Updated: Aug 3
I have always enjoyed watching the expressions on people's faces as they discover that we keep kosher in Dubai. At first there is disbelief followed by amazement. And then, there is a barrage of the same questions... do you have kosher meat? Can you get kosher wine and grape juice? Where do you get cheese? How do you manage? Well anything is possible and this is how we do it.
I discovered early on that supermarkets in Dubai are full of kosher products. Being an international city, products are imported from around the world. Many of the imported products arrive with a hechsher - this is especially true of American products. Different supermarkets stock different kosher items, so it often means driving to one supermarket to get puff pastry and another to get cream cheese or ice cream. Even so, the range of kosher products is so vast that my husband and I often joke that there is a broader range of kosher products in Dubai than there is in Johannesburg (where we come from). Certainly there are more hechsherim than we are used to seeing in South Africa. Having so many kosher products available makes keeping a kosher lifestyle much easier as we don't have to shlepp heavy stuff (like tins of tomato paste or jams) from South Africa when we return. But, we can't help it, and we do end up stuffing our bags anyway with all the good old South African products we miss or items that are insanely expensive to buy in Dubai. The downside of relying on imported goods is that they are much more expensive than locally produced goods. So even though we can get for example, kosher butter in Dubai, I usually bring over 20 bricks of frozen butter with me at a time as it is much more cost effective. It means that we have very large freezers in my kitchen!
What can't we get in Dubai?
Well, we don't have the same food facilities that many other communities have. There are no kosher bakeries or butcheries and kosher cheese products are really hard to get.
We could not get freshly baked bread / challah, cakes etc. If you were looking for these products you had bring it with you - or make it yourself (frozen bagels and wraps are found in some supermarkets). I am often baking cookies and cupcakes for my kids to take to birthday parties as they have no other options. They are happy as long as they are eating cake! My wonderful friend, Nora, travels to New York regularly and she always returns with a selection of bagels, challah and rugelach for us. What we miss though is being able to order pizza delivery on those lazy nights at home! But things have changed and now I make pita breads, challah, rugelach, babka and more to make up for this gap.
Until recently, kosher meat was not available in Dubai and you would have to bring it with you from where you traveled from. We adjusted by eating a lot of fish or following a vegetarian lifestyle. When we traveled, my husband and kids often looked for a kosher meat restaurant to get their once-a-year intake.
Kosher milk products are generally limited to cream cheese. I have not yet seen kosher feta, halloumi or any of the hard cheeses in any supermarkets. However, kosher vegan cheeses are widely available. Again, many people bring kosher cheese for me - I always ask for chalav Yisrael cheese as this is what many of my guests want. Chalav stam milk with a hechsher is available in Dubai.
Kosher wine was also not available. People passing through Dubai often brought us a bottle or two as a gift. And on the topic of grape products... kosher grape juice, balsamic and red wine vinegars are other items that need to be brought in.
Over time I have learned where to source kosher products in Dubai and I have a very well stocked kitchen. By opening my kitchen to the public, I can make it possible for kosher travelers to eat healthy, freshly cooked (and of-course delicious) food in Dubai! It is my pleasure to be able to extend the bounty of my home to others so that they too can experience the hospitality of this amazing city.