Emirati Cookbook Review: Sarareed & Emirati Recipe: Rubyan Moadam (Soaked Prawns)

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Sarareed by Chef Khulood Atiq
Sarareed Cookbook by Chef Khulood Atiq

Sometime last year, I heard through the food buzz that there was a new Emirati cookbook released and I attempted to get my hands on a copy. I know I have been a real slacker in regards to my Emirati Cooking Experiments and I had hoped that obtaining a new cookbook would breathe some life into my little project.

Sarareed by Chef Khulood Atiq is a cookbook of “Emirati cuisine from the sea to the desert” which refers to the inclusion of both coastal as well as desert (in-land) recipes. This bilingual cookbook contains over 80 recipes in English and Arabic.

Sarareed - Emirati Cookbook page contents
Sarareed – table of contents

The book reads from right to left like most Arabic texts and has stunning photos of Emirati life and scenery as well as the food. The foreword explains a bit about Emirati hospitality including the important role that cardamon-infused coffee plays in that ritual.

An excerpt from the book:

The book bears the name “Sarareed,” an authentic Emirati word, the singular form of which, “Sarroud” is used to describe the big, traditional Emirati mat, made of woven palm leaves, around which people gather to eat and on which food is placed.

For those who are not familiar with Emirati cuisine, the head notes to many of the recipes includes beautiful descriptions of the dish and sometimes includes information about the origins, traditions, and history.

Emirati cookbook - Sarareed
Photos from Sarareed cookbook (left: Chef Khulood Atiq)

I felt mild disappointment in the fact that not all the recipes included an informative head note – for example, the recipe for Khabees. It’s obvious that it is a dessert because it’s in the dessert section but then the last part of the recipe says to serve for breakfast. Hmm…

One place where I felt a distinct void from the lack of any description was the recipe for Bzar (also spelled Bezar). Now I am no expert in Emirati cuisine but it seems to me that Bzar is an essential spice mix that defines many Emirati dishes and I would have expected and loved to have seen a thorough description with historical notes on it.

Things I liked about the book besides the recipes and photographs: dishes popular during Ramadan were noted; the section at the end about Emirati traditions of hospitality (“recieiving and honouring a guest with enormous generosity is considered a crucial part of Emirati heritage”); the section on Emirati cuisine terms and colloquial cuisine terms (i.e. dried limes = loumi, date essence = Marees al Tamer); and the section on cooking utensil names (i.e. Dalla = a coffe pot; Tanour = an oven used for cooking or grilling). I just wish the lists were alphabetized for easier referencing.

I would like to thank my friend Sally at My Custard Pie for lending me her copy of Sarareed – Thanks Sally!

Sadly, I still don’t have my own copy as the cookbook can only be purchased in-person at Al Fanr restaurant in Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi. I’m in Abu Dhabi only once in a blue moon so I was quite saddened to relinquish the book back to Sally but I think “borrowing” it for 6+ months was long enough.

[Edited Feb 14, 2013: I have purchased a copy of Sarareed at Kinokuniya bookstore in the Dubai Mall. I had to ask customer service to check the Arabic section. There are still plenty of copies (100, I was told) but for some reason they were not displayed and had to be brought from the stock room.]

And now moving on to the recipe…

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Emirati Shrimp Recipe
Emirati Recipe: Moadam Rubyan (Soaked Prawns)

I wanted to try a recipe that I hadn’t tried before although I was seriously tempted to making Chicken Machboos again. I settled on Moadam Rubyan (Soaked Prawns) from the coastal section (versus desert) because I just love seafood – especially prawns.

Moadam Rubyan - Soaked Shrimp
Moadam Rubyan – Soaked Shrimp recipe

Emirati recipes are created with the idea of feeding a large host of people, not a two-adult household like Scotch and mine. So I had to cut this recipe by one third as the original called for 1 kg of rice which is just too much for us as a cup of uncooked rice (~1/4 kg) lasts us for many days!

Other modifications I made to the original recipe from Chef Khulood:

  • Used cherry tomatoes instead of larger ones as that’s what I had in my fridge.
  • I was short on time so did not use the fish Bzar recipe as specified in the cookbook but a commercial one instead (the red “urban coastal” one from this post).

In addition to the coastal bzar mixture, this recipe also called for loumi (dried small limes), fresh garlic, fresh green chilli, fresh coriander, turmeric, cinnamon, cumin, and coriander powder. I didn’t quite understand the recipe directions of leaving the marinated shrimp “to dry in a pot” which I assumed was “to drain in a pot” so I used a colander over a bowl.

Arabic Spice - Loomi
Loumi (or Loomi) = dried green limes

The other issue I ran into was the cooking of the rice – the instructions said to “pour in some water until it covers the rice by 1 cm. Cover the pot, bring to a boil and then reduce the heat until the rice is cooked.” I was using basmati rice which normally I cook like Jasmine rice (1 part rice, 2 part water) and the results were always great so the 1 cm reference in this recipe threw me off a little as it didn’t include cooking time and the proportions of water to rice didn’t seem right.

I followed the directions anyway but also decided to get an idea of how to properly cook basmati rice by throwing the question out via twitter and thanks so much to Neelu @nielouphar and to Bob @BobMarchese for their input. Anyway, I covered the rice with 1 cm of water and cooked for 10 min but the rice was very under-cooked so I added more water and cooked for a further 5 minutes but still not right so cooked another 5 minutes. Since the shrimp were embedded in the rice, I was really worried that they would be totally overcooked.

The final result?

I can’t say I was wowed by the flavors from the first taste but after a few spoonfuls of rice, I began to appreciate the flavors of the spice mixture and I just love the citrus notes from the loumi / loomi. While the shrimp wasn’t too severely overcooked, it was still a little dry but tender.

I look forward to one day obtaining my own copy of this cookbook and trying out more recipes.

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Previous Emirati recipe: Samboosa (fried savory triangles)

Up next: Meat with Rice (La-ham machboos / fogga)

Note: This post is part of my Cooking Local project.

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  1. I would love to get my hands on this book but can’t find it. It’s not on amazon. Is it out of Print? If you could help. I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you.

  2. I can only concur and express the same feelings regarding the book as most of you have already done. I am an executive sous chef, one of my greatest love is to experience the true essence of a culture through the eyes of local folklore.

    I have the book and have read it three times and I must say that what I have cooked I have had to fine tune to get the full distinct flavor that true Emirati Cuisine exudes when cooked well and with the right ingredients.

    There are way too many cooks / chefs in the UAE that do not know about the true Emirati Cuisine and that is a shame. To preserve the identity of our host country people should embrace what is the norm in other countries

  3. I got to read about this book last weekend and thought it’s exactly what I was looking for since, as you previously said, there’s nothing that beats learning about a culture than through its cuisine. I’ve been living here for over three years and still feel like there’s much to discover! I just refuse to believe this is just a place for fancy cars and tall buildings as sadly many people apparently come to think.

    I’m on my way to Borders right now. I checked with them and they have a copy of the book, though I was told it’s only in Arabic. I could get my husband to translate for me, but I really hope to find a bilingual version.

    I’m so happy I found your blog!

  4. Great in-depth review thank you. Chef Khulood was at the opening of Gourmet Abu Dhabi – her mini spiced lamb shawarmas were sublime 🙂 I now need to buy my copy too. x

  5. You can find Sarareed at Kinokonya (if the spelling was correct).

    I bought the book to compare recipes and wanted to know to what extent I cn relate. Yes, I did say relate.
    I’m very picky with the quality of Emirati food.

    Firstly, she had a few mistakes with names of dishes. Some dishes have different names and the names she used aren’t the traditional ones.

    I also wished she had given more explanations and checked the spelling of dish names.

    Most of the Emirati desserts are also served as breakfast. They should’ve explained that.

    Loumi is lemon in Emirati. It doesn’t mean dried lemon. Loumi yabes is dried lemon. Loumi and Laymon are both names we use for lemons,

    The dish you made is Ribiyan Mwadan not Mowadam. It also is gramatically wrong in Arabic to say Moadam Ribiyan. It’s literally saying Prawns Soaked.

    On another hand, I liked the fact that Chef Khuloud had all kinds of recipes from the Emirati cuisine. Even some which we (Emiratis) barely make nowadays!

    Well that was the longest comment I ever typed! I hope it was useful

    1. Thanks for your comments, Arwa – they are always useful!

      I tweeted TDIC a while back to get a copy of the book and they told me only in Saadiyat so I never bothered to check Kinokuniya but I might head over to Dubai Mall tomorrow to see.

      Loumi may not mean “dried” lemon by literal translation but physically it is a dried lemon, is it not? I remember you mentioning that your family puts them on the roof to dry.

      On that note, I thought Loumi was limes – the little green ones?

  6. What a great review. The cover of the book is enticing enough to run to Sadiyat Island right away. It’s amazing how you’ve managed to cook a recipe, modified it according to what suits you. Have you already returned the book to Sally? I would love to borrow it from you (convenient for me!) and deliver it back to Sally. Chef Khulood Atiq is demonstrating her culinary skills at Gourmet Abu Dhabi 2013 – unfortunate that travelling to Abu Dhabi on weekdays is impractical for me. Keep up your quest in Emirati Cooking:)

  7. You were most welcome to borrow Sandy – and you managed to cook from and write a meticulous review which I completely failed to do despite having it for many months myself. I have put ‘cooking from Sarareed’ on my to do list for this week.

    1. When I tweeted TDIC last year they made it clear to me that the book was only available in AD. Think that changed last August according to some other tweets I just happened upon.

      Wish they would have updated their website or made it better known that they were selling Sarareed in bookstores. The website still doesn’t indicate anything other than AD. Typical.

  8. I’ve never heard of the book. After reading your review I really want to get a copy. There is not much I know about Emirati cuisine and I’am sure the book will be very handy.

    I’am glad I could be of help. Thank you for mentioning me. :))


  9. What a thorough review Sandy! I’ve always wondered if there is an Emirati cookbook out there for expats and visitors. The part about cooking the rice reminded me of how my older relatives cook lol! Thanks for sharing 🙂