Jeddah, the Hotspot for Fine Dining in Saudi Arabia

Jeddah, the shining port city of Saudi Arabia, where the phantoms of the past and stark presence of the present coalesce in a seamless blend. Nestled on the coast of the Red Sea, Jeddah has been historically synonymous with Makkah and Medina – the holy cities where millions of Muslim pilgrims would trek across the sea to arrive, and still do, because of its sheer proximity to them. And it shows – the meshing of so many cultures – as much in the city’s traditions, as in its exquisite cuisines. Authentic, traditional Saudi Arabic dishes along with international food items – Jeddah chefs have mastered them all, with the utmost finesse. Rightfully embracing the popular saying for the city, “Jeddah Ghair”, which means “Jeddah is different”.

Mosque on the shore
Mosque on the shore

What Makes Jeddah a Culinary Hotspot?

The revamped quarter of Al Balad is as magical as ever, checkered with centuries of history. However, over the years, towering skyscrapers, bustling shopping arenas, lavishing theme parks, and entertainment centers have sprung up all across the city, making it a cosmopolitan hub.

Jeddah street flanked by old houses
Jeddah street flanked by old houses

All this and its large expat communities have ushered people from all traditions and cultures to Jeddah, where differences have melted into a giant potpourri and made the city a multicultural attraction. It is hardly a surprise that its cuisines have not been exempted from that influence. 

Some Culinary Protocols:

  1. Saudi Arabians, in social gatherings, usually sit on the carpeted floor, with cushions against the walls. Tea and gahwa are always a precursor to these soirees.
  2. Jeddah is big on seafood in its traditional dishes, as the Red Sea coast churns them out fresh every day for the fishermen.  
  3. Lambs, as well as chicken, are favored, the former more when they have guests to entertain.
  4. Even camels are not unwelcome during special times. And add dates, yogurt, and copious spices in the mix, and you have got yourself a traditional Jeddah cuisine.

Famous Dishes from Jeddah

Kabsa: The national dish of the country, a large platter of long-grain rice cooked with various spices and meat, similar to Indian biryani.

Platter of spicy rice with vegetables
Platter of vegetable Kabsa

Matazeez: A curry of meat (commonly lamb) and wheat dumplings, mixed with vegetables, spices, and rich sauce.

Jareesh: A serving of ground wheat, chopped rice, onions, dried lime in milk.

Saleeg: A rice dish made with broth and milk and topped with roasted meat.

Madfoon: Another rice dish with a mix of meat, traditionally cooked underground in a fire pit.

But not just local, but international, mainly Asian cuisines have also become part of Jeddah’s culinary experience, which is rather a feast in every sense of the term. 

 

Must-try Restaurants in Jeddah:

Makkah Restaurant:

This little Pakistani restaurant used to be savored by only the South Asian ex-pats of Little India. But now it has been garnering western and Saudi expats too. The staple spices, masala, and flavors in amazing curries all make for a tantalizing culinary experience. Be it the signature mutton makhni karai (lamb curry), or karai ghost (fried mutton curry), or chana daal (spicy lentils and chickpeas).

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Platter of rice and meat surrounded by bowls of desserts and spices
A platter of Kabsa

Spears:

Housed in the InterContinental Hotel, this all-you-can-eat restaurant will lavish you with Brazilian cuisines, especially the churrascaria, Jeddah’s first-ever. The gorgeous vista of the glimmering Red Sea, paired with an unencumbered view of King Fahd Fountain, the world’s largest one, makes the dining experience all the more desirable. Another funny perk: If you flip the green side up on your supplied wooden cylinder, an endless serving of grilled meat will continue to pile up your plate. 

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Al Nakheel:

This laid-back restaurant hidden inside a traditional tent is the place to bundle into on a windy, relaxing evening. Traditional dishes, barbecued meats, and shrimp items, najel or Red Sea grouper all are served to you while you lounge on the traditional couches and let the soothing sea breeze unwind you.

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Al Khayam:

Labeled as a “meat-lover’s paradise”, this is the biggest Turkish restaurant in Saudi Arabia, noted for serving the longest kebabs in the world – being a whole meter in length. Grilled chicken with cuts of beef and kebab, garnished with vegetables, rice, French fries – Turkish cuisine really does not get better than this. And then, cap it all off with the oh-so-delicious kunafah, a doughy syrupy dessert smeared with cheese or cream layers.

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Kebabs on the grill
Kebabs on the grill

Wong Solo:

Just on the brink of Al Balad, this restaurant proffers a delectable slice of Indonesian tastes, as much in its Javanese cuisines as in its name – which is derived from the Indonesian island of Solo, and means “a man from Solo”. Hordes of Indonesian pilgrims have attested to it having a real homey feel. The mee basko, a meatball and noodle soup preparation, is one of the unmissable dishes.

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Toki:

This Asian restaurant whips up some drool-worthy cuisines, a potpourri of Chinese, Malaysian and Thai classics. Which are then rendered more swoony by its lavishly-adorned dining room, complete with gold-rimmed pillars, glittering ceilings, and glassed tabletops with spinning centerpieces. Traditional bamboo baskets would carry classic Chinese dumplings. And pancakes, beef drenched in bean sauce and various juices will satisfy you beyond your imagination.

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Byblos:

An authentic Lebanese restaurant and a local favorite, it has an air of elegance and sophistication mixed in, its menu offering a wide spectrum of traditional dishes including tabbouleh and fattoush salads, grilled shrimp and meat platters, the hummus, and the desserts. It has often been categorized as the suave place, apt for business conferences and friends’ meets.

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Hummus with pomegranate seeds
Hummus with pomegranate seeds

Piatto:

An Italian place with a menu consisting of pizzas (cooked in a wooden oven), various salads and other authentic Italian dishes. Placed in a cobbled piazza and walled with different pictures of Italian landmarks and sights, it gives off the illusion of roaming around in Italy itself.

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Platter of food
Platter of food and desserts

So, feel free to indulge in authentic Saudi Arabic as well as international cuisines while you coast along the city. 

 

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