will introduce quinoa as a healthy option. I would like it to be used more in Arab diets.
What’s your favourite Middle Eastern dish to cook?
I like meat with yogurt. It’s one of the most famous dishes in all Mediterranean cuisines. I remember in my childhood when my mother used to cook this dish, I used to stand beside her waiting to taste it before she placed it on the dining table.
Middle Eastern cuisine is so deeply rooted in history – how important is culture to the cuisine?
It’s not just the taste. We have a huge range of cultures in the Middle Eastern cuisines. You will notice there is a big influence of culture among all. Hospitality, sharing food with neighbours and welcoming the guests really affects the cooking and serving style in our history.
What are the biggest misconceptions about Middle Eastern cuisine?
That all Middle Eastern food is fattening, the recipes are difficult and we have to spend a lot of time in the kitchen. But if you really try to understand Middle Eastern food, you will find a huge range of healthy dishes and healthy cooking methods.
Name five ingredients that are always in your kitchen.
Ginger, cardamom, saffron, olive oil and dates.
The Dubai Food Carnival runs from 3pm to 10pm on Thursday, February and from noon to 10pm tomorrow and Saturday. Dh30 for adults; kids under 12 are free. Visit www.dubaifoodcarnival.com