Among the vibrant culinary scene in Dublin, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) food scene stands out for its unique and enticing fusions of flavours that captivate the taste buds of both locals and the Arab population in Ireland. The MENA region possesses a diverse and rich culinary heritage with flavours influenced from Arab, Turkish, Persian and North African cuisines which combine to create a delightful assortment of dishes reflecting the bold and aromatic flavours of the region. The increase in the number of restaurants specialising in this cuisine in Dublin over recent years has been a pleasant addition to the variety of food options available to foodies who want to get a taste of middle eastern flavours including restaurants such as Shaku Maku in Rathmines. Beyond the well-known foods such as falafel or shawarma, many less famous dishes can be found in these restaurants, allowing individuals an authentic experience of the delectable flavours across the MENA region.
“Dublin offers a wide variety of restaurants specialising in MENA cuisine, each with its own unique take on traditional dishes so there is something for everyone to enjoy”
Dublin offers a wide variety of restaurants specialising in MENA cuisine, each with its own unique take on traditional dishes so there is something for everyone to enjoy. Of all the foods that are offered, one of the most enjoyable experiences is the range of salads and dishes served to start the meal, each with its unique flavour profile. Salads such as tabbouleh and fattoush and sides such as batata harra, baba ghanoush and houmous — served alongside warm bread for dipping — are the perfect introduction to these meals before a heartier main. Tabbouleh and fattoush are classical components of many MENA meals. Tabbouleh is made using finely chopped parsley, tomatoes, mint, soaked bulgur wheat and onion with plenty of olive oil. Similarly, fattoush involves finely chopped vegetables along with pieces of bread and is seasoned with sumac. Baba ghanoush is an aubergine dip that involves grilling whole aubergine until it develops a smokey flavour before adding in tahini, lemon and olive oil.
Restaurants that provide a satisfying experience of MENA foods are found all around Dublin. Restaurants such as Rotana City on Parnell Street, Yalla in Dundrum, The Cedar Tree on St. Andrews’ Street and Shaku Maku in Rathmines provide an authentic experience of the delectable dishes originating from the region. These restaurants are also wildly popular with several starters, mains and dessert options that will ensure there is something for everyone.
For those seeking a more carnivorous experience, kebabs and shawarma are often popular choices. Tender marinated meats, often cooked on a skewer or rotating spit, are served with fluffy rice, salad, and a variety of savoury sauces. Dishes such as shish taouk, lamb or chicken kofta are all equally flavoursome dishes due to the combinations of spices and flavours from grilling. Some restaurants even offer a mixed platter to allow people to enjoy an assortment of these meats. Other meaty dishes can be found depending on the main cuisine found at the restaurant. The Dada restaurant is famous for its tagines, which involve meat slow cooked in a clay pot along with spices, nuts, vegetables and tomato sauce creating a succulent dish with deep flavours and tender meat. Other restaurants such as Damascus Gate and Jerusalem on Camden Street also serve traditional MENA dishes including the famous makloubeh, mansaf and kofta be’laban which are commonly eaten in the region. Each restaurant is skilled at infusing these dishes with their own twists, using locally sourced ingredients to create a unique blend of flavours to satisfy even the pickiest eater’s taste buds.
Vegetarians and vegans will also find plenty of options to indulge in Dublin’s MENA food scene. From hearty lentil stews to stuffed grape leaves, the culinary offerings cater to a wide range of dietary preferences. The meals are equally as complex in flavour as the meat dishes with options such as maghmour, moussaka and lentil mujadara available to enjoy at nearly all restaurants.
For more on-the-go options, there are many places in Dublin which provide delicious wraps or platters. Falafel is one of the more affordable lunch options and can be accompanied by different vegetables and sauces to create a different flavour profile with each meal option.
Restaurants specialising in falafel such as Umi Falafel are scattered throughout Dublin. Shawarma wraps can also be found in numerous Turkish and Arab restaurants across all parts of Dublin.
To complement the delectable dishes, many MENA restaurants in Dublin offer an assortment of refreshing beverages. Mint tea, a popular drink in the region, is a soothing and aromatic choice, while more adventurous diners might opt for a glass of ayran or Arabic coffee. To accompany these drinks, you can enjoy one of the beloved MENA region desserts such as baklawa, knafeh or basbousa. These are traditionally soaked in sugar syrup when hot which creates a moist, sweet dessert that complements unsweetened tea or coffee.
“An exploration of the Dublin MENA food scene is an experience that not only introduces visitors to the rich and diverse culinary traditions of the Middle East and North Africa but also offers a glimpse into the city’s vibrant multicultural community”
On the whole, an exploration of the Dublin MENA food scene is an experience that not only introduces visitors to the rich and diverse culinary traditions of the Middle East and North Africa but also offers a glimpse into the city’s vibrant multicultural community. From traditional dishes to innovative fusions, Dublin’s MENA food scene continues to captivate food enthusiasts, fostering a deeper appreciation for the shared joy of good food and cultural exchange.