What every expat needs to know about Food in Bahrain

Tabbouleh. Bahrain dish.
The cuisine of Bahrain has gone through various changes over time. In the early days, little was eaten, apart from sea life, camel, and dates. Later in its history, the land became a trading post, and the diet here was massively changed as a result of foreigners' influx. The largest influence came with the arrival of the Arabs who introduced the Levantine cuisine. This brought tabbouleh, hummus, and spices that are now common not just in the Middle East, but Bahrain too.

As a result of other traders that came and went, the food here changed. The Indians, Persians, and the Europeans introduced new ideas and ingredients. This led to the prevalence of rice, and new ingredients and spices kept being introduced. Most of Bahrain traditional foods remain the same, although ethnic dishes are more common including Filipino, American, Chinese, Italian, and Indian. Given that most of these people have now settled in Bahrain, their dishes have only grown popular.

The staple foods in Bahrain include:

• Bread; generally flat

• Hummus; is a dip that consists of mashed chickpeas, garlic, tahini, and lemon

• Tabbouleh; that is a salad is made with bulgur, parsley, garlic, lemon, and tomatoes

The unique and regional variations include:

• Machboos; that is the national dish of rice topped with fish or meat and sometimes tomato sauce

• Shawarma; that is chicken kebab seasoned and grilled or lamb and served with pita bread

• Qoozi; is grilled lamb that is usually stuffed with eggs, rice, spices, and onions

• Falafel; is fried chickpeas served with veggies in bread

• Muhammar; is rice served with dates or sugar

Dining Etiquette
Every time you dine with the Bahrain people, a few rules must be followed. Most of these etiquette rules are related to the religion of the majority, who are Muslims. Any expat who abide by these rules are forgiven for any mistakes made. The country is diverse, meaning you could also dine with other religious bodies. While that is the case, just follow the common western European dining customs.

First, be conservative in your dressing. In some restaurants, you are forbidden from eating with a member of the opposite sex unless it is your spouse. Always observe the restaurant code of conduct and follow the lead. Do not take an opposite sex friend or colleague to dine with unless invited to do so. Always be on time for meals.

Understand that conservative Muslims don't take alcohol or eat pork so avoid these foods. If eating out, do not order them. Next, eat as the locals do. It means using the continental style, but on some occasions, you may use your hands. In Bahrain, do not eat with your left hand. Once you finish your meal, leave some on the plate and place your fork/spoon in the 5:00 position. When eating in restaurants, always check the bill for the service charges. There are restaurants that include a service charge that replaces the tip. If there are no additional charges, leave a tip of at least 10%.

Lamb is the principle meat followed by turkey, chicken, and duck while pork is forbidden. Dips and salads are common while the staple diet is composed of fruits, rice, fish, unleavened flat bread, dates, and dairy products like white cheese, Yogurt, and cream cheese. The curries are flavored with cinnamon, cardamom, lime, and saffron.


The country's favored beverage is coffee. It doesn't, however, mean that drinks in Bahrain are limited. In fact, there is an incredible selection of drinks. International brands of soft drinks are available, alongside dozens of tea, water, juices, milk, and almost every other non-alcoholic drink. If you love alcohol, there is good news. As much as Bahrain is a Muslim country that does not tolerate alcohol, there are bars where it can be purchased by foreigners.

One of the most popular desserts is Halwa. This traditional dessert is also known as Halwa Bahraini. It is jelly-like, made with saffron, corn starch, and various nuts. The other popular dessert is sweet samosa, which is also traditional and is filled with sugar and nuts. Balaleet is another dessert Bahrainians enjoy and it is served with fried eggs. It includes saffron and can be eaten for breakfast as well.

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Let us know what is your favorite dish from Bahrain.