Dubai’s Cheap Eats Make it to Broadway!

When Robyn reached out asking if I’d write for the NYC-based community blog, Serious Eats, I responded with one line: OMG. I’ll respond when I’m done hyperventilating….

Almost exactly a month later, thanks to Robyn, my article on Dubai’s top ethnic eats went online. Here is it folks, 16 Top Ethnic Eats of Old Dubai. Check out how some of the low-end yumminess you can find in this city struts past the gilded plates of the designer hotels and makes its way to centre stage.

The rest of this post isn’t about food. I think I’ve spewed out what I’ve had to say for at least a month on the food front in my slideshow for Serious Eats. For a change, I’m doing a behind-the-scenes post that talks about what’s inspired me to blog. No, this is not my version of an Oscar speech for getting aired on Serious Eats. I just wanted to share why I’m so excited about this article…it’s not about face time on a high-traffic site, but about having the opportunity to work with someone whom I’ve looked up to for a long time.

That said, if you don’t care two cents for a blogger spilling the contents of her currently high-on-emo heart, and flaming fish and cheesy manousheh is all your heart desires, skip this post and go straight to Serious Eats.

This article on Serious Eats was a huge deal for me. I used to follow the site in my previous life in New York, though their posts still hit my google reader in Dubai every day. I still occasionally drool over Kenji’s photography or participate silently in battles over hot dogs from Chicago or pizza from New York (or hot dogs from New York and pizza from Chicago…or whichever other city dares to contest that no-winners battle), or slurp up ground-breaking information about instant noodles from around the world.

Serious Eats is one of a handful of online publications whose writers I really look up to, and get inspired by. But even before Serious Eats came into the picture, there was Robyn from The Girl Who Ate Everything. She’s been on the top of my list for at least three years, maybe more, and I’d be lying if I said I haven’t been influenced by her.

Robyn, I hope your not reading this because from the little I know of you, you’re going to squirm with modesty, and maybe even annoyance that ‘jeez, here’s ANOTHER fan blogger who dreams of having a blog that’s as awesome as mine.’ 

She’s really the first blogger I started following with a passion, and whose website has actively shaped my own style and approach to blogging. Two years into the blogging scene, having read and commented on throngs of blogs, hers is still the one that resonates the most with me.

Here’s what I love about The Girl Who Ate Everything. Her writing flows unpretentiously like an everyday conversation, with hilarious bits of self-deprecation or observation el randemo thrown in. I kid you not, but even her punctuation is distinctive…it makes her written thoughts glide, shift gears, leap, take a detour, accelerate, or come to a grinding halt just as they would in stream-of-consciousness reality. The quality of her photographs poo poo over many of those overly styled, red-and-white-straws-in-milk-jars-with-a-stack-of-cookies-and-one-lone-broken-cookie-strategically-crumbled-by-the-photographer-on-the-top-right-corner-of-the-frame photographs that seem to have become the contrived rage today. And her doodles, which have prompted me to attempt my own, deserve to be framed in any foodie’s home—like this ripe banana comic that had me giggling over it for days. I still share it with friends, such is the impact that banana farts had on me.

It’s scary, but sometimes when I’m at a loss for words, and a warm shower, a run, a drive, a chocolate chip cookie can’t fix it, the thought that often pops up in my head is: How would Robyn have said it? And the answer is usually, ‘she’d have said it just like it is.’ No pretense, no overly contrived words, no attempt at creating a story out of something that isn’t there. And with a boatload of humour thrown in. I’d never want to be a blogging copycat, and I pray I’m not, but if I’ve ever been inspired, intentionally or unintentionally by another blog, you should know that it’s Robyn’s.

Robyn, I hope you’re reading again now—for unknowingly getting me excited about the food blogosphere, for teaching me something interesting about unique style, voice and photography through every one of your posts, for weaving in humour and doodles seamlessly into your writing, and of course, for showcasing some of the most gobsmacking eats there are to gorge on in NYC, or from around the world…

….and for inviting me to write on Serious Eats…




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.

29 thoughts on “Dubai’s Cheap Eats Make it to Broadway!

  1. Sally says:

    Ohhhhhh – first to say your Serious Eats article is a serious achievement – not just for getting on to the site but because you’ve joined the ranks of the writers you admire and the quality of your research, knowledge and writing puts you into the higher echelons of those writers. Who am I to say, but really incredible stuff Frying Pan :) Secondly the tribute to TGWAE is so beautifully done – I too have several people who have inspired me and I am tempted to write buckets about them but my enthusiasm just comes out as gushing! The best part of blogging is the support and interaction from around the globe and I’m thrilled that this has had such an enriching result for you. Thirdly, your integrity – yes it can be easy to get caught up in all the things you should do, could do, ought to do – I think I’m going to print this article off and put it on my pin board above my laptop….don’t get distracted, feet on the ground, stay true to yourself :) Oh yes I know exactly what you mean by overly styled, red-and-white-straws-in-milk-jars-with-a-stack-of-cookies-and-one-lone-broken-cookie-strategically-crumbled-by-the-photographer-on-the-top-right-corner-of-the-frame photographs :) :) :) Aaaahhh – this turned out to be one of those stilted, gushing comments – however, it’s from the heart.

    1. InaFryingPan says:

      Sally – you always speak, and write, from the heart. I think your point on support and interaction from around the globe is key…if not for Fooderati Arabia, I would have still been that lonely little blogger on Al Rigga ;) But when you’re surrounded by the right people and their positive energy, things just happen organically. You’re one of those ’right people,’ with contagiously positive energy that’s constantly perking up the bloggers around you.

      Your support means a ton to me. And you’re not gushing at all…even if you are, whatever…we’re allowed to have an uber-soppy-happy-gushing-moment every once in a while. Thank you for the heartfelt comment.

  2. Nausheen says:

    Congratulations again on your serious eats post! That is such an accomplishment. It it so sweet of you to acknowlege the inspiration behind it. Looking forward to more posts on there!

    1. InaFryingPan says:

      Nausheen, thank you! Fingers crossed that I get to write for them again…unless some longtime SE fan has already revolted against my obsessive foodie ramblings ;)

  3. Didi says:

    Being on Serious Eats is AWESOME!!!! I <3 Serious Eats too. So having an article on it is a dream…a dream come true for you! So so proud! It’s like winning a gold medal in the blogging olympics ;p

    You know I have been a fan of TGWAE when we virtually met July of last year :) Been reading her blog since 2005 or 2006. She is full of sincere and candid awesomeness that is a gem in bloggers. I’m glad that you guys share the same energy and enthusiasm about food. It’s simply contagious!

    1. InaFryingPan says:

      Yay for mutual SE and TGWAE love! I kinda feel like I have made it out to be more than it is…as in, Serious Eats is still awesome, but me winning a gold medal in blogging olympics…erm…I think its more that I just got lucky when I got connected with Robyn!
      But I’m really, really happy…no doubt about that. I’m going to enjoy that happy cloud 9 feeling until some wise SE editor realizes the damage they’ve done and kick me off the team! :/

  4. nadia says:

    This is amazing! Congratulations!!! I agree with Sally; your article at Serious Eats is a serious achievement.

    1. InaFryingPan says:

      Thanks nadia, coming from a foodie explorer like yourself, that’s huge! Thank you :D

    1. InaFryingPan says:

      Thanks Sarah! Time to celebrate with one of those milkshakes from T-junction? ;)

  5. Farwin says:

    Congrats again on your post at Serious eats,Arva ! Your unique approach to food blogging and your writing style make you stand out from the crowd. Well deserved !

    1. InaFryingPan says:

      Aww that’s so sweet of you Farwin, thank you! Finally something to make me stand out rather than my usual clownishness… ;)

  6. FooDiva says:

    Truly mabrouk and very well deserved. The article is so well researched and thought through. Love that Dubai’s hidden gems are getting international acclaim – all thanks to the Frying Pan :) Wow I never realised TGWAE was your inspiration. Keep it up. x

    1. InaFryingPan says:

      FooDiva, thank you! And on that note, I need to book your taste buds for a restaurant outing soon, it feels like it’s been too long. The un-fish-sauced fare from last time didn’t cut it.

  7. Sliceofmylyfe says:

    Such a fantastic achievement Arva. You make us all proud. I read the article and drooled at the photos. Really good work. Now your commitment and passion for food is being recognized and its no small feat!

    Congrats again. Much love.

    1. InaFryingPan says:

      Thank you darling, you’ve always been so supportive and for that, a big fat soppy hug from me –> you. Now I just have to find a hole-in-the-wall muffin place to add to the list! ;)

  8. chefandsteward says:

    Wow! I just came over because it has been WAAAAY too long and I wanted to come see what you have been up to and spread some love. What a wonderful accomplishment! So proud of you dear. Very well deserved!

    1. InaFryingPan says:

      hello hello! It HAS been too long! I’m glad this post got us reconnected, we must catch up! Thank you for the lovely wishes, all this fellow foodie support has left a big smile plastered to my face for the past 2 days!

  9. Sophia Ali says:

    Congratulations! This is a major accomplishment. I am so proud of and so happy for you!

    1. InaFryingPan says:

      Thanks Sophia, thanks for stopping by! Me is super dooper happy too :D

    1. InaFryingPan says:

      Aw thank you Rebecca, you’re a sweetheart for inflating my ego like that! :)

  10. Brenda says:

    Arva – Your writing has always inspired me, and this is a phenomenal accomplishment! I am SO excited for you – you will truly bring your talented writing and our foodie lives in the UAE to the world via Serious Eats. Thanks for all you do :)

    1. InaFryingPan says:

      You’re so generous with your words Brenda, thank you, I’m flattered! And I will return the compliment – you and Heba have a ton of fab, super informative posts on mideats, and you ladies don’t just eat and write, but cook up a storm too! Now THAT I need to learn ;)

  11. Kulsum says:

    Oh Arva – you are modest too! I have been a fan of your writing and humorous take from the day I found you and like I always say I don’t even live in Dubai but love reading your posts on those tiny winy hole in the wall restaurants. The serious eat article is such an achievement but you know what? I can tell there is more to come!! And that’s the sweetest thank you note ever.


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