Where To Find the Best Shawarma in Dubai
Discover a love of shawarma in Dubai | © Анастасия Короткова / Alamy Stock Photo
Discover a love of shawarma in Dubai
, where the Middle East’s magnificent kebab sandwich has become a street-food staple. These are the hottest fast-food spots in town where you will find Dubai’s best shawarma restaurants.
The name ‘shawarma’ comes from the Arabic word šāwirma, meaning ‘to turn’, just as ‘gyro’ comes from the Greek word for ‘ring’ and the ‘doner’ in Turkish kebabs translates as ‘rotating’. With each slow spin, the sizzling meat soaks in its own juices. Once cooked, it’s stuffed into a local flatbread, topped with vegetables and dressed in special sauces according to its Middle Eastern or Mediterranean origins. Residents fiercely debate the perfect construction – particularly the controversial addition of French fries as a filling. In Dubai, expect lashings of tahini and garlic sauce to complement spicy marinades.
Shawarma dishes have become a staple in Middle Eastern cuisine © Alexander Blinov / Alamy Stock Photo
Find low-fat shawarmas at Shawarma Twist
Food Kiosk, Street Food, Middle Eastern
If even the idea of shawarma meat unsettles your cholesterol levels, head to Shawarma Twist. This spot is all about healthy, lean, premium cuts of beef and chicken, and it even offers fish shawarma. The chicken and fish varieties are packed with crisp, green lettuce and pickles, and just enough garlic paste. The beef comes in a dense wrap of tomatoes, onions, parsley, zesty sumac and rich sesame sauce. Having a cheat day? Dive into a dessert of cheese and syrup shawarma bundled up in a fluffy custom-made Lebanese kaakeh bread.
Devour Dubai’s cheapest shawarmas at Ikea Bistro
Canteen, Middle Eastern
In the quest to find Dubai’s best shawarma, one rather unexpected name kept popping up: Ikea. Around the world, you may associate Ikea’s affordable eateries with meatballs, but in Dubai you’ll also find shawarmas. After a decade in the Gulf, food blogger Courtney Brandt of food blog A to Za’atar says Ikea’s chicken shawarma is the most satisfying she’s ever tasted. “With the crunchy sourness of the pickles, the starch of the fries and the balance of chicken and tahini sauce, it’s the best 5 [United Arab Emirates] dirham (£1) you’ll spend in Dubai,” she says.
Sample a shawarma from this 40-year-old establishment, Al Mallah
Food Kiosk, Middle Eastern
When it comes to culinary judgement, Dubai-based food critic Samantha Wood has a sharp tongue and finely tuned taste buds. She directs shawarma lovers to Café Al Mallah. “Both the original branch on 2nd December Street and the newer branch at Al Seef serve traditional Arabian shawarma,” says Samantha. Open since 1979, Al Mallah’s menu today includes three options: regular chicken shawarma, shawarma with thinner saj bread and a shawarma plate, minus the wrap but loaded with fries. The saj variety’s higher protein-to-carb ratio makes it the juiciest.
For gourmet shawarmas in a glam setting, try Doors Freestyle Grill
Restaurant, Middle Eastern
Few Dubai shawarma joints could be described as attractive; misspelt menus and outdated decor are all part of the charm – but things are different at Doors. The Arabian restaurant from China occupies prime Al Seef waterfront and features a stylish majlis (Arabian seating area), a shisha lounge and a mixology lab (yes, it’s licensed to serve cocktails). But don’t let its shiny glass-and-gold interiors distract you from the real reason to visit: the Doors shawarma. Not just an ordinary shawarma, this is thinly cut short rib draped over a bone in an artful presentation and is the most expensive kebab on our list, but it’s definitely worth the AED175 (£37).
Discover old-school shawarmas with a loyal following at Eat and Drink
Restaurant, Middle Eastern
When Eat & Drink restaurant chain owner Abdulla Mahmood passed away, the news made the local papers. Despite the custom to close businesses during periods of mourning, it was Abdulla’s wish that his many restaurants, operating since 1982, should remain open. Dubai resident Kirsty Erasmus has been a customer for 20 years, and her favourite is Eat & Drink’s spicy chicken shawarmas. “The succulent, tender chicken with chargrilled edges, wrapped in fresh Arabian bread with just the right amount of garlic sauce, always keeps me coming back for more,” she says.
Try ‘the king of chicken shawarmas’ at Shiraz Nights
Food Kiosk, Middle Eastern, $$$
After growing up in Dubai, hungry culinary historian Arva Ahmed set up Frying Pan Adventures, a food-tour company that leads participants straight to the emirate’s most lauded shawarmas. Despite stiff competition on the Baniyas Road by Dubai Creek, “Shiraz’s spicy chicken shawarma wins,” says Arva, who’s a long-time advocate of their iron-pressed Iranian lavash wraps that lock in the chicken juices and garlic paste in a tight, crisp pocket. Queues out the door support her standpoint. Put it to the test by joining a Frying Pan tour, on which you’ll get to sample several leading contenders.
Dine on Dubai’s best beef shawarma at Aroos Damascus
Restaurant, Middle Eastern, $$$
In Frying Pan Adventures’ recent Taste Battle judging Dubai’s finest beef shawarmas, expert panellists named Aroos Damascus’s Syrian wrap the best of the bunch. This explains why the humble eatery, spanning the ground floor and terrace of the Green Palace Hotel on Al Muraqqabat Road, is busy inside and out, day and night. Grab a table outside for the al fresco ambience. For many Syrians in Dubai, this is a little piece of home on a plate.