Fresh twist for UAE diners as oysters thrive in warm waters

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A fresh oyster dish prepared by chef Georgiy Danilov is displayed at Copper Lobster restaurant, in Fairmont, Fujairah, UAE. The waters of the Arabian Gulf have long been home to pearl oysters. Now, off the shores of the Fujairah, an emirate with a coastline that juts out into the Gulf of Oman, a new type of oyster is thriving — the edible kind. (AP/Kamran Jebreili)
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Frame grab from video, lantern nets holding oysters inside hang underwater at the Dibba Bay Oyster Farm, in Dibba, United Arab Emirates. The waters of the Arabian Gulf have long been home to pearl oysters. Now, off the shores of the Fujairah, an emirate with a coastline that juts out into the Gulf of Oman, a new type of oyster is thriving — the edible kind. (AP/Fay Abuelgasim)
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An employee of the Dibba Bay Oyster Farm points to the underwater oyster farm, in Dibba, United Arab Emirates. The waters of the Arabian Gulf have long been home to pearl oysters. Now, off the shores of the Fujairah, an emirate with a coastline that juts out into the Gulf of Oman, a new type of oyster is thriving — the edible kind. (AP/Kamran Jebreili)
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A mosque’s minaret and the Shumayliyah Mountains are seen from Dibba Bay on the Arabian Sea, in Dibba, United Arab Emirates. The waters of the Arabian Gulf have long been home to pearl oysters. Now, off these shores in Fujairah, an emirate with a coastline that juts out into the Gulf of Oman, a new type of oyster is thriving — the edible kind. (AP/Kamran Jebreili)
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An employee of the Dibba Bay Oyster Farm cleans a lantern net at the company’s harvesting and processing facilities, in Dibba, United Arab Emirates.The waters of the Arabian Gulf have long been home to pearl oysters. Now, off the shores of the Fujairah, an emirate with a coastline that juts out into the Gulf of Oman, a new type of oyster is thriving — the edible kind. (AP/Kamran Jebreili)
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An employee of the Dibba Bay Oyster Farm cleans the lantern nets at the company’s harvesting and processing facilities in Dibba, United Arab Emirates. The waters of the Arabian Gulf have long been home to pearl oysters. Now, off the shores of the Fujairah, an emirate with a coastline that juts out into the Gulf of Oman, a new type of oyster is thriving — the edible kind. (AP/Kamran Jebreili)
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A package of oysters from the Dibba BayOyster Farm is displayed, in Dibba, UAE. The waters of the Arabian Gulf have long been home to pearl oysters. Now, off the shores of the Fujairah, an emirate with a coastline that juts out into the Gulf of Oman, a new type of oyster is thriving — the edible kind. (AP/Kamran Jebreili)
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An employee of the Dibba Bay Oyster Farm, pulls a lantern net with oysters from the water, in Dibba, United Arab Emirates. The waters of the Arabian Gulf have long been home to pearl oysters. Now, off the shores of the Fujairah, an emirate with a coastline that juts out into the Gulf of Oman, a new type of oyster is thriving — the edible kind. (AP/Kamran Jebreili)
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An employee cleans oyster shells at the Dibba Bay Oyster Farm’s harvesting and processing facilities, in Dibba, United Arab Emirates. The waters of the Arabian Gulf have long been home to pearl oysters. Now, off the shores of the Fujairah, an emirate with a coastline that juts out into the Gulf of Oman, a new type of oyster is thriving — the edible kind. (AP/Kamran Jebreili)
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Employees clean oyster shells at the Dibba Bay Oyster Farm’s harvesting and processing facilities, in Dibba, United Arab Emirates. The waters of the Arabian Gulf have long been home to pearl oysters. Now, off the shores of the Fujairah, an emirate with a coastline that juts out into the Gulf of Oman, a new type of oyster is thriving — the edible kind. (AP/Kamran Jebreili).
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Frame grab from video, a diver from the Dibba Bay Oyster Farm, fixes a lantern net at the underwater oyster farm, in Dibba, United Arab Emirates. The waters of the Arabian Gulf have long been home to pearl oysters. Now, off the shores of the Fujairah, an emirate with a coastline that juts out into the Gulf of Oman, a new type of oyster is thriving — the edible kind. (AP/Fay Abuelgasim)
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Ramie Murray, Scottish owner and founder of Dibba Bay Oyster Farm tests a fresh oyster at the company’s harvesting and processing facilities, in Dibba, UAE. The waters of the Arabian Gulf have long been home to pearl oysters. Now, off the shores of the Fujairah, an emirate with a coastline that juts out into the Gulf of Oman, a new type of oyster is thriving — the edible kind. (AP/Kamran Jebreili)
Updated 14 February 2018
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Fresh twist for UAE diners as oysters thrive in warm waters

FUJAIRAH, UAE: The waters of the Arabian Gulf have long been home to pearl oysters, providing a valuable mainstay to Arab tribes that subsisted off its trade before the discovery of oil pumped new life into the Arabian Peninsula. Now, off the shores of the United Arab Emirates, a new type of oyster is thriving — the edible kind.
Long thought of as a cold water delicacy, edible oysters are being farmed in the warm waters of Fujairah, an emirate with a coastline that juts out into the Gulf of Oman. The local delicacy has made its way to tables in 12 different restaurants in Dubai, a cosmopolitan emirate east of Fujairah that is home to some of the Middle East’s top-rated restaurants serving international tourists and residents.
Dibba Bay Oysters in Fujairah, established two years ago, produces up to 20,000 oysters a month. They grow inside multi-tiered, netted baskets submerged in the open water. At any given time, there are about 1 million oysters at various stages of growth. An oyster can take anywhere between 12 and 18 months to grow to full market size.
“With these local oysters, we take them out of the water in the morning, and then in the afternoon they’re with the hotels, they’re with the chefs, they’re in the restaurant,” said Dibba Bay founder Ramie Murray.
The UAE imports nearly all of its food due to its harsh desert climate, but being able to deliver fresh oysters within hours to restaurants has made the local delicacy an attractive menu item at some of Dubai’s most popular and prestigious seafood restaurants, including the oyster bar at Dubai’s Opera.
“Someone came to me and said: ‘Hey, have you heard of these local oysters?’ And I was like: ‘No,’” said the bar’s executive chef Carl Maunder. “It was sort of out of the blue because, you know, this was in the summer time, it was very, very hot and just the last thing I expected anybody to be producing or farming here in Dubai.”
Murray plans to ramp up production to about 150,000 oysters a day in the coming years and expand to other markets in the region. The Dibba Bay farm claims to be the first of its kind in the Middle East.
Due to the warmer water temperatures, Murray says his Pacific Cupped oysters grow faster than they might in cooler climates.
The Pacific Cupped oysters, he said, “grow very well in the summer and their growth tails off in the winter, whereas here they just grow continuously because we have the warm weather the whole year round.”
Just down the coast from the Fujairah farm is the Copper Lobster restaurant. There, chefs serve the locally grown oysters with a Japanese Ponzu sauce.
“Being in the industry for 15 years, I had a kind of stereotype as (might) any other chef that oysters can only be imported from Europe,” chef Georgiy Danilov said. “In the middle of the year, I just got the business card of Ramie. ... I called him, and I was like: ‘Are you real?’“


Dhaka relishes traditional ‘Dhakaia iftar’ in Ramadan

Chawak Bazar Iftar market vendors on a busy Wednesday afternoon. (AN photo)
Updated 24 May 2018
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Dhaka relishes traditional ‘Dhakaia iftar’ in Ramadan

  • While much has changed in Dhaka, its tasty Ramadan dishes have stayed the same in the 400-year old city established by the Mughal dynasty.
  • The exquisite variety of kebabs attracts food lovers from far and wide, reminding them of the existence of Mughals through different food menus — offering tikka, shutli, jaali, shami, irani and other kinds of kebabs.

DHAKA: “To me it’s like a festival. During Ramadan, all of us friends regularly gather at my house and have the ‘Dhakaia Iftar’ together,” said Abdullah Alamin, 48, a city dweller of old Dhaka.

While much has changed in Dhaka, these tasty dishes have stayed the same in the 400-year old city established by the Mughal dynasty.

“Chawak Bazar Iftar market of old Dhaka has a history of more than 100 years. Many things of the area have changed with the passage of time but the Chawak Bazar Iftar remains unchanged,” said renowned historian Muntasir Mamun, a professor at Dhaka University.

Chawak Bazar became the city center of Dhaka during the Mughal regime in the early-16th century. The iftar bazar is a continuity of the retail market set up since then, Muntasir said.

During Ramadan, people from all over Dhaka get something more to add to their regular iftar menu.

In Chawak Bazar, vendors in makeshift shops offer a variety of iftar items. These include “boro baper polai khai” (only the son of an influential father eats this), shahi jilapi, shahi paratha, beef, chicken, mutton, pigeon, quail roast, keema roll, keema paratha, doi bora, borhani.

The exquisite variety of kebabs attracts food lovers from far and wide, reminding them of the existence of Mughals through different food menus — offering tikka, shutli, jaali, shami, irani and other kinds of kebabs.

Boro baper polai khai is the most popular iftar item among the locals. People from old Dhaka can simply not complete their iftar without having a piece of it. This is an exclusive food of the city made of chicken, minced meat, potatoes, brain, chira, egg, spices and ghee.

“This is a traditional food of old Dhaka. I saw my grandfather enjoying eating boro baper polai khai,” said Hajji Joinal Molla, 79, who has been living in the Lalbag area of old Dhaka for many years.

“We love to treat our special guests with this dish,” Joinal said.

Most of the 200 vendors at the market are second- or third-generation businesses. 

“My 11-year-old son is very fond of shami kebab at Chawak Bazar. Today he has invited some of his friends to our house, which brought me here to this iftar market,” said Shamsuddin Ahmed, 55, a resident of Uttara, new Dhaka.

“These traditional Iftar items have become an integral part of our iftar culture,” Shamsuddin said.