Kuwait is a small Middle Eastern country wedged between Iraq and Saudi Arabia. On the eastern side of the country is the Persian Gulf, which is part of the Indian Ocean. Across the gulf is the country of Iran. It takes approximately 5 hours to cross the gulf via boat commuting between the two countries.
Kuwait is mostly desert. There are some small areas which aren’t desert like the capital, aptly named Kuwait City and some small patches of land near the ocean. As expected, temperatures are very hot and winters are mild but winter nights can drop down to below 40 F. Kuwait is ranked as one of the wealthiest countries in the world. This wealth has been built almost entirely by the exportation of petroleum, which the Kuwaiti economy is built around.
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Most Popular Kuwaiti Dishes
Kuwaiti cuisine is a fusion of influences from the surrounding countries. It is influenced both by cuisines nearby such as Persian and further afield such as India. Like most Middle Eastern countries, rice, spices, vegetables like carrots, eggplant, cucumbers and meats like lamb, mutton and chicken are staple ingredients and a part of almost every meal. While food is heavily spiced, it is more to add flavor than heat.
Kuwait does not produce many crops for consumption and most food is imported. Some of the few crops grown are tubers like potatoes and grains. Many dishes eaten are not unique to Kuwait, they are shared with the surrounding countries throughout the Middle East, but are sometimes known by other names or have slight variations on the recipe.
Harees is a thick savory porridge made from dried wheat kernels and meat. The wheat and meat are cooked until they have become soft enough to beat into a porridge like state. Barley can be used in place of wheat or a combination of the two. Mutton is the most popular meat but other meats like chicken are also used. Harees is popular not just in Kuwait but is well-loved in other Arabic countries.
Jireesh is a dish consisting of wheat and meat. It’s similar to Harees but with a stronger flavor since it contains more spices. It is also chunky, not smooth like Harees because the while the mixture is cooked until it is very soft, it is not beaten to a finer texture. Jireesh can also be made from oat grains. Some recipes include beans or yogurt.
Tashreeb refers to any dish of stew or broth-soaked bread. The bread or khubz which is a flatbread makes up the bottom layer and the stew which can be meat or vegetables is poured over the bread and allowed to soak through. Tashreeb is said to have originated from poor families who would make stew from whatever ingredients they had. Tashreeb is a comfort food often prepared in the fall and winter.
Margoog is a lamb stew. It is often used as the stew for Tashreeb. Although using lamb meat is traditional, some opt to make margoog with chicken or goat. One unique aspect of this dish is the use of wheat dough in the stew. Wheat dough is rolled out into discs and simply dropped into the stew to cook, like an uncut pasta or a flat dumpling.
Machboos Laham is a mixed rice dish usually consisting of spices like saffron, ginger, meat and vegetables. First, basmati rice is slow cooked and the meat is cooked separately. The meat is usually mutton, chicken or even fish.
The third component of this dish is a topping which can be a combination of nuts, onions, beans, raisins or sultanas. Machboos is usually served with dakoos which is a spicy tomato sauce. Dakoos can also be tamarind based or made from eggplant. Machboos is often considered Kuwaits national dish.
Mutabbaq Samak is a dish of fish and rice. The fish used is zubaidi which is silver pomfret in English. Silver pomfret is a species of butterfish. It has a thin, flat shape and a pretty silver white color. The fish is seasoned and fried whole. It is always served on top of seasoned rice. Zubaidi is the national fish of Kuwait.
Quozi is a large dish of stuffed lamb. Traditionally an entire lamb is stuffed with nuts, vegetables, rice and spices. It’s usually served during special occasions like weddings and ceremonies. It has become common to prepare quozi without stuffing the lamb and using lamb pieces rather than cooking a whole lamb.
Shaurabat adas is a lentil soup. Typically, red lentils are used the soup is flavored with a Baharat spice blend. This is an all-purpose spice blend made with 6 to 10 spices and used on everything from meats to fish.
Black limes called loomi also add depth to this dish. Black limes are made from fresh limes that have been blanched then left to dry until they are hard and turn from green to a black brown color. Traditionally black limes were made letting them dry on the tree. Black limes have a slightly sour, fermented flavor.
Fatayer is a filled, savory pastry. The fillings can be cheese, meats or vegetables such as spinach. A soft wheat dough is rolled out into an oval shape. The fillings are placed into the middle of the dough and the ends are pinched together, creating a canoe shape. The pastry is then baked. This is a popular street food.
Gers ogaily is a spongy perfume cake beloved by the people of Kuwait. The rich yellow cake is made with eggs, milk and butter and flavored with aromatic spices like cardamom, saffron and rosewater. It is usually baked in a bundt pan which is its signature appearance. It’s eaten with tea or coffee.
Darabeel is a cookie like pastry. Wheat dough is rolled out very thin and filled with spices such as cardamom and cinnamon with sugar. The dough is sliced into strips and rolled into cylinders then baked. Darabeel is slightly dry and is eaten, usually dunked in tea. This is a popular winter treat.