From Malabar to UAE: Kerala snacks steal the show at NRI Iftar gatherings

From Malabar to UAE: Kerala snacks steal the show at NRI Iftar gatherings
Customers at Chayakkada Restaurant, a Kerala snack shop at LuLu Village, Muhaisnah 4, Dubai. Photo: Manorama

Dubai: Delicious fried snacks have become an integral part of Iftar meals, captivating the taste buds of diners across the UAE. Kerala's special snacks have gained prominence in eateries, attracting not only Malayalis but also people from diverse backgrounds. Particularly, mouthwatering snacks from the Malabar region hold a special place in Iftar spreads of NRI's in UAE, offering a taste of home to many residing in a foreign land. Families flock to eateries to sample and purchase these delectable treats, which are prominently displayed in front of hotels and cafeterias owned by Malayalis, Pakistanis, and Bangladeshis across the Emirates.

Visitors from various countries often indulge in tasting before making their selections, with samosas emerging as a universal favourite, available in a variety of fillings ranging from chicken and mutton to vegetable and Punjabi styles. Cutlets and Malayali specialities like kunjipathiri also charm foreigners. Furthermore, restaurants owned by Keralites boast an extensive array of snacks, including chicken rolls, irachi pathiri, kunjipathal, and more, offering over fifty varieties to tantalize taste buds.

Irachi pathiri
Irachi pathiri. Photo: Onmanorama

While snacks like unnakaya, pakkavada, banana fritters, and irachi pathiri are particularly popular, some places also cater to those craving Indian flavours with dishes like kizhi biriyani and pollicha biriyani. Despite the pandemic-induced changes, the crowds have returned to these eateries, especially in Deira and Karama, where tea shops and restaurants serve up these delectable snacks.

Popular Pakistani delicacies

Pakistani and Bangladeshi cuisine, known for their similar flavour profiles, offer favourites such as pakkavada, aloo keema, chapli kabab, and more. Special items like feni, khajla, and falooda are also sought after, appealing to a wide audience including Sri Lankans, Arabs, and Filipinos. Even Malayali families regularly indulge in these snacks, enjoying them with evening tea.

Times of prosperity

In the past, streets in Dubai and Sharjah were lined with eateries selling Iftar snacks, attracting crowds eager to enjoy the camaraderie and friendship that marked the Ramadan season. However, street food sales were banned in Dubai a few years ago, with authorities in Sharjah mandating that food items be displayed in glass cupboards for safety. The pandemic further halted street food sales completely, leading to a shift towards selling snacks exclusively inside restaurants.

Safety measures

Strict regulations ensure that snacks are only displayed in neat glass cupboards to maintain food safety standards. Eateries must obtain special permission from authorities for street food sales, with municipality inspections conducted regularly. Non-compliance results in hefty fines, as selling food on the streets was banned in the UAE due to safety concerns.

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