Few years ago, if you drive around Saudi Arabia you will notice the amount of food trucks parked all over the place. Food trucks became a trend in Saudi when the middle upper class kids started the era of entrepreneur “wanna be”, since operating a food truck will cost a lot of money, it make sense that those young entrepreneur are the ones who can offered it, plus its trendy and cool to drive around and sell over priced burgers. Side note; 50% of food trucks in Saudi Arabia sell burgers and the other 50% sell crepes with Nutella (check my other blog on Nutella)… we like to keep it simple; savory or sweet, period.
The way I see it, food trucks here in Saudi is a bubble that will burst soon if it didn’t already. The reason is because our business model for food trucks are upside down…this statement make me sound like a business connoisseur, so I will keep it.
When we talk about Kebabs, Hummus, Falafel, Shawarma; we refer to one of the most popular cuisines in Saudi Arabia or the safest bit to go to when Saudis feel hungry; you can never go wrong with grilled chicken on skewers. That is why you see Shawerma and Kebabs places all over the kingdom; it is basically safe and convenient. For the sake of this blog I will call it Lebanese food. We can argue all day long on the actual origin of those types of food, but who cares?
The Lebanese food places here have different styles and sets, you will see the fancy five stars restaurants where they add olive oil and garnishing to their hummus so they upgrade their hummus from just a plane ground chickpeas to a 50 SAR plane ground chickpeas. Those places are suitable for newlyweds … you can see couples dipping pieces of pita bread into their plate of hummus and feeding each other (romance at its best) … and finish their meal with some giggles here and there and of course some warm Kanafa (middle eastern dessert). The other type of Lebanese food places is my favorite; usually they are located in neighborhoods that are not advisable to visit during nighttime. The queue is long and people are very close to each other as if you are setting up dominos pieces to fall against each other. Those places also serve meat on skewers, but the meat is usually mysterious meat; it’s a guessing game from here … bon appétit.
With it’s recognizable green cap and exotic red bottle, Crystal hot sauce has a magical ability to make any type of food taste great. Even if your food does not taste that good, just add some Crystal drops on your food and you will experience the best meal you have ever had. Many Saudis like to carry Crystal hot sauce in their pockets, waiting for the right moment to use it. Let’s say you are invited to your mother-in-law’s house for a lovely family dinner and you don’t like her food, you can’t be rude & not eat… right? Here is when Crystal comes in handy… you will eat everything on the table and make your in-laws happy.
Go to any dinner party in Saudi and I am 100% positive that you will find Crystal bottles standing with pride on the dinning table or on the floor (for people who like to eat on the floor). You can put Crystal on your Ka’bsa, scrambled eggs, sandwiches, fries, and potato chips… you name it! Don’t be surprised if Saudis start drinking the hot sauce or serve it as a cocktail drink in restaurants. I once saw bunch of Saudis drink Crystal straight from the bottle, so I think it can be considered as a beverage.
Generosity is one of the most positive characteristics that many Saudis have in common. Some believe that part of being an Arab is that hospitality and exaggeration in welcoming guests are serious duties. The best and safest way to show your generous side that has been hiding for a long time is to invite your friends and guests to a lovely dinner. Breakfast or lunch will not work due to the Saudi schedule that starts from 1 pm (although I know some people will wake up early for free food). When it comes to eating, Saudis like to enjoy every bite and make sure that they taste everything on the table; all of this is time-consuming; therefore, dinnertime is the best time for Saudis in case they are planning to spend more than two days eating.
For newbies in hosting dinner parties, I just want to say that pizza will not work…it’s either a whole animal; usually lamb or some certain type of herbivorous mammal or nothing at all. Make sure there is dessert after dinner, and yes fruits can be dessert and for extra street credit serving tea after words will be the best option.
Dinner invitations will always be a part of Saudi culture that leads to bonding amongst each other, making new friends, and solving many problems… but seriously, who doesn’t like free dinners?
It does not matter what kind of restaurant it is; as long its new in town, Saudis will camp in front of it. The grand opening of a new restaurant is always critical, Saudis always plan a strategy ahead of time to get in first. It’s not like the restaurant will change their menu or their food after a week from the grand opening; but people like to be the first to try it, just to tell about their experience to the rest of their family and friends…. it’s the idea of telling people about new stuff in town is what Saudis like.
All of a sudden, each member of the family will turn into a food critic, and start rambling on how good the food is. Not only food is being judged; but also service, decor, and other people who are sitting in the restaurant. If someone found an item on the menu that they like, that’s it..he or she will be ordering the same order aka “the usual” until the restaurant runs out of it.