The Ultimate Veggie Middle Eastern Food Tour

If you asked us to curate an entirely vegetarian Middle Eastern food tour in Dubai, here are the tastings we'd feature.

We often get asked whether we can offer a vegetarian version of our signature Middle Eastern food tour. The short answer is: Yes We Can!

The long answer is that in reality, traditional Middle Eastern main courses tend to be meat-heavy despite the abundance of fantastic veggie produce in the region. This is in stark contrast to Indian food culture where purely vegetarian options are plentiful (and it’s by no small coincidence that our Little India on a Walk food tour is 95% vegetarian!)

It would be almost unthinkable in the Middle East to invite guests home and serve them a purely vegetarian meal. Whether you find yourself in the Levant, Turkey, Iran or countries south of the Arabian Gulf, meat and hospitality are inextricably tied. Even seemingly vegetarian dishes, such as stewed okra or lentil soup, are often bulked up with meat or meat broth. At Middle Eastern restaurants, vegetarian dishes are often limited to starter mezze—hummus, baba ghanouj, fattoush—but you’ll hear crickets chirping if you ask for a vegetarian main course.

While many of the restaurants in Old Dubai are still of the meat-heavy older generation, vegetarian explorers need not fret. Here’s how we’ve adapted our signature Middle Eastern food tour into an entirely vegetarian experience in the past—and we assure you, no one’s gone home hungry!

1. KOSHARI

Our top choice for a vegetarian feast, koshari is considered by some to be a relative of the Indian rice and lentil kichdi, brought over to Egypt by the British army during colonial times. This Egyptian kitchen-sink-of-a-dish throws together elbow macaroni, rice, chickpeas, spaghetti and crunchy fried onions in one bowl. This dish might feel utterly nonsensical in theory, but in reality, it’s downright addictive with a heavy shot of vinegar and spicy sauce.

If you’d like to try this and the other vegetarian treats mentioned, contact us for a private customized veggie-friendly Middle Eastern food tour in Dubai.

2. CHEESY BEAN AND CHILLI FATAYER

Foul labneh shatta fatayer - Frying Pan Adventures Food Tours Dubai

There is nothing traditional about this pastry that we’ve found in a small corner bakery in Deira. In fact, any Middle Easterner will raise an eyebrow if you suggest combining slow-cooked fava beans, aka foul, with creamy labneh and a vinegary chilli paste.

But this strange mash-up in Deira totally works. Juggle the piping hot crescents straight out of the oven, tearing them apart from the center to let the steam escape. On its own, you’d think a plain bean filling might be somewhat stodgy. But brightened with spicy sauce and cooling labneh, this atypical pastry has converted many a Middle Eastern traditionalist on our tours.

If you’d like to try this and the other vegetarian treats mentioned, contact us for a private customized veggie-friendly Middle Eastern food tour in Dubai.

3. STUFFED FALAFELS

Even though our regular Middle Eastern Food Pilgrimage features dishes with meat and fish, most guests vote for falafels as their favourite dish by the end of the tour. That’s because we’re blessed with one of Dubai’s best falafel and hummus spots along our tour route.

Our go-to cafeteria scoops up fresh batches of falafels from its fryers multiple times every hour and their chickpea batter is vibrant with flavourful herbs. They also do a special “stuffed” version of the falafels which contain a core of onions, sour sumac berry powder and chilli. You get to try it smashed in a fresh-baked bread along with a host of fix-ins—creamy hummus, plump chunks of eggplant, fried cauliflower, green chilli tatbeela (sauce) and lustrous thoum (garlic aioli). Warning: you may never be able to enjoy falafels anywhere else again.

If you’d like to try this and the other vegetarian treats mentioned, contact us for a private customized veggie-friendly Middle Eastern food tour in Dubai.

4. FAVA BEAN DIP

EGYPTIAN FOUL-Fava beans-Frying Pan Adventures Food Tours Dubai

Fava beans or foul is a hearty protein-packed dish that is prepared by gradually simmering the beans until they are tender. While it’s ubiquitous in the Middle East, Egypt is considered the epicenter of foul. Don’t be put off by its brown and swampy appearance—this dish is incredibly versatile and can be enjoyed swirled with tahini, paired with falafel, stirred with hummus, pounded with chickpeas (qudsieh) or fired up with chilli paste. The one we usually like to order is foul iskandarani, or Alexandrian foul, which is served with a splash of tahini, crunchy red onions and diced tomatoes.  Oh, we’d suggest mashing the beans with your fork—it just tastes better that way.

If you’d like to try this and the other vegetarian treats mentioned, contact us for a private customized veggie-friendly Middle Eastern food tour in Dubai.

5. EGYPTIAN CHEESE CRÊPE

Egyptian cheese feteer - Frying Pan Adventures Food Tours Dubai

Egyptian feteer on our Middle Eastern Food Pilgrimage.

Nothing quite spells comfort as flaky layers of Egyptian feteer, where the dough is theatrically tossed until translucent and folded over a sweet or savoury filling—much like a crêpe. Crunchy peppers, juicy tomatoes and briny olives make for a fantastic vegetarian feteer, its buttery layers glued together with mild mozzarella cheese and a tart, aged Egyptian cheese called roomi.

If you’d like to try this and the other vegetarian treats mentioned, contact us for a private customized veggie-friendly Middle Eastern food tour in Dubai.

6. DESSERTS

Iranian saffron ice cream faloodeh - Frying Pan Adventures Food Tours Dubai

So this might feel like cheating, but no Middle Eastern food tour—meat-heavy or meat-free—is complete without three of our all-time favourite dessert experiences peppered through the evening.

The first is kunafa, a melted cheese pie topped with crunchy kataifi noodles and an overly generous splash of sugar syrup. Try the one at our favourite Palestinian-Jordanian restaurant, and you’ll leave realizing that no kunafa is worth your time unless it’s made in pure cow’s milk clarified butter (ghee) and served fresh off the fire (rather than being reheated).

The second is everything one finds in their childhood Arabic sweet shop: decadent baklava, tender bars of date paste and crumbly pistachio cookies dipped in a special sort of vegan cream. And if you don’t have a childhood Arabic sweet shop, you can claim ours as your own after the tour.

And the third is a sunny yellow scoop of saffron ice cream sprinkled with pistachios. Try it in a Persian version of an ice cream sundae, with a scoop placed over a bed of lemon-spiked rosewater noodles. It’s aromatic, sweet, sour and almost too exotic to eat. Almost.

If you’d like to try this and the other vegetarian treats mentioned, contact us for a private customized veggie-friendly Middle Eastern food tour in Dubai.