About the food of Bahrain

NOTE: In the time it took me to write this post the temperature dropped ten degrees and fits of rain sporadically fell on Tulsa. Although cold, rainy days are perfect for writing, I couldn’t help but think “Bah, rain.”

(I’m working on my mom humor, what do you think?)

Map courtesy of the CIA World Factbook

All 700 square km of the island Kingdom of Bahrain is in the Persian Gulf. Bahrain is made up of many islands (some sources say 33, others say 40). The name means “two waters” and refers to the country’s water sources, salt (from the sea) and fresh (from the springs that bubble up and provide irrigation for crops).

Although spring water is available for crops, not much can be grown in Bahrain, so imports are the main source of foods. This also means that Bahrain is particularly susceptible to outside influence on cuisine and culture (such as India who, by international trade,  spread their love of turmeric and tamarind to Bahrain).

The kingdom is very well-organized and is considered one of the most modern countries in the Middle East. Their official tourism web site boasts an Applebee’s, Chili’s, Fudrucker’s, and Bennigans. Although these chain restaurants make me chuckle, they are a sure sign of western impact on the Bahraini culture.

Downtown Manama - Photo courtesy of the CIA World Factbook

If you’re looking for authentic Bahraini food, you’ll find some similarities to other Middle Eastern countries. Here’s a partial list of popular foodstuffs in the region.

MEAT: chicken, lamb, chicken, camel calf, fish

SAUCES: yogurt, spiced tomato

STARCH: rice pilaf, noodles

VEGGIES: lentils, eggplant, onion, garlic

I was surprised to see camel on this list, but apparently the meat can be ground into burgers or braised. An anonymous comment on The Old Foodie describes the flavor:

It was a little tougher than beef, and a bit more gamey, although not nearly as games [sic] as deer or elk. If anyone enjoys discovering new tastes, I would definitely recommend trying camel. It does not taste like any other meat I’ve ever had…especially chicken.

More traditional and obtainable dishes include:

Machbous (stewed meat or fish served with rice, seasoned with cumin, coriander, cinnamon, and turmeric)
Koshari (macaroni tossed with lentils and rice, seasoned with cumin and cayenne)
Chebeh Rubyan (Ground shrimp balls made with cilantro, paprika, cinnamon, cumin, chili powder, and turmeric)
Mulhammar (Rice cooked with rosewater, saffron, sugar, and ghee)
Uukkous Al-Badinjan (eggplant sauce made with lemon juice, garlic, parsley, chili pepper, and paprika)
Shawarma (lamb cooked on a spit)

Finally, I have no reason to share this photo, other than I think it is cool that the Tree of Life is flourishing in the scorching Bahrain terrain. :)

Tree of Life in Bahrain, with no clear water source photo courtesy of CIA World Factbook

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Comments

  1. Humour is good…way to go…

  2. Any jellied sheeps’ eyes in sight ?

    Since I saw your conch eyes, it has become an obsession…

  3. Mom humor is awesome! Love the tree!

  4. Today’s Times had an article on Qatar, which also applies to Bahrain, on how people are now preferring McDonalds to traditional food and are ruining their health:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/27/world/middleeast/27qatar.html

  5. Actually I’m excited about Bahrain food ever since reading that the cuisine of the Arabian peninsula is totally different from that of the Middle East, and just can’t be found in U.S. restaurants.

    http://www.chow.com/digest/2010/03/why-saudia-arabias-food-isnt-middle-eastern/

    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/690650?tag=highlight-5431974;post-content-5431974#5431974

    I’ve been to Yemen and yes, the cuisine is totally different and I expect that’s also true of Bahrain.

  6. John in Tulsa says:

    Hmm…lamb’s eyes vs. Big Mac. Much as I dislike a Big Mac (can’t even remember the last time I ate one), I’m thinking that special sauce on a sesame seed bun sounds mighty good.
    Seriously, you’ve already covered so many meals from countries I haven’t given a thought to (with my taste buds) that I am completely hooked on the future of this blog. Wish Viet Nam and Tibet and Timor weren’t so far down the road. Having fun! Hope you are, too, with this labor.

    • Thanks John! I am enjoying this journey too. I’ve always loved learning though… I’ll be proud if a few readers stick around for the end of the alphabet :)

      • John in Tulsa says:

        I predict millions of readers by then!!! I’m hoping for some kind of book deal out of this labor of love.

  7. Yes…I have friends / students waiting for VietNam…

  8. .,..not to mention Korea!!

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