Bahrain is a tiny island located in the Persian Gulf. While the country often escapes the radar of most travelers, it has a lot to offer. There are not only many exceptional landmarks, but it also has a vast variety of outstanding Bahrain food.
A fun fact about Bahrain to know for foodies is that the kingdom hosts an annual Bahrain Food Festival to celebrate the culinary wonders of this state. It is usually held around March and April.
Although most dishes are inspired by other cuisines, local spices, and cooking techniques bring a new color to every dish. The food festival also features musical and dance performances and other entertainment activities.
What Is Special About Bahrain Food?
Bahrain is an important hub of emerging food trends with a mix of lovely and lively cultures. Every Bahrain dish has a unique flavor, but they all represent the enriched heritage of this country. Furthermore, you can see the prominent impact of many neighboring countries on Bahraini cuisine.
Arabian tea, rice dishes, and meat are commonly consumed in the country. In addition, Bahrain is known for its islands and a long coastline, lending to an abundance of seafood.
As such, you will find that Bahrain food is both a mix of cultural and historical influences, as well as their geographical surroundings.
Most Famous Bahrain Food
Machboos (Spiced Chicken And Rice)
Machboos, also known as Majboos, is the pride of Bahraini cuisine. It is an incredible rice dish packed with various Arabic flavors. The divine taste and remarkable popularity make it Bahrain’s national dish.
This Bahrain food can be made using chicken or lamb meat. It is seasoned with spices and unique ingredients like baharat and loomi. The spicy baharat gives the dish a burst of flavors ready to explode in your mouth with the perfect hint of loomi.
Machboos is served along with a chili sauce called daqoos. The rice is also topped with a mixture of rose water and saffron before serving.
Bahrain Food – Traditional Rice Dishes
Mumawwash (Rice With Lentils And Shrimp)
Mumawwash is Bahrain food similar to machboos. , and both dishes are equally appreciated by the locals. Like machboos, this dish is also made of rice, loomi, and baharat.
Mumawwash features shrimp, mung beans, black-eyed peas and lentils. First, the shrimp are cooked and added with beans, baharat, and loomi. Finally, rice is added and boiled with any other ingredients of preference.
You most commonly this traditional Bahrain food if you visit the country during Muharram. It is a cultural practice to make mumawwash in big batches for the month. The locals often distribute this rice dish freely among their relatives, friends, and visitors.
Biryani (Spicy Rice With Meat)
Biryani is one of the most popular dishes in the Kingdom of Bahrain and reportedly has up to 50 varieties. That said, it is a common delicacy you will find in many Arab countries.
Biryani is essentially a superb combination of rice, meat, and spices. Mutton biryani is the most popular variation, followed by chicken and beef. The unique aroma with balanced spices makes biryani the best food in Bahrain.
This fragrant meat and rice dish is in high demand during special occasions like Eid or religious holidays. Furthermore, it is affordable and tasty, making this Bahrain food the first choice of many travelers. It is also a very filling dish, so you can be sure you won’t go hungry.
Masli (Rice And Meat Dish)
Masli originated in the Indian sub-continent and is a beloved food in Bahrain. It is a rice dish that can be made with different kinds of meat.
This traditional Bahraini food is prepared in one pot, which is filled with rice, meat, and spices. Meat used for masli can be shrimp, fish, or chicken. It is seasoned with local spices to give it its unique taste.
The final form of this Bahrain food is similar to biryani, but it has a different flavor. As it is a popular street food, you can try it from food stalls or local eateries.
Muhammar (Sweet Rice With Grilled Fish)
Muhammar is a famous Bahrain food consisting of sweet rice and fish. This divine food was invented by pearl divers who sweetened rice with date syrup to use it as an energy booster.
Modern recipes sometimes substitute date syrup with honey or caramelized sugar syrup. The rice can be steamed or fried in butter for a crusty base. Spices such as cardamom, saffron, and cloves are also added for flavoring.
No matter how strange it sounds, this sweet rice is served with grilled or fried fish drizzled with lemon juice. Rocket salad is often served as a side dish to this meal. All these food items give sharp but delicious contrasting flavors to this traditional food in Bahrain.
For special occasions, roasted lamb legs are sometimes served with sweet rice instead of fish. As meat lovers, we prefer the mutton variation; but hey, you got to try the traditional grilled fish version too!
Al Mudalal (Herb Rice With Meat)
Al mudalal is another delicious addition to Bahraini cuisine. It is a rice dish filled with herbs and meat chunks. The meat can be fish, shrimp, or chicken.
We already have a long list of Bahrain rice dishes, but this one is worth adding. What makes al mudalal different is a special kind of butter, which is only prepared for this dish. The butter is mixed with soft cheese and sour cream, added to the rice along with any other ingredients, and cooked well.
The special butter is what gives this Bahrain food its unique taste. It has a soul-satisfying taste with a refreshing touch of herbs.
Quzi (Lamb Over Rice)
Quzi is one of the most consumed Bahrain dishes for good reason. It is a roasted lamb dish that also consists of eggs, rice, meat, and some spices. The lamb is marinated with the spices and herbs and then roasted or fried.
Doesn’t that already sound awesome? But after cooking, it is served with incredibly fragrant saffron or plain white rice that makes for the perfect complement, and raw onions.
Quzi is also garnished with raisins, almonds, angel hair, and some vegetables. The dish is inspired by Iraqi quzi, but the use of local spices makes the Bahraini version very different.
Traditional Porridge, Soup And Sauce In Bahrain Food
Harees (Meat Porridge)
Harees is a well-known dish of the Middle East and is enjoyed in almost all Arab countries. It is usually prepared specially for Ashura and Ramadan.
In Bahrain, harees is made with boiled or coarsely ground wheat, meat, and flavorful seasoning. The consistency of this Bahrain food is similar to a porridge or a gruel.
Don’t be surprised if you see harees on the appetizer menu, because it is a popular starter in Bahrain. Once only available as a home-cooked meal, it is now served in restaurants across the country.
Tharid (Bread Soup)
Tharid is easily the most consumed Bahrain food. It is known to be the favorite dish of Muhammad (P.B.U.H.) and is another delicacy that is specially made for Ramadan.
Tharid is the Arabian version of Levantine fatteh. It is simply a bread soup, containing bread soaked with vegetable and meat broth or stew. The bread used for tharid is regag, which is a thin unleavened bread with a light texture,
Mehyawa (Fish Sauce)
Mehyawa is one of the beloved traditional Bahraini foods that can seem like an acquired taste for the uninitiated. It is a Persian-inspired fish sauce made with a unique method.
Some might find it weird, but many travelers still recommend this unusual fish sauce with local Bahrain food. If you are from Asia, this probably wouldn’t taste too unfamiliar as many countries in South East Asia also have similar sauces.
The mehyawa sauce is made with fermented anchovies mixed with coriander, cumin, anise, and other spices. The mixture is blended well to prepare a flavourful sauce to drizzle over your meals.
This fish sauce has a pleasing tangy flavor to it. Many local bakeries in Bahrain serve it with freshly baked bread.
Common Bread In Bahraini Cuisine
Khobez Jebn (Traditional Bahraini Bread)
For some simple yet tasty Bahrain food at a reasonable price, khobez jebn is a great option. This traditional Bahraini bread is something that you can enjoy with every meal.
Khobez jebn is a fresh flatbread smeared with cheese. The bread is usually given a pocket-like shape and then baked in clay ovens. It has a fluffy texture that feels super soft on the palate.
These yeasted flatbreads are the pride of Bahrain bakers. You can get them fresh from any local bakery during the daytime.
Zenjabari (Fried Sweet Bread)
If you crave some sweet fried Bahraini food, zenjabari is the best option to start your day with. It is fried bread made with yeast, flour, and black sesame seeds.
An interesting point of this Bahrain food is that it has many variations. Some bakeries serve it sprinkled with powdered sugar, while others stuff it with cheese. Sometimes, a hot sauce is also mixed with the cheese to give it a spicy touch.
The only “problem” with zenjabari is that it is not very easily found throughout the country. There are only a few shops that make this bread throughout the Kingdom of Bahrain, so hop on the opportunity if you ever come across it. Qambar Sweetshop in Muharraq is one of the best places to try this bread.
Snacks And Street Food In Bahrain
Samboosa (Stuffed Puff Pastry)
The samboosa is Bahrain’s take on the popular South Asian samosa. It is a thinly-layered dough pastry filled with a variety of ingredients. The best part is the different choice of fillings that give it a new flavor every time you eat it.
In Bahrain, this snack is typically stuffed with boiled potatoes, greens, and spices. It might also include cheese, meat, or pizza-style filling. The stuffed dough is wrapped in an iconic triangular shape and fried until it gets a crunchy golden brown exterior.
You can get this Bahrain food from almost any cafe, street food stall, or chai karak shop. It is served throughout the day during every season. The locals usually enjoy this snack wrapped in fresh chapati bread topped with hot sauce for breakfast or a midday snack.
Kabeb Bahraini (Vegetarian Kebab)
Kabeb Bahraini is another scrumptious Bahraini food. Unlike your typical kebab, this is a purely vegetarian dish, perfect for all you veggie lovers out there.
This Bahrain food is made with a delicious mixture of chickpea flour, garam masala, eggs chopped tomatoes, and onions. The mixture is shaped into mini flat buns and then fried. The best part is the sweet and tangy tamarind sauce served with these delicious kebabs.
This flavorful Bahrain food is usually served as an appetizer. Similar to other fried Bahrain dishes, it is more popular during Ramadan for Iftar. But you can easily find it anytime throughout the year.
Falafel (Fried Fritters)
Falafels are crispy and flavorful deep-fried fritters. They are not only a traditional food in Bahrain but also adored in other parts of the Middle East.
Falafels are made of legumes, beans, spices, and herbs. Legumes, mostly fava-beans, are soaked in water, ground up, and mixed evenly with other ingredients to form a paste-like mixture. The paste is then given a round ball shape and fried until golden brown.
In Bahrain, falafels are often served with hummus or shawarma. If you want to taste the best falafels in Bahrain, you should visit Falafel Gaza in Gudaibiya. Their freshly made, crunchy falafels alone are worth a visit to this area.
Desserts And Sweet Bahrain Food
Luqaimat (Sweet Dough Dumplings)
Luqaimat is a bite-size sweet dumpling in Bahraini cuisine. They are super delicious and very light on the stomach. Because of their small size, you can eat a lot of luqaimat in a single serving.
These Bahrain sweets are made with flour, yeast, sugar, saffron and cardamom. The dough is rolled into small balls and fried in simmering oil. The exterior gets a crunchy texture from frying.
In Bahrain, these cute dough balls are served with sweet syrup. You might find some luqaimat stuffed with Nutella, lotus, or pistachio sauce. Although this Bahrain food is more common during Ramadan, you can get it anytime.
Balaleet (Sweet Vermicelli And Egg)
If you are craving sweet and savory food at the same time, this dish is made for you. Balaleet is a breakfast food in Bahrain which is also made during the celebration of Eid. It consists of a savory egg omelet and sweet vermicelli pasta.
The pasta is sweetened with sugar, saffron, rose water, and cardamom. The scrambled or fried egg is added to give a savory hint to the balaleet. This dish is dominated by the saffron flavor, which makes it more delectable.
You can eat this Bahrain food in almost any local restaurant or cafe. It is a perfect protein breakfast in Bahrain that keeps you full until you grab your next meal.
Khabees (Sweet Pudding)
Khabees have been a traditional Bahrain food for centuries. Locals usually start their day with this deliciously sweet breakfast. It is also a popular dessert for special occasions.
This classic Bahrain food is made from flour, honey, cardamom, saffron, and rose water. The flour is toasted until golden brown and then cooked in a sugary syrup. This porridge-like base is topped with chopped nuts and dried fruits to give it a final touch.
Some places in Bahrain garnish it with grafted coconut and raisins to enhance its taste. The variety of nuts gives a roasted flavor to this dish. As it is one of the oldest foods of Arab civilization, it could hint at what ancient Arabs liked to eat.
Ghuraiba (Butter Cookies)
Ghuraiba or ghraybeh are Lebanese shortbread cookies. They are celebration cookies in Bahrain and a popular confectionery around the Middle East. In Bahrain, people start their Eid holidays with these wonderful cookies.
Ghuraiba lacks the typical crunch of cookies and instead is quite delicate and soft. These Bahrain sweets have a slightly sweet flavor enhanced by the distinctive taste and fragrance of clarified butter.
Khanfaroosh (Cardamom And Saffron Cakes)
Khanfaroosh is a classic Bahrain food. It is a perfect cross between fried kebabs and dumplings. Although khanfaroosh is fried, it is healthier than most snacks in Bahraini cuisine.
The dough for khanfaroosh is made with sugar, flour, yeast, and eggs. When you take your first bite, you will taste a cross between a soft, fluffy, spongy cake and a doughnut infused with saffron and cardamom. It can also be stuffed with dates, muraba, or sugar to give an unforgettable flavor and aroma.
Khanfaroosh is usually served during family and friends gatherings and other celebratory occasions. If you want a perfect companion for your coffee or tea, these Bahrain sweets will not disappoint.
Zalabiyeh (Fried Doughnuts)
Zalabiyeh is a sweet Middle Eastern snack with an adorable shape and taste. It is usually given a round or funnel shape like a small ball or donut. This Bahrain food is enjoyed hot and usually served for parties.
Zalabiyeh is prepared by deep-frying a thick batter. The semi-liquid batter is put into a piping bag and poured in hot oil in circular shapes or round balls. After frying, it is dipped in rose-flavored sugary syrup for sweetness and a mild aroma.
This famous Bahrain food goes well with a variety of other foods. You can enjoy it with nuts, warm milk, and thick cream.
Beverages And Drinks With Bahrain Food
Qahwa (Arabic Coffee)
Qahwa is a traditional Arabic coffee that is most popular in Arab countries. Just like any Arab country, a typical day in Bahrain starts with a cup of hot qahwa in special cups called dallah. Dallah are small cups without handles, also known as piyala in the sub-continent.
Qahwa consists of roasted coffee beans or dried tea leaves. The coffee beans or tea leaves are boiled with water and then strained to make a steaming hot, earthy, and nutty-flavored drink. Adding cardamom and saffron gives a citrusy and herbal note to qahwa.
In Bahrain, qahwa holds cultural significance and is often offered with dates and other Bahrain dishes to guests and visitors. You will also see hosts serving qahwa in most social gatherings like weddings or Iftar dinners during Ramadan.
Laban is a healthy and delicious beverage in Bahraini cuisine. It has a sour and tangy flavor that pairs perfectly with many Bahrain dishes.
This drink is prepared from pure cow or goat milk. The milk goes through churning and other processes to make a nutritious and cholesterol-free buttermilk. It is also a protein-booster drink that helps you keep active and fresh throughout the day.
Locals usually enjoy laban with traditional Bahraini food and also use it to make various meals, soups, and sauces. It is a popular addition to street food in Bahrain, so you can easily get it from local sellers, beverage shops, and markets.
Sharbat Zafran (Saffron Juice)
Sharbat Zafran is an iconic Bahrain drink with a refreshing character. It is a Persian-inspired drink that has become the favorite beverage of Bahrainians in no time.
This juvenile drink is sweet with a dominant flavor of saffron. It is always served chilled and can be enjoyed with almost every Bahrain food. The locals believe that despite being a flavourful drink, it holds many health benefits and works great to relieve depression.
Arak (Traditional Alcoholic Beverage)
Bahrain’s food is not the only charm of this country. Its outstanding traditional beverages are also worth tasting. Arak, a pure wine-based spirit from Bahrain, is one such beverage.
This is a white translucent alcohol drink loved by millions throughout the world. The drink is made from a wonderful combination of aniseed and grapes. It delivers a powerful essence with a subtle aniseed flavor.
The flavourful beverage gives a calming effect after an adventurous trip. It’s an excellent evening drink to refresh you after visiting the famous landmarks in Bahrain.
FLAVORS AROUND THE WORLD
Discovering Delicious Bahrain Food
Once, Bahrain was known to be the center of the Dilmun civilization. Its geographical position has brought many food cultures together to create the unique flavors Bahrain food is known for today.