07 Mar Updated Food Scene in Riyadh
Today I made my first miso soup from scratch at home. Miso soup is a Japanese dish made of dried seaweed, green onions, tofu, soy sauce and miso paste.
I realized with surprise and pleasure that all these ingredients were not available in supermarkets here seven years ago when I arrived in Saudi. Now they are available. True, I often have to go to different supermarkets as I don’t find all ingredients in one place, but even that is rapidly changing.
You see, I’ve always been specific about my eating. I became a vegetarian when I was a teenager and over the years have explored being vegan, pescatarian, gluten-free, dairy-free, organic, plant based, low carbs, high protein…but always with the same goal of eating clean and healthy and finding what works best for me.
Coming from Hong Kong where I lived before and where all types of foods and cuisines were available (we had delicious and fresh cheap sushi from the supermarket at least once a week), arriving in Riyadh was a challenge. No meat, no processed food for me, limited carbs…I struggled. I’d go to Carrefour for specific French products, Tamimi for American ones, Danube or Lulu for gluten free and organic items.
Today most big supermarkets have a “health food” or “gluten-free/organic” section. It’s expensive and not always worth it, but the options are much wider and allow people with specific diets to find what they need.
I recently had friends over for dinner and two of them are allergic to gluten. I was happy to find kale and chia chips for them (served with hummus), buckwheat crackers to replace bread (with cheese) and they were so happy.
It’s the same with restaurants. Seven years ago we rarely went out to eat. The lack of atmosphere, average food and service and partitions that made us feel like we were eating in a box, all these things were big turn-offs.
Today the foodie scene in Riyadh is booming and improving. There are more options, new restaurants with ambience, great food and service, lovely décor and atmosphere. Some even play music! There are partitions, on request, but not compulsory. The menus have options for people like me and customer service has improved tremendously. It’s not on the menu? Ask! In most cases the waiters/chef will try to accommodate your requests.
Recently, we were out working late and felt like eating at home but I didn’t feel like cooking. We stopped at a recently opened shopping arcade near Mecca Road, ordered pizza from one place, salad bowls and soup from another then quickly popped in the supermarket to do our grocery shopping . Ten minutes later the food was ready and we were home watching a movie with delicious fresh food. It felt so good and it was delicious! We spent SR100 for two.
Social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Foursquare etc. also help find information, get reviews, compare options and share with friends.
So go about town and explore!
Miso Soup Recipe can be found here!