If I had only one morning left in Dubai, I would eat…

…a za’atar with cheese manosheeh. Not just any manoosheh of course, but one from the Lebanese chain called Breakfast To Breakfast.

To me, the name ”Breakfast To Breakfast” reeks of something gimmicky, chainy, dull, totally mass produced, undifferentiated. Luckily, a few years ago, some humble soul in my family bypassed my snooty standards and ordered from the B To B (that’s their official nickname. ack.) right around the corner. And well, the rest is history.

Our family favorite – and probably the thing that we’ve ordered 99.9% of the time is some variation of the aforementioned manoosheh (the 0.1% refers to the time I once deviated by ordering a platter of fried munchies one deliriously hungry evening earlier this year. Though even then I faintly remember scarfing down a manoosheh on the side.)

Za’atar and cheese spread inside tender manoosheh dough from Breakfast to Breakfast

In my laymen terms (no offense intended to Levantine cuisine purists), a manoosheh is:

  • …a type of pizza that is most often associated with Lebanon, though I’ve yet to find an authoratative reference for its exact origin
  • …typically eaten for breakfast
  • …made of dough similar to pizza dough, stretched out thin, and sometimes folded down the middle like a sandwich. I was in the mood for a super thin crust today, aka ‘light’ in B to B lingo, so my manoosheh probably looks like its on the leaner side compared to the typical manakish (plural for manoosheh)
  • …dimpled along the surface with the baker’s fingers so that you’ve got these shallow craters where toppings can seep in. Tiny pools of flavorful topping. Ingenious.
  • …topped with a variety of toppings, including eggs, minced lamb, beef, lebneh (Greek yogurt)…but my two all-time favorites are the traditional za’atar with cheese and the probably not-so-traditional turkey with cheese.

Za’atar is an earthy, fabulously fragrant Middle Eastern spice blend that I’ve shamefully never quite been able to dissect despite the phenomenal khoobs (Arabic bread) and za’atar sandwiches that would be neatly packed every so often into my high school lunch box (mom, you rock.) Every place I’ve eaten it at has a slightly different twist on za’atar, though I’m quite certain that the mix at B to B contains specks of thyme, sumac and sesame seeds. That, together with a generous drizzle of olive oil before tossing the dough into the oven, and you’ve got a masterpiece in the making.

Za’atar drizzled with olive oil and baked, one of the best ways of bringing out the earthy aroma of this herb mixture

The cheese that B to B layers on its za’atar with cheese manakish is Akkawi cheese, a slightly salty white Middle Eastern cheese whose shredded strands melt together into warm cheesy patches on the inside once the manoosheh dough is baked. I typically prefer less cheese on my manoosheh – too much and (a) you’ve overwhelmed the star ingredient, the za’atar, and (b) you end up with a dough that’s greasy rather than being light and pillowy.

The insides of the manakish revealing a melted crust of salty Akkawi cheese…

When I stopped by at B to B today for my manoosheh takeout, I tried to squeeze out every last detail from the servers and chefs behind the counter in anticipation of writing it up on my blog.  Sadly, they didn’t even let me take photographs inside the place…the server and the chef were having some tiff about a cup of tea that was owed to one of the staff members, and my far superior demands to learn about and photograph every last detail of my manoosheh-in-the-making was sidelined. To their credit, they finally threw in a fatayer (pastry) with akkawi cheese as a free sample, which promptly succeeded in putting an end to my obnoxiously inquisitive questions and leaving them time to resolve their morning tea trials.

Fatayer encasing a thin layer of akkawi cheese. By this point I had carb coma.

On a happier note, I would also highly recommend their turkey and cheese manoosheh…the thin sheets of turkey crisp up around the edges under the intense oven heat, while the center stays tender with shallow streams of olive oil running through.

I’d really love to learn how to make manakish at home, but the temptation of ordering in from B to B is just too much. I can’t even resist breaking off a fridge cold piece of the dough to nosh on while waiting for leftovers to toast up the next day, so getting into the zone of finding recipes, baking and visualizing the end product is clearly lightyears away (ps. if you’re on of those souls who occasionally indulges in a slice of cold pizza, you’re sure to love this manoosheh right out of the fridge too). The day I finally muster up the courage to make my own manoosheh knowing all too well that my favorite one is just footsteps away, I’ll probably refer to these two awesome online search hits that surfaced in my quest to unearth the science behind manakish – Fouad Kassab’s informative Manakish post on his blog, The Food Blog (Q. how do you get such an awesome mother-of-food-blogs food blog name? Ans. get a domain in Australia.) and Serious Eats’ write-up on za’atar.

(PS. I’ve tried the manakish at the local Zaatar W’ Zeit as well, but something about the texture of the dough, simplicity of ingredients, and temperature of the manakish at ZWZ (B To B’s has that ‘hot out of the oven’ feel while ZWZ is an insipid warm) doesn’t speak to me in the way that the B To B manakish does.)

(Sadly, I can’t seem to access their website for some reason, and multiple google searches didn’t bring up their site either. Luckily they’re just  a phone call away.)

Author: InaFryingPan

With a family legacy of ingenious cooks, a nutritionist and chef-extraordinaire mother, and a father who introduced me to steak and caviar when I could barely reach the table, I had no choice but to acquire a keen awareness of food during my childhood years in Dubai. But it was only after I found myself on a college campus in Philadelphia – far away from home, too cheap as a student to spend on anything other than pizza, and with dorm rooms that had little rat-holes of kitchens if they even had them at all – when I developed a heightened appreciation of food. An appreciation of food that I once ate every night at the dinner table in Dubai, but that was now an entire ocean away. I lusted for the culinary treasures that lay outside the stale walls of my college dining hall, hijacked friends’ kitchens to try my hand at something, anything , remotely edible, and greedily raided different websites in search of highly-rated restaurants. With my move to New York to work for a consulting firm that secretly harbored self-professed foodies, my appreciation transformed into a passion, an addicition. I felt like everyone around me in New York was talking about food: where to get the best cupcakes, pizza slices, banh mi, kati rolls, pho, fried chicken, and every other food item out there that is just a plain old dish in some part of the world, but that’s become hyped to unforeseen proportions in New York. What fuelled my addiction over time was travel to different cities, both for work and play, which gave me unfettered access to the culinary havens of not only New York, but also of DC, Virginia, Chicago, Houston, Vegas, Austin, Seattle and even a little city called Bentonville (Arkansas!). After 9 years away from home, I’ve finally taken the leap to come back to Dubai – with not just an awareness, but genuine appreciation and passionate addiction for what I’d taken for granted as a child. Mom, I’m back to reclaim my seat at your dinner table, and to rediscover this city with its ever-expanding menu of international flavors.

16 thoughts on “If I had only one morning left in Dubai, I would eat…

  1. Fouad@TheFoodBlog says:

    Lovely write up. It’s always super interesting to see photos of Dubai. I’m yet to visit.
    The name manousheh (or however you spell it) is actually in reference to the dimpled surface of the dough. The word manoosh means dimpled.
    I have never had Turkey and cheese manousheh. The Lebanese go for cheese and ham manousheh, but I’m guessing this is the halal Dubai version. Sounds good though!

    Keep up the great work, and thanks for the mention!

    1. InaFryingPan says:

      Thanks for stopping by Fouad, and for the cool snippet of info!

      Look forward to keeping up with your blog & exchanging foodie thoughts in the future :)

  2. Sunny D says:

    too much cheese on a manoosheh is wrong but on prawns its OK? ;-)

    1. InaFryingPan says:

      excellent point ;) i think the cheesy prawns that day was one of the those things that seemed awesome the first time I ate it, but then my love for them just plummeted after…! so the cheese-in-moderation rule now officially applies to the prawns as well.

  3. Sally says:

    There were not many things I would rate in Saudi – but the shwarma and manoushe were far better than you can get in Dubai. They had a bread oven in our local supermarket and you’d wait for it to be freshly baked. I have not tasted B to Bs though – something I must rectify.

    1. InaFryingPan says:

      yep, you’ve gotta try it! there’s one closer to your place I think…on sheikh zayed, next to that dusit thani building….

    1. InaFryingPan says:

      it was, and thanks for stopping by Shafeena!

  4. Jesstastic says:

    Wow, thank you for blogging! I searched all morning for the cheese that they used in the zaatar and cheese manoosheh at b to b. You are awesome.

    1. InaFryingPan says:

      Dear Jesstatic, glad you got an answer from the post! I know all too well the feeling of eating something awesome, and then going crazy trying to dissect the recipe. Thanks to the internet, there’s always someone out there in cyberspace who’s answered the question!

    1. InaFryingPan says:

      hahaha…don’t combust please, just go find a place that serves Egyptian food! Also just stopped by your site and saw that you’ve recently started blogging too – guessing it’ll be all about food?? Do let me know, I’m always on the prowl for fun foodie blogs in and around the GCC…

  5. sk says:

    Hi there Arva. Stumbled on your blog quite recently while googling for a recipe..Brilliant idea on your part to blog abt local eateries & it is very well written with a touch of satire that makes reading your blog so pleasurable.Have just started visiting the places u have recommended here..tho limited to a large extent by me being a vegetarian..So here are my two cents on BtoB..Had a zaater ’manousheh’ there..(can u notice ur influence in my vocab)?..Well..I wouldn’t call it outstanding mainly coz of the salt..The amt of salt in this is waaaayyy more than i consume in a single day..(enuf to give me a niggling worry abt my BP level.) but on the other hand the bread has a slightly sweet taste to it that I loved.Maybe I shud give this place another chance some other day.But your opinion on bloomsbury cakes was spot on. They have lovely cakes and the best part is the icing which is not cloyingly sweet(which means u can have more than 1 piece;)}They have opened an outlet in dubai mall.(lucky me remembered u mentioning it)..So thanks n keep blogging

  6. Devi says:

    hello dear,
    Who are you dear foodie..? what have you in this site?.. omg ..its just the love for food.. Im like literally drooling at your pages.. thankgod laptop screens arent porous.. !! Anyways..do try the manakish from Al reef bakery in karama( opposite Mister Baker)its Heavenly!!They were the pioneers of the formative years in karama!! keep up the awesome site and pass on the love for food!! BTW Im also loyal foodie who grew all my life in Dubai and now stay In KL :)
    One true always can recognise another one!:)) goodluck to you!

    1. InaFryingPan says:

      Hi there fellow foodie :) Thank you for the flattering words! I’ve had Al Reef Bakery’s manousheh as well, pretty decent but BtoB is still my go-to place. Lucky you, you’ve moved to another super delicious city – loved Chinatown in KL when I visited. Must go back soon! Thanks for stopping by my blog, always good to hear from people who’ve spent time here and feel strongly about the old places around town :)

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