Thanksgiving in Dubai and 99 Foods you’ve never seen before!

“We should just be thankful for being together. I think that’s what they mean by ‘Thanksgiving.'”— Charlie Brown

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Last Thursday was Thanksgiving back home, in the United States. Even though the U.S. isn’t the only country to celebrate Thanksgiving (Canada being the other), it definitely isn’t a holiday recognized in the UAE, which meant Rocket had to work part of the day!

Since this was the first time I didn’t celebrate around family (other than Rocket), the experience was quite different. This year, we were invited to a friend’s house for a potluck-style Thanksgiving dinner which we both thoroughly enjoyed. Throughout the week, I was determined to make a few dishes, including my family’s famous mac and cheese exactly the way the recipe called for. Sounds easy right?

WRONG! Trying to cook in Celsius instead of Fahrenheit was the least of my worries. In the United States, you can normally find all the required ingredients in two stores: the local chain and Whole Foods. The amazing and sometimes overwhelming thing about Dubai is the number of grocery stores that cater to different markets carrying Indian, American, Filipino and European brands to a variety of unusual looking vegetables from all over the world. In fact, one grocery store has a whole aisle for oranges from around the world!

Surprisingly, finding a familiar brand doesn’t mean you will find the products you are looking for since global brands market different products for different regions of the world. Basically, if you are searching for specific items that are common in the United States, going to 2 grocery stores probably won’t be enough!

After I wrote down the family mac and cheese recipe, I went to 5 different grocery stores and called 3 more in search of the necessary secret ingredients. Rocket and I searched everywhere and it wasn’t until the day of that I actually managed to find everything on the list (Thank God)! Although my mac and cheese didn’t turn out exactly like my Mom’s, it was still pretty good. Next year, hopefully, instead of spending my time searching high and low for the ingredients, I can work on perfecting the recipe!

Take a look at the amazing variety (not quite 99 yet) Dubai grocery stores have below. And if you need any help navigating the supermarkets here, I’ve learned quite a bit in the past year and a half!

My favorites stores are still Waitrose and Spinneys as they carry the most familiar brands and fresh foods, but Carrefour, Lulu’s, and Union Co-op are growing on me.

I normally shop at:

  1. Waitrose and Spinneys known for British brands, a good bakery, and fresh meats
  2. Union Co-op known for the cornucopia of fresh produce from all over the world
  3. Park-n-Shop and Safestway known for carrying many American brands
  4. Lulu’s and Carrefour,  the “WalMarts” of the UAE

And last but not least, this year I’m thankful for you, my readers! Your encouragement motivates me to continue and I’m very grateful.

Also, I am so thankful for my husband, Rocket. Not only does he listen to me, he also cares about understanding my emotions, and gives me support no matter how crazy my idea might be. I’m grateful that we continue to push each other to be better and encourage one another to stay close to our families. I love you, Rocket! 🙂

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