The first kosher restaurant has opened in Abu Dhabi, bringing flavours of Jewish culinary culture to the capital.
The Kosher Place, situated in the Venetian Village at The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal, will boost efforts to integrate the cuisine into the emirate's dining scene.
Rabbi Levi Duchman, who is behind the Emirates Agency for Kosher Certification (EAKC), the UAE's own government-approved Kashrut certification, is delighted to see Abu Dhabi's first dedicated kosher spot open its doors.
“Back in 2020 or 2021, we signed a partnership with the Department of Culture and Tourism ― Abu Dhabi, when they were seeking to help all of the hotels in Abu Dhabi to have kosher food available,” he told The National.
“We have been working with hotels in the emirate to assist them with kosher food.
“But what’s really exciting about this is, finally, we have the first full-time kosher restaurant.”
Putting kosher on the menu in Abu Dhabi
There are several kosher kitchens in the capital, which prepare food according to Jewish dietary rules for venues such as hotels.
It is challenging, however, for ordinary restaurants to serve kosher food, because there are certain rules guiding its preparation, which include separate sinks and utensils for dairy and meat.
Rabbi Duchman first came to the UAE in 2014. Since then he has dedicated his time to helping to build the Jewish community.
“Alongside establishing places of worship and a fully functioning Jewish educational system, it was important to enable all Jews from all denominations, living, visiting and working in the UAE, enjoy Kosher food,” he said.
Moves to promote kosher food are in line with growing UAE-Israeli ties, which were cemented by the signing of the Abraham Accords to normalise relations between the nations in September 2020.
With Covid-19 restrictions being lifted, there has been “tremendous growth” in the number of Israelis visiting the UAE, said Rabbi Duchman.
Armani Hotel Dubai at Burj Khalifa launched a kosher-certified restaurant, Armani/Kaf, in September 2020.
Kosher Arabia, a kosher kitchen being run in partnership with Emirates airline, opened in Dubai last year.
Kosher Arabia has capacity to produce more than 2,000 meals a day from a 1,858-square-metre kitchen in Dubai.
It focuses on catering for Emirates and other airlines, as well as for hotels and events.
Alex Peterfreund, a leading member of Dubai's Jewish community, said it was important to encourage Jewish tourists to visit other parts of the country.
“We always try to explain to all the Jewish tourists that the UAE is more than Dubai,” he said.
“Dubai is great. But there is a lot to see, especially in culture in Abu Dhabi, with The Louvre, and the Abrahamic House opening in the fourth quarter.
“All of this is going to drive a lot of Jewish tourists to Abu Dhabi. And it’s great they have a restaurant over there now.”
What is kosher food?
The term kosher means fit or acceptable.
It refers to the kashrut, or Jewish dietary rules.
There are three categories, covering meat, dairy and “parve” food, respectively.
Because the Torah only allows the eating of animals that chew their cud and have cloven hooves, cows, sheep, deer and goats are allowed.
Birds such as chickens, ducks and turkeys are also permitted, but eating birds of prey is not.
Other creatures that are off-limits include camels, reptiles, rodents, insects and kangaroos, pork and shellfish.
Dairy products like milk, cheese, butter, and yoghurt are allowed as part of a kosher diet. But they must come from a kosher animal.
Meat and dairy products cannot be prepared, cooked or served in the same meal or eaten together. This means serving lasagne or food like cheeseburgers is out of the question.
All utensils and sinks to process meat and dairy must also be kept separate.
Parve, also spelt pareve, is food that is free of dairy and meat, such as fish, fruit, grain, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains and eggs. These items are considered neutral and can be eaten alongside meat or dairy. But if they are processed using equipment for meat or dairy, they are reclassified as meat or dairy.