Little reminds us of home as much as the taste of the place: soup on the sofa when you’re run down; the family recipe passed down from generation to generation; the small act of sitting together to enjoy a leisurely weekend meal.
For those who call the UAE our second home, a large part of our heart beats for familiar tastes and traditions. And while it can be difficult to replicate those exact experiences – you can’t buy bottles of your family home’s scent or find an oven with the same idiosyncrasies – you can take care of things in the flavour department.
We recently asked five UAE residents to share the recipes that, to them, taste like home. And here, we draw out one product from each recipe, and look at a few of the wonderful ways it gives both native eaters and foreign explorers a chance to taste that place.
South Africa: Mrs Ball’s Original Recipe Chutney
Boerewors and biltong might be two of South Africa’s best-known delights worldwide, but domestically Mrs Ball’s chutney is every bit as treasured. Never heard of it? Find the nearest South African, say the name and watch them go – rattling off their favourite variety (there are several in the range), the dishes they most love to serve it with, or all the meats they’ve ever brushed it with for the braai (chicken, lamb, beef – all brilliant). Thanks to fruit (classically apricot), punchy spice and a whacking great kick of sweetness and acidity, it offers a true taste of the flavours of South Africa – especially enjoyed on the side of bobotie.
For Brits, the Sunday roast is a way of life. And while the main players can change (chicken and gravy, beef and horseradish, lamb and mint sauce) one thing daren’t be left out: roast potatoes. Everyone cooks theirs differently – some swear by duck fat, others olive oil, traditionalists beef dripping (erm, yes!) – but one thing is sure: you can’t make the perfect roastie without the perfect potato. Our roasting & chipping potatoes are exactly that – floury, starchy, all set to become soft in the centre, crisp on the exterior.
The Philippines: Soy sauce
Soy sauce is responsible for so much of the deep, concentrated savouriness present in the Philippines’ canon of classics. Rarely is this more evident than in adobo, an extremely personal recipe that few cooks do the same way. Take this version of chicken adobo: it calls for 50ml soy sauce (or in the mother tongue, toyò). For some that will be too much, for others not enough. But like all other quintessentially Filipino recipes, it’s okay either way – it’ll still turn out delicious.
Ghee marks the start of so many Indian dishes, and many of the country’s recipes are tricky to replicate without the richness it brings. Sweating onions, toasting spices – crucial steps impossible to do with too much authenticity without ghee. And one of the lesser-discussed beauties of this product is its longevity: it’ll keep in the cupboard for up to three months, and practically indefinitely in the fridge. We can think of no better way to use it than in this unbelievably perfect lamb biryani.
Sri Lanka: Tamarind pulp
The success of Sri Lankan cuisine lies in the harmony between elements sweet, sour, salty and spicy. Few ingredients create this sense of togetherness more effectively than tamarind: with its intense sour tang, underlined by a subtle sweetness, it carves out a route for other classic ingredients – curry leaves, chilli, coconut milk – to come together as one whole. Experience it for yourself in this Sri Lankan fish curry, where tamarind pulp is used to marinate the fish.