Join The National and Table Tales on a culinary journey around the Middle East to savour the quintessential dishes that embody the spirit of Ramadan. From table staples to family favourites, this series of 30 recipes pays homage to the holy month and the home cook alike.
Warm dough and sticky fingers are two heartening associations when it comes to luqaimat. An iftar fixture, these decadent dumplings are a favourite across the region.
Translating as “little bites”, luqaimat are widely available in the UAE – even the Expo site has its own vendor – and are akin to yeasted doughnuts fried to crispy golden goodness and dipped in date syrup, rolled in honey or sprinkled with sugar.
While they mirror the loukoumades presented as “honey tokens” to Olympic winners in Ancient Greece, luqaimat are made from a light, yeasty batter that replaces the butter with yoghurt. In medieval Baghdad, these were known as luqmat al qadi (judge’s mouthful), and graced the caliph’s table. With slight variations in texture and sweetener, they are known as zalabia in Egypt; aweimat (floaters) in Lebanon and Syria; and skaramati in Somalia
“The key to the perfect luqaimat is the crunch test – and the key to the crunch is in the frying, the temperature of the oil, as well as the mix,” says Hanan Sayed Worrell, founder of Table Tales.
Recipe contributor Nisreen Bajis says: “These sweet dumplings are easy to prepare, but pack a real punch. My mother-in-law prepares them every day at iftar, an Emirati tradition.”
Nisreen Bajis's luqaimat (sweet dumplings)
Makes about 35 dumplings
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1½ tsp yeast
- 1½ tsp ghee
- 1½ tsp rice flour
- 1½ tsp yoghurt
- 1½ tsp caster sugar
- ½ tsp salt
- 1⅓ cup water, at room temperature
- ½ litre oil, for frying
- Date molasses
- Place all the ingredients, except the water, oil and date molasses in a mixing bowl, and stir to incorporate.
- Pour the water in a steady and slow stream into the mix, while vigorously mixing the batter by hand, so it forms small bubbles.
- Once the mix is well incorporated, cover the bowl with a kitchen towel, and allow to rise in a warm place for at least 15 minutes.
- Heat the oil in a wok-style pan or medium-sized pot. Once the oil reaches a temperature of between 165°C and 180°C, use your fingertips to pick up a bite-sized amount of batter and drop it into the oil (use your thumb to flick the batter into the hot oil, from a height that is as close to the pan's surface as possible). The batter should float to the surface and form a ball shape.
- Repeat the process until you fill the wok. Using a skimmer, keep moving the balls around in the oil until they become golden brown.
- Once cooked, remove the balls and place them in a strainer that is over a bowl to allow excess oil to drain from the luqaimat and for them to cool slightly.
Once slightly cooled, transfer all the balls into a clean bowl and drizzle the desired quantity of date molasses over the luqaimat, then turn them in the bowl to coat. Serve immediately.
This dish has been brought to you by Nisreen Bajis and her mother-in-law Um Mohamad, and curated by international recipe hunter Hanan Sayed Worrell, author of Table Tales: The Global Nomad Cuisine of Abu Dhabi. The Table Tales concept celebrates the people and stories that give flavour to recipes of the Middle East.