In Dubai there are lots of Japanese restaurants everywhere, ranging from fancy shwancy places like Nobu to really cheap (and in my opinion, disgusting) chains like Yo!Sushi. All the big supermarkets have sushi sections too, for hungry people who need a quick bite of nigiri. With sushi such a popular food, I thought it might be easy to find stuff to make at home. But unfortunately, finding authentic Japanese products and ingredients proved to be a bit of a challenge.
I went out on a hunt recently to try to find some essentials, and had varying degrees of luck. There isn’t too much info online about where to buy stuff, or about what you can actually find, so today, for the benefit of any other Dubies (that’s my word for Dubai residents) who may be looking desperately for proper Japanese ingredients, I am posting a list of goodies that I recently found, where I bought them, as well as how I got there on public transport..
1. Daiso, Oasis Centre
I figured that if there was any place that I could find mentsuyu (めんつゆ）and other delightful Japanese ingredients, it would be Daiso, the all knowing and all powerful Japanese dollar store stocking everything from traditional Japanese plates and bowls to tiny wooden clothes pins with cloth butterflies on them. There are a few of them in Dubai, but I went to the one closest to me. It is halfway between Noor Islamic Bank station and Business Bay station, but it’s too far to walk from either, so get out at Noor Islamic Bank and take a taxi.
Although it was a huge store with lots of wonderful items, unfortunately they only had one single solitary row of food products, primarily soba（そば）and different types of Japanese tea, like mugicha（麦茶） and houjicha（ほうじ茶）. A bit disappointing and the only thing I ended up getting was the tea. The sales clerks said that the only place to really buy food products was at the other Daiso, in Lamcy Plaza. So don’t bother to go to the Oasis Centre to try to find Japanese food products as it is quite limited.
You could, however, go there to buy table booties. Ahh, so cute.
..2. Safestway – Sheik Zayed Road (map here)
This was bound to be a bit hit or miss, because this is actually a Korean, not a Japanese, supermarket, but hey, it was worth a try. Anyone who has taken the metro has seen this building because it has two HUGE red lobsters on it, so you can’t miss it. Not far from Business Bay Station, I got out from the metro and walked just a few minutes to get there. Safestway is actually the big supermarket downstairs, so you have to go up the escalator to the second floor to the little Korean supermarket. Unfortunately this shop was pretty loyal to the Korean customers — only one or two Japanese items. I did get some Korean pancake mix to be used for okonomiyaki (おこのみやき), and was pleasantly surprised to find real Japanese katsuobushi (かつおぶし), or dried bonito flakes.
–> UPDATE: As of October 2010 when I left Dubai, Safestway had closed down. Sorry!
3. Carrefour, Mall of the Emirates (no map necessary!)
I finally found redemption at the least expected place — the massive French supermarket chain in Mall of the Emirates (the one with the ski slope). I searched and searched and searched and finally found one little aisle, aptly titled ‘Exotic Products’ with mostly Japanese food. Bingo!! Here are all the things I stocked up on. I love Arabic and Indian food — which are the two big cuisines here — but boy am I glad I can find some authentic Japanese stuff here!