Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Of Dubai, Barberries and Vegetarian Food Without Vegetaybles

In January this year, I flew to Dubai en route to Ireland. I had half-a-day there before I caught the flight to Dublin. After a late lunch, I hired a taxi and set about exploring the place. The photo above is the Burj al Arab hotel photographed from the beach.

I loved the beach. There were hardly any people there even though it was a Sunday. It was almost deserted, except for a family, a couple and a solitary man who kept making sand tunnels and playing with them.

This is the Dubai skyline as seen from my taxi en route to the spice souk.

This was a friendly guy at the first shop I saw in the spice souk. Notice the little sheikh in the picture, behind the preserved limes?

Inside a store at the spice souk. I could identify most of the spices.

Another store at the souk.

Baby corn chips, that's what they're called.

A picture is worth a thousand words.

And a thousand more.

This was where I met the old man mentioned in the previous post. He kept extending his arms and contracting them with a smile. I couldn't understand what he was saying. And then he got off his seat and came up to me and started pointing at me and the shelf and back and forth, keeping up the chatter and the arm movement. By this time, something about his widening smile and the brightening glint in his eye had started to bother me. He must have seen several of them but he wasn't about to dismiss me as an involved tourist photographing all the strange and amusing things that caught her eye. Oh no, he wasn't about to pass up the opportunity of a sale. He thought I had potential as his customer. He was mistaken. I left.

A variety of dates, stuffed and processed in various ways.

Barberries/Zereshk (soaked, above, and below), from Iran, which I bought in the spice souk. I also bought some asafoetida and saffron, those too were claimed to be from Iran.

Dal/Lentil and barberry stew - vegetarian food without vegetaybles (vegetables, of course - just spelling it the way it's pronounced in certain parts of the country, it rhymes with vegetarian, you see).

How to make it:

In a spoon of oil,

fry two cloves and a piece of cinnamon.

Then, add a handful of onions.

Add 1 green chilli, slit

and 1 tsp of ginger-garlic paste.

Add 3/4 cup of boiled but not mushy chana dal/gram dal to the  pan

with 1/2 cup of water.

Simmer. Add some salt.

Add a fistful of soaked barberries and continue simmering for a couple more minutes - don't let the barberries turn brown though.

Remove from fire.

I found out about this stew when looking for barberry recipes on the Internet. The search threw up zereshk polow from a lot of Persian cooking blogs. The stew seemed to be the next most popular recipe, usually one with meat, lots of slivered nuts, lentils and the barberries.

The barberries are a delight - whenever I discover something new, I tend to use a lot of that in the recipe. But I am glad I didn't this time. The sour berries are quite unobtrusive once they are inside your mouth - they are small and you can't feel them unless you try hard - so when you bite into them, it's a tiny and refreshing spurt of sourness.

Notice the picture of the barberries in the sieve above - that's a tip that I picked up from the Persian cooking blogs which was really useful: The berries are very dusty, with mud and stems and such stuff. So put them in a sieve and immerse that in another vessel full of water. Pour some water into the sieve to soak the barberries. (I soaked them for an hour.) This ensures that the dirt sinks into the vessel below the sieve. It yields quite a bit of dirt, believe me. Wash the barberries a few times and use them.


  1. delicious dish
    lovely pictures of places and market

  2. Missed these posts from you. That Vegetayble sure looks good.

  3. In the spice souk, how could they sell feminine products (hot and spicy boxes), hehe i wonder how u clicked all the shelves....
    I have never seen barberries before- I absolutely love the beach seems like a private beach for celebrities!

  4. Oh..how I wish our beaches look the same..Am sure your spice boxes must be overflowing by now :) And how does these Barberries taste like? They do look like dried Goji berries..

  5. Aahh....finally the story of the old man and the tourist from Indiyeah :-))
    Nice pics, Sra.

  6. in all the places i love is to be in a spice souk :-)

  7. At last, the dirty story! Thought it would be dirtier. :D

  8. The berry looks like cranberry/karounda in Hindi , so I am expecting barberries to be something similar in taste and with dal thats a lovely way of adding little sourness..and sometimes pics speak thousand words and it's reflecting there :-D!! I love the beach picture, so calming..why extra "Y" in vegetables Sra?..hugs and smiles

  9. Oooh, I love stuffed dates! I always have friends get me dates stuffed with almonds from Dubai. My other Dubai pick is Zatar--I get Zatar rolls in Canada, but they're nothing like the original!

  10. Never heard of barberries, they look exciting, but too tedious if you have to wash them so much :-)
    Was smiling and saying it aloud how you added the "Y" to made it sound how its spoken in some places.

  11. Loved the tour Sra, the market looks interesting :) as does the barberries.

  12. I love the word "souk", spice souk is so much better than my patel cash and carry. Yuck.
    Lovely, dreamy pics.

  13. I catch connecting flight often via Dubai but never had a change to take a tour.
    love your pics worth thousand words Sra ;)

    -Pooja xoxo

  14. did my previous comment go thru ? :(

  15. Wow... a trip to Dubai and then Ireland! I have always wanted to visit Ireland. Maybe bcoz of 2 Irish authors I love - Maeve Binchy and Marian Keyes :)
    There is a very popular Iranian cafe in Mumbai called Brittania which is famous for its Berry Pulao - using these very same Zereshk berries :)

  16. hmm !!! very nice post trip Dubai its a jealously for me :( nice quality collection of pictures.


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