By Sally Prosser: With more expats than locals, the lure of seeing your nearest and dearest in your home country is something that tempts very, many of the population every year. Bags are packed, gifts are bought and, so we’ve discovered, many tasty treats are slipped into the vacationer’s luggage.
Having packed a whole trayful of vegetable samosas one summer, I wondered whether I was the only one to take edible souvenirs on holiday with me. I asked around and it turns out that suitcases are stuffed with an array of foodstuffs as people leave for home. Sorry to anyone from the Antipodes reading this. Australian import laws mean that even a stray peppercorn could have you in trouble. It’s always best to check before you travel – I notice UK laws have suddenly tightened up with warnings about meat and cheese at the airport, for instance.
…dates, pofak, chips oman Maggi curry flavour, almonds, pistachios, zaatar, sumac, dates, rose petals and black lemons, saffron, vanilla pods, Yemeni honey, barberries, rose petals, pomegranate molasse, laban, cheese manakeesh, samosa, shawarma… the list continues!
Corrine Fuchs is a Canadian born mother of two and author of lifestyle blog www.mommyindubai.com. She says “I never leave Dubai without packing my suitcase with local honey, dates (from Bateel), camel milk powder, turmeric powder and pine nuts. Sometimes I like bringing a special cheese mix that comes in a jar from Lebanon I purchase it at Union Co op in Etihad mall.”
Many travellers take things to satiate a sweet tooth. Raida Al-Zu-bi is hooked on the Assedah, a traditional dessert that her Emirati friends introduced her to. She describes it as “a paste-like sweet with spices mixed in and it’s absolutely gorgeous.” Raida stows this along with curry powder, fish spices and hot spices for use in Biryani dishes when she travels back to Jordan.
Razena Schroeder of www.tantalisemytastebuds.com also has an eye for the sweeter things in life and takes white and dark chocolate spread, harissa paste, brioche loaves, lotus cookies, dates, nuts, and qamardeen sheets to South Africa. The last items are an apricot fruit leather which is used in desserts and also to make a fruity drink that’s particularly popular during Ramadan at Suhoor.
Britain Simon Clough of The Fine Line Design Company has 13 years of being an expat. “We tend to take back cashew nuts, usually from Dubai Duty Free (as they’re a big bag and much much cheaper than in the UK), they’re usually gifts for friends or family.
Spices, saffron and dried fruits are usually for my mother’s partner who is a fantastic chef. He cooks and bakes all the time and again they’re also usually better quality and much cheaper here than the UK.”
Blogger Sana Chikhalia of Sana on Food (www.sana. ae) travels to the UK quite often as her family is there and they send her lists especially for halal items. She says “but apart from that I definitely take with me Pofak, Chips Oman, Maggi Curry flavour and most importantly mangoes especially at this time of the year.
So what exactly are Pofak and Chips Oman and why would you travel with them?
For many people growing up in Dubai they are an essential snack. Anand Tahil describes them as “a local cheese ball snack, something Gulf-kids relate to best.” Made by the same group of Omani snack company, Chips Oman are potato chips or crisps flavoured with chilli. As well as being eaten straight from the pack, they are a popular addition to sandwiches.
Sheikh Rehmatullah is a seasoned traveller from the UAE to India as she has lived here all her life. “We usually take dried fruits such as almonds, pistachios, and even chocolates to my hometown in Goa. They’re usually as gifts rather than for culinary purposes. Chocolates are favourite amongst my friends in Mumbai when I visit them. It turns out that the chocolates of international brands taste better here. I think there’s a difference in the source countries of international chocolate brands in UAE and India.”
Guests from the Marriot Hotel Al Jaddaf returning to Russia are indicative of many expat travellers, taking nuts, dates and spices as they are cheaper than in Europe. So observes Marketing Communications Executive Stalina Nikolaeva, who confides “I take all kinds of cheese as in Russia we can only buy local products. I also take some fruits that are not so nice at home such as pineapple and mango.” She also chooses a few things from the wine section in Dubai Duty Free.
In her Orange Kitchen (www.orangekitchens.com), Prachi Grover is always busy especially when she’s about to travel and making homemade presents. “This year I made tiny gift boxes for everyone. There was zaatar, sumac, dates, rose petals and black lemons.”
If you thought my samosa tale was extreme, Farida Ahmed of www.fryingpanadventures.com can top it. “Sometimes friends and family ask us to bring back laban, cheese manakeesh and my Dad has even taken back with him shawarma for my nephew!”
How to pack them?
When I took the vegetable samosas it was in the time where bags were unlimited so had a separate holdall dedicated to a box packed for me by Choitrams. These days you need to be a bit more canny. Simon Clough advises “Packing wise, we tend to wrap everything in plastic bags and just put them in the suitcase, other than the cashew nuts which we grab in Duty Free and carry on in hand luggage.”
Sheikh Rehmatullah says, “We either pack them in small units so that they’re ready to be handed over to relatives and friends, or simply carry the full packs and break them down in smaller units in India. Depending on the nature of the product, we cover them with extra layers of packet and tape to prevent spillage.”
So what’s in everyone else’s suitcases?
The top choices are dates, sumac, zaatar, camel milk chocolates and spices. Saffron and vanilla pods are very popular. Almonds, pistachios and other nuts, Yemeni honey, barberries, rose petals, pomegranate molasses and other Iranian foodstuffs are also in demand. But I’d love to be a fly on the walls at customs as others have confessed taking back everything from fillet steak to tins of Rainbow milk!
Please let us know what you are taking home this winter!
[This story has been written exclusively for FoodeMag dxb. All images taken by Team FoodeMag]
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