The polyethnic diversity of the population ensures that a vast range of foodstuff is available in Kuwait. The staples of the Arabian, Western, Indian and Far Eastern diets are sold in the supermarkets. Up-market speciality shops offer haute nouriture from Lebanon and Europe. Small groceries supply the soul foods of Arabia and the Eastern Mediterranean, Pakistan, Baluchistan, India, Sri Lanka, Korea, the Philippines, and Thailand – everything from fragrant rice to fresh fish. This phenomenal choice is visible on private dinner tables and in Kuwait’s innumerable restaurants. Kuwait is a food lover’s paradise.
Native cooking reflects Kuwaiti history, its tribes and immigrants, and its international desert and marine trading traditions. It is a unique mélange of Bedouin, Persian, Indian and Eastern Mediterranean influences.
In the early tabeekh (Bedouin way of cooking), the whole meal is cooked in a single large pot over charcoal. Meat or fish, vegetables and spices are first browned at the bottom of the pot. Rice or wheat and water are then added, and the pot is covered and left to simmer for some time. This method is still used in Kuwaiti homes to make meat porridges and some traditional prawn and vegetable dishes.
In a more complicated method known as marag, which was introduced under Indian and Persian influences, the meal is also cooked in a large pot, but the ingredients are first fried or boiled separately before being combined and steamed together. Various kinds of fish and meat marags are very popular in homes and diwaniyahs.
To satisfy the sophisticated native palate, savoury dishes must be spiced and the blending of spices is a highly-sophisticated local art form. However, no two chefs in Kuwait will agree on the exact blend of cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, ginger, nutmeg, black pepper and paprika found in Baharat, the most common spice-mix.