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Seven distinctly Qatari foods for the World Cup in 2022.

As the World Cup draws closer, it’s only natural that many will want to eat some of the country’s traditional cuisine.

From Filipino chicken adobo tenderised with vinegar to crisp Indian dosas filled with spiced potatoes, Qatar’s food choices are representative of its 2.3 million strong expatriate population.

Workers and investors began arriving on the tiny peninsula in the 1950s to build and work there. One of the smallest countries and one of the richest with an international food scene.

There are cafes and restaurants that serve food from all over the world, including Italian burrata and Indonesian nasi goreng.

Away from the global food scene, classic Qatari meals are usually one-pot dishes cooked using foods that were traditionally sourced locally on land and sea, with fish and meat featured in summer and winter meals.

Cloves and black pepper from India, cinnamon from Sri Lanka, and saffron from Iran are some of the spices used in dishes.

Many dishes were slow-cooked in clay pots over firewood as the women of the family prepared a meal the night before. The men would either spend their mornings fishing or working as small-scale farmers and return by midday to eat.

Middle East Eye looked at some of the traditional foods in the country.

1. Machboos

This is the national dish of Qatar and it is similar to biryani in India, though each country has their own variations.

The mixture of garlic, ginger, peppers, and a blend of Qatari spices known as bizarre is added to the pot by the protein.

The Baharat spice mix (which means “seven spices” in Arabic) is a combination of cumin, coriander, ginger, cinnamon, turmeric and black pepper, along with loomi, a unique ingredient imported from Oman.

Loomi, or black dried lime, looks a bit like charcoal and is what makes the mixture so unique.

Once the dish is cooked, it’s served with an extra sprinkle of lemon to complement the sourness of the loomi.

2. Khubs rag

The paper-thin flatbread is made from flour, water, and salt. The Kaweah, a large flat iron plate that is traditionally heated, is used to cook the dough after it is rolled out.

This crisp bread, similar in texture to dosa, can now be found as street food in tourist places like the Souq Waqif, where Kiri cheese spread or Nutella are offered as a topping.

Shams al-Qassabi, the first female trader in Souq Waqif, runs Shay Al Shomous, a restaurant that serves a dish with egg and Za’atar.

As in this next dish, the bread is eaten as an accompaniment to other dishes or an ingredient itself.

3. Thareed

Traditional ‘thareed’ is a hearty stew cooked in a clay pot. It has a chicken or lamb stock base and a tomato sauce made with seasonal vegetables, usually including potatoes, carrots, onions and chickpeas.
Dig the serving spoon to the bottom of the pot – at the base you will find layers of chubs rgag, torn carefully to line the pot, soaking up the flavours of the stew.

Most families grew tomatoes and watermelons, but they had to wait for other fruits to arrive from other countries, such as Oman and Iran.

Qatar imports a lot of its food; just 10 years ago it still imported 90 per cent of its food.

4. Harees

You soak the wheat overnight in warm water, then cook it for about 20 minutes. Then, crack or grind it up. You don’t have to do any more than this to make great crackers.

In the morning it is put on the fire to slow-cook for five to six hours, with mixed pieces of lamb or chicken, sometimes both.

The dish is often spiced with cinnamon and cumin and served with ghee.

Some Qatari families usually send a pot of this to neighbouring houses as a goodwill gesture, especially during Ramadan.

In other countries, there are variations of this dish, such as haleem in Pakistan and congee in China.

It’s made with oats and it’s a version of porridge.

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5. Madrouba

This dish can be described as a fragrant, spiced rice porridge, topped with your choice of meat or a vegetable.

Adding tenderised, slow-cooked meat or chicken to slow-cooked rice makes it sound almost like a pudding; but the addition of tenderised, slow-cooked meat or chicken changes everything.

The dish is called Maroubra because it is beaten to a consistency using a wooden spoon, taking its name from the Arabic word darb, meaning to hit in Arabic.

Lighter meals were also eaten, like fresh-caught fish from the Arabian Gulf waters, grilled and served with rice.

6. Ballet

This unique combination of sweetened vermicelli is cooked in butter with cinnamon, saffron, and cardamom giving it a distinct taste.

It is then topped with either a fried egg or an omelette that is infused with cardamom. The spices and topping are added.

The egg and noodles bring out the flavour of this dish. It can be eaten hot for breakfast, cold for dessert, or both at any time of day.

It’s thought that merchants from India may have brought the dish to the country, but locals claim it’s theirs.

7. Luqaimat

These mini doughballs are called “morsel” or “bite-sized” because they are cooked to perfect perfection. Fried desserts can be dipped in sugar syrup, honey or date syrup instead of being coated in a sugar glaze.

LOKMA is a dish that is found in Turkey. It’s an easy dessert to make because it’s made from a classic dough without sugar, and it’s coated in syrup.

Some people choose to add saffron and cardamom to the dough in order to give it a traditional Qatari flavour. The final dish is a perfect ball that’s crisp on the outside and soft and airy on the inside, as is the case with other dishes mentioned here.

The syrup is added later in the day. At any family event or when friends are invited over, luqaimat is usually the centre of attention.

The bite-sized sweet treat is a popular dessert during the holy month of Ramadan, and is best enjoyed warm and freshly made.

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