Eating Vegan in Abu Dhabi

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Luqaimat, which are “essentially mini donut holes in date syrup

By Lucia Rivera, Vegetarian Resource Group Intern

In the capital of the United Arab Emirates, Hannah Greene has discovered a plentiful variety of vegan foods to enjoy and restaurants to visit. After nearly 2 years vegan in Abu Dhabi as a university student, Greene has discovered “how universal veganism can be.”

     Beginning at her campus dining hall, Greene has been able to try dishes at a vegan lunch counter and also has vegan food offered at “a salad bar, a grill, and a rotating meal counter” on campus, along with pasta and pizza.

     “From the dining hall, I rely mostly on colorful combinations of roasted vegetables, salad bar ingredients, dal curry, and endless amounts of hummus. The dining hall vegetable selection changes enough to keep it interesting, and I made several easy dorm-room recipes that I relied on quite often with a microwave and blender (lots of steamed vegetables, homemade hummus, vegetable lasagna, peanut butter sandwiches, oats, chia pudding, and delicious smoothies),” Greene explained.

     But it is beyond her dining hall where Greene has enjoyed her favorite vegan meal in Abu Dhabi and experienced the diversity in cuisines that the city offers.

     “The most common restaurants are probably South Asian cafeterias and Arabic/Lebanese restaurants, which offer so many amazing vegan options. The complexity of the population means you could find cuisine from literally anywhere in the world, so there are always amazing vegan options nearby!” Green said.

     For vegans in Abu Dhabi — whether visiting or living there– there are many vegan options for eating out. From Ethiopian food, to Japanese food, to Afghani food, vegans like Greene have no problem finding enjoyable and cheap options in the city.

     “Within Abu Dhabi, my favorite dish is the vegan platter from Bonna Annee Ethiopian restaurant! This beautiful dish comes with peanut curry, cabbage, spinach, spicy lentil curry, stewed potatoes, and beetroot, all on a platter of injera bread. Also, the servers at this restaurant are so incredibly nice!”

     While there is no “usual” cuisine in Abu Dhabi according to Greene, some of the local Arabic/Lebanese food is vegan without any adaptations necessary. This includes flatbreads like Za’atar manakish and desserts like luqaimat, which are “essentially mini donut holes in date syrup with sesame seeds.”

     “A lot of Arabic/Lebanese cuisine is naturally vegan and delicious: hummus, falafel, vine leaves, fattoush salad (delicious salad with pomegranate and dried pita on top), tabbouleh, mouhammara (walnut and pomegranate), eggplant salad, moutabbal (eggplant and sesame spread), and fatayer (spinach wrapped in dough),” Greene said.

     Additionally, Greene hopes that any vegans visiting Abu Dhabi enjoy the variety of restaurants without only sticking to “American” mainstream restaurants. This also will help one keep their meals low-cost.

     “My favorite thing to do is to wander around the city without any destination in mind, exploring whatever streets seem intriguing and stopping at new restaurants along the way. There are many familiar ‘Western’ or ‘American’ restaurants, but the most flavorful and affordable restaurants are the ones with menu items you may never have seen before! English is the most widely spoken language, so you can relatively easily communicate that you are ‘full vegetarian’ and don’t eat ghee, egg, labneh/laban (yogurt), cheese, or any other animal products.”

      Greene is glad to have gained a better understanding of how “fundamentally delicious and simple” vegan food can be across the world. She has also become part of an international vegetarian community.

     “Being part of the Veggie Might Student Interest Group helped create a community of vegans, vegetarians, and people trying to cut down on meat consumption, helping us be supportive of all […] Living here and enjoying so many different cuisines showed me how universal veganism can be; of course many fancy restaurants and stores make vegan dishes extra expensive, but vegan food can be fundamentally delicious and simple,” Greene said. 

     For any vegans heading to Abu Dhabi Greene also recommends the Facebook Group “Abu Dhabi Vegans.”

Note: Hannah Green is a former Vegetarian Resource Group intern. See:
https://www.vrg.org/blog/2018/07/12/my-experience-as-a-vegetarian-resource-group-intern/

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