Authentic Kuwaiti food is full of flavour and your cultural experience will not be complete without it!
11 May 2017| Last updated on 21 March 2019
When people think of Kuwait, Kuwaiti cuisine probably isn’t the first thing that comes to their mind.
In fact, people can live for many years in Kuwait without actually ever sampling traditional Kuwaiti dishes. This isn’t due to ignorance.
It is because there is such a wide variety of cuisines and eating options available that Kuwaiti cuisine often gets overlooked. One may even be forgiven for thinking that Lebanese or Turkish cuisine is native to Kuwait since it is available in such abundance, however it isn’t!
Kuwaiti food is very rich in its flavour and taste. Tabeekh is a famous cooking method that is used for preparing many Kuwaiti dishes. In this method, the entire meal is cooked over heat after being placed in a single container.
Another Kuwaiti cooking method is known as marag, in which all the important ingredients are first fried and prepared and then added to the final meal and cooked over light heat.
Move past the hummus and falafel to try some food that originated in Kuwait. Kuwait has it very own dishes that are made and served in their own unique ways.
If you aren’t fortunate enough to enjoy home-cooked hospitality in Kuwait, then I have included some restaurants you can sample the cuisine at. Here are five must-try Kuwaiti dishes you need to sample next time you are in K-Town.
You don’t get much more Kuwaiti than machboos. This is Kuwait’s national dish and is similar to mansaf in Jordan. It is a dish made with mutton, chicken or fish (depending on preference) accompanied over fragrant rice that has been cooked in a chicken/mutton well-spiced broth.
Often served with a red gravy/sauce called dakoos, which may or may not come with soft potatoes. The meat is slow cooked so it is amazingly tender when served.
This is a thick soup-like dish consisting of wheat cooked with meat then mashed, usually topped with cinnamon sugar. Despite its unappealing appearance and texture, it is extremely filling and serves as a fantastic comfort food to keep you warm during those cold Kuwaiti winter nights.
This is fish served over rice cooked in well-spiced fish stock. Although variations of this dish are found around the gulf, what makes this dish pure Kuwaiti is when it is served with Zubaidi (pomfret) fish, which is the national fish of Kuwait. If prepared well, the fish will be fresh and the rice will be flavourful.
This is definitely one of my favourite dishes in Kuwait. Murabyan is another rice dish (Kuwaiti’s do love their rice!) but this time, it is full of shrimp. The dish is flavoured with sautéed onions, turmeric, coriander and dried loomi (a dried black lime). The result is a delicious combination of flavours that is sure to satisfy.
Although it may seem like your average sponge cake, this Kuwaiti cake is the perfect way to end of a heavy meal. It has strong elements of cardamom, saffron, rose water and sesame with a light and fluffy texture.
Where to eat traditional Kuwaiti food
Formerly a residence of the last British ruler before Kuwait took their independence, it is now a traditional restaurant in Salmiya. Try their lentil soup but don’t bother to order the karak tea. This place gives you that “Old Souk” feeling.
Arabic tents, mud wall finishes, cement floor, heavy wood chairs, rustic and antique furniture and appliances, red and blue table cloths, tons of Kuwaiti artefacts and memorabilia, and the staff in their colourful traditional dress make you feel as if you were dining in old Kuwait.
This restaurant serves traditional cuisine in a modern setting. Everything about this restaurant is whimsical with the exception of the service, which is impeccable. I love the way they serve their Gers Ogaily on cute crockery and with delightful cinnamon tea.
Remember that in Kuwaiti cuisine, what defines a dish isn’t so much what kind of meat or vegetable is used but rather, the blend of spices. Therefore, a machboos could be chicken or lamb, or even something else, but if the spices are about the same, then it’s all under the same name. Also, because sharing food is such a large part of Kuwaiti culture, most of these dishes can be ordered as a single unit but are meant to be shared!