Bahrain is an island country situated in Western Asia (on the Persian Gulf) located between Qatar and the north-eastern coast of Saudi Arabia. The country is famous for its lush copses of date palms. They have been used for trade purposes and have also been considered a source of natural resources for the neighboring areas ever since the ancient era.
The population of Bahrain is comprised of different ethnicities. Shia Bahrainis are split into two chief ethnic groups: Baharna and Ajam. On the other hand, Sunni Bahrainis are largely separated into two chief ethnic groups: Arabs (al Arab) and Huwala. Bahraini cuisine is undoubtedly a replication of the country’s diversity, with many different delicacies to try.
Table of Contents
Most Popular Bahraini Dishes
The majority of Bahraini delicacies are a blend of Arabic, Persian, Indian, Balochi, African, Far East, and European cuisines. Since the ancient era, the country was a significant seaport and trading junction and the presence of many different communities influenced the country’s cuisine.
Some of the significant dishes in Bahraini cuisine include biryani, harees, khabeesa, machboos, mahyawa, maglooba, quzi, and zalabia. Arabic coffee (qahwah) is considered the national beverage of the country whereas tea is believed to be a beverage that is consumed for hospitality.
There are many other drinks popular in Bahrain such as laban (a sort of salty buttermilk), yoghurt drinks, sharbat (sweet beverages) like the rose sharbat or rose with milk, and soft drinks.
So without further ado, here are the absolute must-try traditional dishes of Bahrain along with recipes to try for yourself.
Samboosa is a thin pastry dough packed with many options of fillings such as cheese, meat, pizza-style stuffing etc. The dough is shaped into a triangle and is fried until it turns into a crunchy golden pocket. Generally consumed as an appetizer, samboosas are eaten at all times of the day: breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The locals usually consum samboosas by covering them up with freshly cooked chapati bread and then hot sauce is spread on top. They can be found at almost all local restaurants on this island.
Mehyawa is a kind of sauce prepared using anchovies. It is made by fermenting anchovies over a few days which helps to strengthen its exceptional flavor. They are then combined with different spices such as anise, coriander and cumin. Everything is blended later to make a sauce-like texture that can be poured over other dishes.
This Persian-inspired sauce is generally spread on freshly baked Iranian bread or with reqaq, which is a wafer-like thin bread.
Luqaimat is a sweet dough prepared using a mix of flour, yeast, sugar, saffron and some cardamom. It is then fried and served with either sweet or date syrup spread on top.
Luqaimat is predominantly eaten during the month of Ramadan, but is available throughout the year in local restaurants. There are also many modern variations of luqaimat filled with different spreads like Nutella, lotus or pistachio sauce.
Machboos is a popular rice dish made with either chicken or lamb and the addition of Bahrat (a distinct spice blend) and Loomi (dried lime). These two ingredients give the dish its signature taste.
The rice and meat are generally cooked together and then topped off with a blend of rose water and saffron. Machboos is often accompanied by Daqoos – a green chili-based sauce.
Emmawash is very similar to machboos but is prepared using rice, shrimp, black-eyed peas, mung beans and lentils. Unlike machboos, the shrimps here are cooked with caramelized onions before being topped with beans, bahrat, loomi and rice.
This Bahraini delicacy holds a special significance during Muharram, which is the first month of the Islamic calendar. During Muharram, the locals can be seen preparing this dish in big batches and offering servings for free to people who visit the capital, Manama.
Baid Tmat is a Middle Eastern scrambled egg dish prepared using eggs and tomatoes, and eaten for breakfast. The word “baid” means eggs and “tamat” means tomatoes.
There are many different variations of Baid Tmat which can comprise of other ingredients such as onions, tomato paste and other fillings. It is recommended to eat Baid Tmat with freshly baked Iranian bread or a side of baked beans.
Kabeb Bahraini is a vegetarian dish prepared using a combination of chickpea flour, gram masala spices, eggs, and finely chopped tomatoes and onions. They are then shaped into small buns and fried.
Whilst Kabeb Bahraini is served throughout the year, it is most commonly consumed during the month of Ramadan. The kabebs are served for the Iftar meal, and they are accompanied by a sour tamarind sauce.
Balaleet is a dish prepared using sweetly spiced vermicelli pasta, typically eaten for breakfast. The pasta is cooked first and then a fried or scrambled egg is placed over it. The dish is a unique blend of sweet and spicy flavors and is considered to be a favorite of the locals.
Sharbtzafran is a refreshing saffron drink, generally sweet in taste, that is Persian-inspired. It is believed to have numerous health benefits, such as lowering blood pressure, controlling depression and much more. It is also believed that its daily consumption can result in glowing skin.
Tikka is a dish which often consists of chicken marinated with tomato and paprika spice, although other meats can be used. Alternatively, the chosen meat can also be marinated with a yogurt mix, making it a yoghurt tikka, or it can also be prepared as aloomi tikka, where the tikka is marinated with loomi.
The meat or chicken bits are marinated overnight and then grilled on the spot ready for eating. Tikka is usually accompanied by freshly baked Iranian bread and greens.