Emirati Recipe: Shrimp Fried with Spices (Ro-be-yann nashif)

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Emirati Shrimp Fried with Spices
Emirati Shrimp Fried with Spices

I never did get back on track with my Emirati cooking, did I?

Lamb Biryani was the last recipe I posted but I did get to observe a few home-cooked Emirati dishes (namely, Chicken Machboos and Balaleet) this past November.

And recently, I went to an Emirati restaurant for the first time – Al Fanar in Dubai Festival City – and had a great time sitting outside on the Arabic seating and enjoying all the local dishes.

I hope to take my in-laws to Al Fanar when they visit next week.

Speaking of the in-laws, I never got around to posting the photos of their visit from 2011! So before I get into the Emirati recipe for this week, allow me to share with you some photos of our trip to Liwa last year.

(Below slideshow may not be viewable if you are reading this from an email client or mobile device):

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Liwa is located in the southernmost part of Abu Dhabi (the capital of the UAE), almost into Saudi Arabia, on the northern edge of Rub’ al Khali desert. The area is covered with sand dunes with heights up to 250 metres (820 ft) and the sand is a beautiful reddish-orange color due to the presence of feldspar.

From Wikipedia:

The Rub’ al Khali or Empty Quarter is one of the largest sand deserts in the world encompassing most of the southern third of the Arabian Peninsula, including southern Saudi Arabia, and areas of Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

The desert covers some 650,000 square kilometres (250,000 sq mi)…more than the combined land areas of the Netherlands, Belgium, and France.

It took us about 3 hours to drive from Dubai to Liwa. Along the way, we visited the Emirates National Auto Museum but unfortunately it was closed for some reason so I was only able to take some exterior photos of the place.

We stayed at the Tilal Hotel which was comfortable and nicely furnished and then on the way back to Dubai, we stopped at the luxurious Qasr al Sarab for lunch by the pool.

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This week’s Emirati recipe was prepared last June.

I know, I KNOW, what a delinquent I am at posting these things.

But for once I was able to follow one of Celia’s recipes to a “T”!  Well, except for one teensy weensy change of reducing the oil from 1/2 cup to 1/4 cup and I used canola instead of corn as that’s what I had in my cupboard.

If you love shrimp like I do, this is a great Emirati recipe to try! And I hope that you get the chance to recreate this dish as well – for the recipe, please click here.

About this dish, Celia writes:

This is a very popular main course meal. The dried jumbo shrimps are ideal, but fresh locally caught prawns are just as tasty.

Some people add a little more oil at the frying stage which gives a richer flavour, while others may add one or two finely chopped green chillies during the cooking stage. When this is served as a luncheon dish it is normally accompanied by plain boiled rice, but as an evening meal, it is more common to serve paratha or chapati bread, hot from the pavement baker.

For the cook who hasn’t ready access to these types of bread, try pita bread which has been warmed in the oven or microwave. Side dishes of sliced limes and mixed salad would be the normal accompaniments for this modern dish.

I’ve never seen dried jumbo shrimps sold in Dubai but with fresh shrimp readily available, I would much rather use fresh.

First, I fried the onions, with a sprinkle of salt, in vegetable oil for about 5 minutes.

The spices for this dish were bezar, turmeric, ground fennel seeds, loomi powder, cumin, curry leaves, garlic cloves, and grated fresh ginger:

Emirati spices

This recipe calls for a “pinch” of ground fennel seeds. Now I’ve always wondered, what exactly is a pinch?

And would those with different finger sizes have different pinch quantities?

I used ¼ teaspoon of whole fennel that I mortared and pestled as I couldn’t be bothered with taking out the blender – which I keep in one cupboard but the spice grinder attachment is in the bowels of a different cupboard.

And on another note, Celia says to cook the onions until “brown” but I find that when my onions are brown, they are more accurately describe as “burnt.” Ah, well.

I thought I had chilli chapatti in my freezer but it was actually chilli nan and in the middle of frying up the shrimp while Wee Scotch was napping, there was no way was I going to leave my apartment in search of chapatti or paratha so chilli nan it was!

The spices were fried for 5 minutes and the fragrance they released was so mouthwatering. Next I added the shrimp with a sprinkle of salt and simmered them for 10 minutes on very low heat with a bit of water, maybe about 1/3 cup.


I served this dish on white rice and chilli nan whose sole purpose were to soak up the flavorful sauce.

And I loved the garlic-ginger combo mixed in with the bezar – I would definitely use it in other variations like with chicken or beef.

These photos of Wee Scotch taste-testing the dish is from last June (when he was one and a half) and as I was editing them, I can’t believe how much my little boy has already grown!

He’s still quite fearless and willing to try anything.

He enjoys his chicken and beef, but shrimp is still his favorite.

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Previous Emirati recipe:  Lamb Biryani (La-ham biryani)

Up next:  Fried Savoury Triangles (Samboosa)

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

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  1. This looks so good! and I am so jealous that your son actually eats what you cook. My 2 year is such a picky eater. I have heard of all the spices except loomi powder

  2. Nice! I recently went to Al Fanar to cover the interiors for my magazine…going to visit when my Emirati friend comes back to Dubai on her holidays from uni. I want someone to tell me if the food is really authentic or not 🙂

    Love the photographs as always!

  3. This is very identical to how South Indians fry their shrimps in spices. Except for the bezar, the ingredients are basically the same. Oh, but this is so good with plain rice!

    My husband and I stayed at Qasr al Sarab in Nov. '10. Love their food! And their HUGE bathroom (I think I can spend the rest of my life in the over-sized tub) 😀

    1. Yes, i have noticed that there are huge similarities between Indian and Emirati cooking. Especially in the samboosa recipe for next time 🙂

      Qasr al Sarab is certainly beautiful!