23 Most Popular Bahraini Foods
The Kingdom of Bahrain may not ring a bell for most people, but this tiny island located in the Persian Gulf sure has huge flavors to offer its visitors.
Once known to be the center of the ancient Dilmun civilization, its location has strategically brought several cultures together, including Persian, Sumerian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Portuguese, Arab, and British. All these influences can be experienced firsthand in Bahraini cuisine.
Many of the local dishes found around the island of Bahrain are inspired by these cultures giving its visitors the unique opportunity to experience different flavors in one country.
Drumrolls please for the most popular 23 Bahraini foods.
A thin pastry dough stuffed with different choices of fillings and shaped into a triangle. Stuffing can include other options ranging from cheese, meat to pizza-style fillings. Fried to a perfectly crunchy golden pocket, there is no local restaurant on this island that doesn’t serve you this appetizer to eat anytime during the day, whether for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
A local experience would be to eat those Samboosas wrapped up in freshly prepared chapati bread and then sprinkled with hot sauce. This special combination which most locals eat for breakfast, can be found in local Chai Kark shops all around the island.
Mehyawa, a Persian-inspired sauce, is loved by many locals. When you realize how Mehyawa is made, it might not be appealing, but you don’t want to miss out on one of the best local creations when visiting Bahrain.
To make Mehyawa, anchovies are fermented over a few days to create their unique flavor and then mixed with spices such as anise, coriander, and cumin. It is then blended to create a sauce-like texture that can be drizzled over other dishes. You can sometimes find it in the local bakeries, where it is served and spread on freshly baked Iranian bread or with reqaq – a wafer-like thin bread.
A sweet dough made with a blend of flour, yeast, sugar, saffron, and some cardamom, these sweet crunchy dumplings are the perfect bite-sized desserts that you will not be able to stop eating.
Fried and then served with either sweet or date syrup poured on top, luqimat is particularly popular during the month of Ramadan but is served year-round in major local restaurants. You might even come across new and modern versions of this dumpling, stuffed with various spreads like Nutella, lotus, or pistachio sauce.
A famous rice dish that can be cooked with either chicken or meat. The uniqueness of this dish comes from the use of Bahrat (a special spice blend) and Loomi (dried lime). The Bharat creates an explosion of infused flavors in your mouth while the Loomi gives the dish just the right kick of taste.
The rice, chicken, or meat are usually all cooked together, giving the rice a unique flavor too. To top it off, the rice is sprinkled with a mix of rose water and saffron and served with a side of the famous Daqoos – a green chili-based sauce.
Emmawash is the sister dish of Machboos, made with rice and shrimps, black-eyed peas, mung beans, and lentils are used. After caramelizing some onions, the shrimps are cooked.
Then the beans are added with the blend of Bahrat and Loomi then topped off with rice and boiled all together. This dish is especially popular in the first month of the Islamic calendar, Muharram, where locals cook it in big batches and give portions for free to visitors of the capital Manama.
6. Baid Tamat
The most popular dish for breakfast: baid which means eggs & tamat which means tomatoes. This delicious combination is fried together to perfection. The most basic recipe calls for just tomato and eggs, but you can find different variations that include other ingredients like onions, tomato paste, and other fillings. This dish is best eaten with freshly baked Iranian bread or a side of baked beans.
7. Khobez Jebn
You cannot go to Bahrain without visiting one of your local Khabaz (Baker), these little bakeries found across the island inside the neighborhoods start their days at the break of dawn, preparing fresh bread. One thing on their minimal menu that you don’t want to miss is Khobez Jebn.
Made with bread dough, then smeared with spreadable cheese and shaped into a pocket, this simple yet delicious breakfast is freshly baked in clay ovens. This street food is always the way go to when you are looking for a budget-friendly meal!
8. Kabeb Bahraini
This appetizer may be called a kebab, but this kebab is not made out of either meat or chicken. On the contrary, this dish is the perfect vegetarian option that the local Bahraini cuisine offers!
Bahraini kebab is made with a mixture of chickpea flour, gram masala spices, eggs, and finely chopped tomato and onions. Shaped into small buns and fried, these kebabs are served all year round but are extremely popular during the month of Ramadan where they are served for an Iftar meal with a side of sour tamarind sauce (tamarind is a tropical fruit commonly used in cooking to add a unique and slightly sour taste to dishes).
This fried bread is not found everywhere on the island of Bahrain. You will need to look for the special shops that make it, Qambar sweetshop in Muharraq is one of those famous shops. The dough is made with flour, yeast, and black sesame.
Why is this bread worth the trip all the way it Muharraq? Because this bread can be served as a sweet option with powdered sugar sprinkled on top or stuffed with spreadable cheese for a savory option. Some locals even add hot sauce to the cheese and enjoy it alongside Samboosa and Chapati.
If you fancy foods that combine both sweet and salty flavors, then this dish will be your favorite. Made with sweetly spiced vermicelli pasta and then topped off with either a fried or scrambled egg, Balaleet is one of the most famous dishes on the island that you can find served at breakfast time in most local restaurants.
The hint of sweetness and saffron-flavored vermicelli is the perfect combination with eggs making it the best carb/protein combination for breakfast to keep you full all day.
11. Sharbt Zafran
This Persian-inspired drink is a local must. A refreshing sweet saffron drink that many locals believe has a lot of health benefits too like lowering blood pressure, controlling depression, and much more. Some even believe consuming it daily can result in glowing skin! Best served chilled, this drink can be enjoyed with any meal during the day!
12. Samak Safi
Safi is a local fish that can be found around the Island of Bahrain. The locals love to fry this fish after spicing it with a special blend of turmeric, black pepper, dried coriander, and sumac. It is then served with plain basmati rice and a side of fried tomatoes and eggplants. Very simple, yet very delicious.
If you are a fan of grilled chicken or meat, this one is a dish you do not want to miss. Found served at dinner time mainly, tikka is available in both meat and chicken option. The meat or chicken pieces are marinated overnight and grilled for you on the spot.
The chicken gets flavored with tomato and paprika spice. For the meat, there are two choices. One is Yoghurt tikka, marinated with yogurt mix, and the other is Loomi tikka, where the Tikka is coated with Loomi marination for a sour flavor. Served with freshly baked Iranian bread and greens, this makes the perfect dinner for meat lovers!
Harees are usually served as a side dish. It is made with coarse wheat, lamb meat, and ghee. Boiled for over 8 hours until the mixture turns to a porridge-like texture. This dish is popular during the month of Ramadan and is served almost every day as part of the Iftar meal.
You can find varieties of Harees, especially between the different Gulf countries. Some add cinnamon and sugar to it just to give it a slightly sweet taste. Others substitute wheat with oats and meat with chicken.
Thareed holds a special place for most locals as it is believed to date back to the times of the prophet. This meat and vegetable stew is served spread either over normal bread or crispy bread – Regag. You can find this local dish all year round, but it is also one of the main dishes served during the month of Ramadan for the Iftar meal.
16. Macaroni Taybeen
Macaroni Taybeen literally translates to the good old Macaroni. This dish is mainly found at local vendors or visiting locals at home. It is made with Macaroni pasta, minced meat, tomato paste, and a mix of vegetables which usually includes peas, carrots, and potatoes, a hint of dill, and dried coriander. Sometimes, the macaroni dish is topped off with Bechamel or cheese sauce.
Ghoozi is originally a traditional Iraqi dish that became very popular in Bahrain it technically became a local dish too. Available to order in most restaurants for lunch, this dish consists of roasted lamb stuffed with rice and minced meat, topped off with sprinkled nuts and raisins, and served over a bed of spiced rice.
This southern Asian-inspired dish is made with minced meat- beef, lamb, or mutton. Once browned, peas are added to the meat. In some variations, you will also have a mix of peas, potatoes, and tomatoes too. Served all day long, some love to have this dish for breakfast with a plate of fried eggs on the side.
19. Bahraini Halawa
This traditional dessert is believed to be a variation of the Omani Halwa. It also goes by the name Shawiter Halwa as the family that has been running the sweet shops that sell this dessert for the past 150 years is from the Shawiter family.
The jelly-like dessert is cooked at high temperatures and stirred constantly to achieve its unique gelatinous texture. A mix of sugar, cardamom, nutmeg, and saffron, it is always best to taste fresh with a sip of Arabic coffee. The sweet shops have special tin pots that are used to pack up this sweet.
You can experience and watch how this traditional sweet is prepared in Bahrain if you visit one of the local sweet shops in Muharraq city.
Another Indian-inspired meat dish: deboned lean lamb is boiled for over an hour to become soft and tender. Once ready, onions and tomatoes are caramelized with Indian spices and then combined with the meat. This dish is usually served with a side of white rice or freshly baked Iranian bread.
21. Aloo Basheer
Aloo translates to potato in the Urdu language. Aloo Basheer is a famous local shop that you can find in Bab Al Bahrain in central Manama that only serves one thing: Aloo Basheer. So, what is Aloo Basheer? This small old shop that dates to 60 years back was founded by a Pakistani immigrant in Bahrain.
He only served one thing: potato patties drenched with his special hot sauce and chickpeas. It is for sure a dish that you do not want to miss during your visit. This dish became so famous in Bahrain that even when other restaurants tried to copy his creation, they were still forced to call it Aloo Basheer to try and attract customers.
Our advice is to take a nice trip to Bab Al Bahrain and try the original one!
A donut-like saffron cardamom cake, these traditional Bahraini desserts are made with rice and wheat flour and usually are served during occasions or in celebration of Eid – the end of the month of Ramadan. These cakes are fried just like donuts and sprinkled with icing sugar before serving.
Like Khanfroosh, Ogaili is a bundt-like saffron cardamom cake. The ingredients also include rice and wheat flour, but then uses Tahini and sesame for buttering up the pans before being baked in the oven.