The Malabari, French, and Arabic cultures have greatly influenced Kerala food. As a coastal town, an abundance of seafood, fresh coconut, and spices like cinnamon, cardamom, clove, ginger, and turmeric is grown across this area tucked away in a little corner of India, known as “God’s own country.”
When I first moved to Dubai, whenever I became homesick; and needed a taste of home-cooked food, these were the restaurants I visited.
1. Calicut Paragon
Consistently voted as Dubai’s favorite Kerala restaurant, Calicut Paragon was where I went to enjoy their authentic Kerala food and atmosphere. Most significantly, I went there because Calicut Paragon is where all the ex-pats from the South Indian state hang out.
It was a time to delve into foods like their chicken biryani, mango prawn curry, crab thushar, and sweet coconut payasam that brought back pleasant memories of my trip through Kerala. I missed hearing the language as well, so Calicut Paragon was where I went for that as well.
They also have a considerable vegetarian menu, and with two branches, one in Al Karama and the other in Al Nahda, it is definitely my favorite Kerala restaurant in Dubai
- Address: 29 Street 1/1 Al Qusais 1
- Opening Times: 7 am-12:30 pm
2. Aaraamam Restaurant
Aaraaman Restaurant has affordable but authentic Kerala cuisine available for all those ex-pats craving a taste of their motherland.
On their menu card, they have a broad selection of South Indian breakfast items like their idli (steamed rice cake), Dosa (crisp rice pancake, served with a few chutneys and sambar, which is a South Indian soup made with a combination of yellow lentils, spices, aubergine, and tomatoes) and parothas (flatbread).
And no, that is not a misspelling; the South Indian version of the Indian paratha is parotha. The difference lies in that one is from North India and prepared with wholewheat flour, while parotha is made from regular cake flour.
There is no difference in taste, though. They are both rich, flaky, and smothered in clarified butter that adds a little extra to the taste.
- Location: Belhasa Building, 14 B Street, Al Karama
- Opening Time: Daily from 6 am to 12 pm
- +971 04 396 1962
3. Tamarind Terrace
Walking into Tamarind Terrace was like walking into any of the restaurants in Kerala. Especially with the giant arch, called the Thangassery Arch, at the center of the dining area, representative of the seaside village of Thangassery in Kollam, Kerala, where a 144 feet lighthouse stands.
At Tamarind Terrace, I found their Kerala menu a feast to the senses. When at a Kerala restaurant, you have to try their seafood, no matter where in the world you are! The dishes a friend and I tasted were all prepared perfectly!
For starters, we tried the sweet glazed crispy chicken wings and the selection of deep-fried vegetables with just the correct combination of spices and chili; they hit all the right spots.
As a main dish, I went with the black chickpeas cooked in a savory, rich tomato gravy, accompanied by appam (an Asian pancake made from rice flour and coconut) and puttu, steamed cylinders of finely ground rice layered with coconut.
I was craving a traditional chilled Indian lassi, a kind of milkshake made with a blend of buttermilk, banana, mango, or cardamom. So, I tried their mango lassi, which tasted heavenly and refreshing!
We arrived at the restaurant close to closing, and they were out of their infamous payasam, which is like a rice pudding with cream, cashews, and coconut.
Now I have to return just for that!
- Location: 26 Street, Wasl Opal, Al Karama
- Opening Time: open daily from 12 am to 12 pm
- +971 4 340 3111
4. Sri Aiswariya Vegetarian Restaurant
There are the days when you need to relax your body and have some good ‘ole veggies for a change. And those are the days I visited Sri Aiswariya restaurant situated in Al Karama; it has a beautiful selection of traditional South Indian meals and North Indian and Indo-Chinese.
Sri Aiswariya restaurant serves authentically South Indian vegetarian meals. They lay claim to the longest Dosa in Dubai!
Their Rava upma, traditionally a savory dish served for breakfast, is delicious and made with semolina! Each spoonful of grain is fluffy and flavored with just the right blend of spices.
They have quite a large selection of Dosas, with the traditional masala dosa filled with spicy potato curry, served with lentil soup and coconut chutney.
- Location: Was hub building 41 st Street
- Opening Time: Sunday to Wednesday between 6:30 am to 11:00 pm & Thursday to Saturday between 6:30 am to 11:30 pm
- +971 52 462 6611
5. Mota Fish Restaurant
The concept of Mota Fish initially began in the seaside town of Alleppey, Kerala, in the early 1970s and is lovingly called the Venice of the East for its’ canals and boat houses.’ The owners decided to share their delicious South Indian food with the people of Dubai. So in 2014, Mota Fish was born, a mingling of culture and flavors.
Keeping with the theme and traditions of the seaside town, Mota Fish has a unique and tasteful array of seafood dishes.
Depending on the catch of the day, it can be sea bram, lobster, tiger prawns, or kingfish; it is prepared fresh by the skilled chefs who infuse the seafood with their special secret blend of spices and coconut milk. The result? An explosion of the senses from sweet, sour, and spicy with a hint of bitter.
Kerala is believed to be the birthplace of Ayurveda, the practice of traditional Indian medicine, and Malayalis believe that foods should contain four tastes; sweet, sour, bitter, and salty. Therefore whenever you consume any food from Kerala, you can taste these four flavors.
That’s what you find with food from Mota Fish, a balance of taste and flavor, as authentic Malayali cuisine as you can get.
- Location: Street 18B, Damascus Street, Qusais
- Opening Time: Open daily from 11:00 am to 11:30 pm
- +971 5564 60456
6. Lallumma’s Restaurant
Lallumma’s restaurant is where they go to experience bona fide home flavors for those Keralites missing their mums’ cooking. It is believed amongst those frequent visitors to Lalluma’s Restaurant that all food is prepared and served with as much love and attention as your mum would do.
Their menu is varied, with a blend of traditional Malayali food to a fusion of Indo-Chinese. All foods are prepared fresh and with the best ingredients. The curry powders used in the curries are homemade and the reason for the incredible taste.
Their breakfast menu is a feast of traditional food from seaside towns in Kerala, like poori bhaji, fried flatbread with a flavorsome curry, or try their chiratta puttu, rice cake steamed in a coconut shell and served with chickpea curry.
Yes, people of the South Asian continent have curries for breakfast as well. They believe it’s a healthy way to start a day.
Lalluma’s restaurant has this amazing sweet beetroot dish served with ice cream on its menu. I hear you say Beetroot and Ice Cream! But give it a try! Please save some space for their decadent desserts.
And try their Falooda as well. It’s’ made with milk and cream; and is rich, creamy flavored with just a hint of rose and cardamom. That’s the taste of heaven.
Head Chef, Arzoo, prepares all the heavenly food. She learned to cook directly from Lallumma herself, and when it was time to take over the kitchen, she made it her own. She was imbibing the foods with her uniqueness and creativity.
- Location: Baghdad Street
- Opening Time: Open daily between 8:00 am to 11:30 pm
- +971 4 262 1885
7. Hot Fish Karama
When you have a busy day and need to catch a meal on the run, then Hot Fish is your place. It is located behind the ADCB metro station in working district Karama. Its’ no fancy place for sure, very simple.
Plastic chairs and tables are spread out on the pavement under awnings, and people are served on a first-come, first-serve basis. The food is really good, so be sure to take a walk around this little spot.
The food at Hot Fish is as simple as the décor but tasty and delicious nonetheless. There’s no set menu available. The day’s catch, which is usually sheri, pomfret, or kingfish, is prepared.
Simple fare, prawns and fish marinated in red masala paste fried then served with coconut fish curry, rice, and flaky paratha.
- Location: 6C & 39th Street, Karama
- Opening Time: Open daily between 12 pm to 1 am
- +971 055 839 8058
8. Ustad Hotel
The founder of the Ustad Hotel, Mohammed Binesh, a native of Calicut, Kerala, brought to Dubai his love of Malabar cuisine, and when it came time to name the restaurant, he didn’t hesitate to name it after the well-known Malayalam movie Ustad Hotel.
He served Keralites living in Dubai food they loved and grew up with, like flavored tea (chai, or tea leaves boiled with cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, and ground ginger) and cutlets or fried chickpea patties (vada).
The Ustad Hotel also hosts food festivals, organized explicitly around special occasions celebrated by Keralites, so they don’t feel homesick.
Within this bustling city of Dubai, the Ustad Hotel has recreated a slice of Kerala, not just in the décor but also in the food. Their signature dish is a Malabari dish prepared in a clay pot.
The base of the clay pot has a layer of sauce mixed with rice and then topped with rich flavorsome curries in the Malabari tradition.
- Location: 45 B street, Near Lulu Hyper Market
- Opening Time: From Sunday to Thursday, open between 11:00 am- 11:30 pm, Friday is open between 12 pm to 12 am & Saturday is open between 11 am to 12 am
- +971 4 340 3111
9. Tharavad Restaurant
Tharavad in Malayalam means “home,” so too the Tharavad restaurant at the Fortune Plaza Hotel represents home to many Keralites living in Dubai.
The restaurant seats up to 170 people and is quite cozy, with its’ Indian-influenced décor and classical music playing in the background.
Their seafood dishes are prepared with the freshest ingredients and freshly ground spices, blended with either tamarind or coconut cream for that something sweet and tangy taste that Kerala food is synonymous with.
The Tharavad restaurant also caters to those not inclined towards spicy foods. Chefs can turn down the heat on the dishes if they are not inclined toward spicy foods.
Whenever I visit a Kerala restaurant, I always look at the dessert menu first to find my favorites, Gulab jamun, and payasam. Gulab jamun is fried dough balls, like doughnuts but better. They are soaked in sugar syrup flavored with cardamom and rose essence. Try this with some ice cream, and you’ll think you have reached gastronomical heaven!
And Tharavad delivers and ticks all the spots on my list when it comes to preparing authentic, Malayali cuisine.
- Location: 8 B Street, Fortune Plaza Hotel
- Opening Time: Monday to Sunday between 12 pm to 12 am
- +971 55 733 83661
10. Taste Of Malabar Dubai
When traveling, it is always good to find a place where you can take a deep breath, sigh, and say yes, it was worth visiting here! When you eat at Taste of Malabar, Dubai, that’s the feeling I get that my trip was worth it!
Whether I travel by myself or with friends, we must always stop at this little Kerala restaurant in Dubai. The food is always freshly prepared with an extensive menu covering vegetarian and non-vegetarian meals.
I enjoy the traditional Kerala meals on the menu, like the idlis and Dosa. Like other Kerala restaurants, the portions are pretty large, so they are sufficient if you want to share with a friend or partner. That’s what we find ourselves most of the time when visiting Taste of Malabar.
Their mixed grill is especially good and includes various meats and grilled vegetables. I enjoyed their Arabic charcoal grill with Hummus and kebabs. The blend of spices with that smoky flavor made this dish delicious.
If you prefer some traditional Malabar flavors, give their Fish Mango Curry combo a taste. That blend of sweet, tangy, and spice is gastronomical heaven!
- Location: Al Quox Mall, Industrial Area 3, Al Quox
- Opening Time: Open Daily between 7:30 am to 12:00 pm
- +971 4 526 0754
11. Salkara Restaurant Dubai
Salkara’s claim to fame as one of the best Kerala restaurants in Dubai is based on them rekindling the tastes and flavor from a time gone by. Their menu, décor, and atmosphere are nostalgic and reminiscent of the 70s and 80s in Malabar.
Any visitor to Salkaras will welcome the distinct flavors of the sea, and memories of traveling to Kerala come flooding back. There is something about Malayali food, and it lingers for a while in my memories.
And the chefs at Salkaras bring all the tastes and flavors together in tantalizing dishes. The tastes and flavors are slowly built up from the tempered whole and ground spices, the subtle taste of onion, garlic, and ginger, and of course the curry leaves, which are such an essential ingredient in Malayali cooking.
I tried their Drumstick (moringa) soup, which was so full of flavor and fragrance. I was a bit dubious at first because moringa leaves can be bitter and are an acquired taste but I loved the soup!
And drumsticks have many health benefits, from maintaining blood pressure, protecting your heart from heart diseases, and improving bone health.
I would return to Salkaras. I have precious memories of the food, service, and overall ambiance.
- Location: Food Court, Near Lulu Hypermarket, Qusais
- Opening Time: Open daily between 7:30 am to 12:00 am
- +971 4 874 7150