Where To Find Thai Basil and Authentic Thai Food in Dubai?

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Fried Sweet Potatoes and Bananas
Fried Sweet Potatoes and Bananas

“Where in the world of Dubai do you buy your Thai groceries? Specifically Thai basil?”

That was the question I posed last week to the first Thai person that I had met in Dubai after living here seven years.

And so I learned that every Saturday, at the Royal Thai consulate in Dubai, a lady sets up a stand to sell Thai vegetables grown in her own garden.

I had so many questions for my new Thai friend:

-Can outsiders just walk in and buy these veggies?

-Will it be a problem that I don’t speak Thai?

-What time should I go?

-Are you sure it will be there next Saturday because I really want to check it out?!

And so this past Saturday, joined by Sally @ My Custard Pie, Little Ginger and I ventured into the Royal Thai Consulate in Umm Sequim hopeful for a glimpse of this market.

And we did indeed find it! Just past the security hut, under the car shades with the consulate villa in the background, we strolled into a mini Thai alfresco market.

Royal Thai Consulate
Royal Thai Consulate (with the market on the left of pic)

Sally and I made our rounds of the few vendors that were there while poor Little Ginger (in the yellow stroller below), tired and hot as the Dubai heat was in full swing, not-so-patiently waited for us to finish our gawking shopping.

There were maybe 9 or 10 folding tables manned by friendly Thai ladies who kindly welcomed us and who patiently answered all our questions about what they were selling.

I found the lady that grew her own vegetables and bought a packet of Gai Lan and Shanghai choy (similar to bok choy but with a light green stem instead of white) @ 10 dhs per bag. There were also bags of kang kong (aka water spinach), Sweet Thai Basil (horapha), and others I couldn’t identify.

The vegetable lady also sold beef ball and fish ball skewers and I bought 2 of each at 10 dhs per skewer.  The skewers came with a little baggie of spicy dipping sauce that had a soy sauce and tamarind (or maybe fish sauce?) base.

I enjoyed the fish balls better than the beef which were a bit dry but edible doused in the dipping sauce.

Left: Fried Bananas and Sweet Potatoes: Right: Skewers

It was very hot, at least 100°F (38°C), and although I didn’t mind the heat, Little Ginger being tired, hungry and grumpy began throwing a bit of a fuss. I tried to hurry through the different tables but I couldn’t help stopping at each one a few times because more and more food seemed to be coming out of their carrier bags.

In the end, I made away with more skewers of meat, a bag of deep-fried banana and sweet potato “fries” (for lack of a better word – which by the way, were AMAZING!), and a cup of grass jelly (known as chao kuai in Thailand; gulaman in the Philippines). Sally felt that the grass jelly beverage was too sweet for her taste but I quite enjoyed it. I’ve only tasted grass jelly in cans and this homemade version was different as it had a taste I could not completely identify – the closest flavor I can think of is Root beer.

Grass Jelly and Other Thai Drinks
Grass Jelly and Other Thai Drinks

Sadly for us, the rice and salad dishes neatly packed in take-away containers were off limits as they were all pre-ordered but Sally and I placed a few orders of our own for pick-up next Saturday so…we will be back!

*    *    *    *    *

Practical info:  The market is held on Saturdays from 10:30am to 3pm at the Royal Thai Consulate located in Umm Sequim close to Jumeirah Beach Hotel (google “Royal Thai Consulate Dubai”).  The last one of the season will be held on June 13, 2015.

Best to get there 11am onwards as the ladies were still setting up at 10:30am but most of the food was gone by 12:30pm.

More details can often be found on the Royal Thai Consulate Facebook page.

Note:  Thai basil and other Thai produce can also be found at Sunflower (aka “Queen Saba Grocery”) inside the Karama Fish Market.

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  1. Hey there – any idea if there is anyone in Dubai offering Thai cooking classes. I’ve been wanting to learn to cook great Thai for some time, but have always been surrounded by scrumptious, cheap Thai options. Not the same story here in Dubai, so I’ll have to cook for myself. Looking for someone to help me get started.

  2. It is great reading your blogs! I’m a Canadian Chinese here in Dubai and I must say finding authentic HK style food is difficult.

    Have any suggestions?

    1. Hi Alison – if you are looking for HK style restaurants, I would suggest Royal China in DIFC and Zheng He’s in Madinat Jumeirah. Also Shang Palance in the Shangri-La on Sheikh Zayed Road. For budget options, I have had take-out from Homey which is in JLT and that was pretty good.

    2. Try Lan Kwai Fong Restaurant for HK style food in Karama close to Lamcy Plaza and American Hospital

  3. Hi – I’m actually Thai/Chinese American, have been living in Dubai for 3 years, and had no idea that this market existed! It would be awesome to finally be able to get some Thai basil and not have to venture to Karama! Do you know if this is still going on?

  4. This looks awesome! I would live to ho but might be a little caught up this Saturday. Would you know how we can order the ready meals?

    1. It might be best to order in person the first time to see what there is, especially if one doesn’t eat “special meat”. I was told you can order via email or the Consulate’s FB page but that all sounded very vague to me.

  5. Love your account of our experience. Great to see the same event through someone else’s eyes. I also found the meat ball skewers not as nice as the fish ones – perhaps some offal sneaked in there as they were quite strong in taste. Really looking forward to going again this Saturday, especially because, due to this post, I now know what some of the vegetables are!