UAE’s ‘New National Dish’ exhibition offers a taste of the future

World Faizah Kamal 22-Jan-2020
Food exhibition
ID 165978028 © Alexey Pevnev |

AlSerkal Avenue in Dubai will be hosting the exhibition ‘New National Dish: UAE’ which will present four imagined proposals for a new Emirati national dish, based on the environmental, economic and social impacts of climate change. The show offers the chance to envision the future of food, and will be open between January 24 and 25.

Zac Denfeld, director of the Centre for Genomic Gastronomy — the artist-led think tank behind the show which has previously examined the biotechnologies and biodiversity of human food systems in Ireland — spoke to the news agency Arab News about the exhibition.

“We do some research and look at the way food might change, and then propose a new national dish,” Denfeld, who is currently based in Norway, said. “The UAE has a strong desire for food security and there are many scientific projects happening here, (including) indoor growing, vertical growing using somewhat salty water.”

For the Dubai show, produced by AlSerkal, Denfeld and his colleagues concentrated on identifying Emirati food for which most of the ingredients are grown in the country.

“We are also considering the changing preferences for the eaters; what they are going to want in the future,” Denfeld explained. For example, the team imagined and created a new kind of sushi, replacing the fish meat with watermelon prepared with a seaweed machine to make the fruit taste and feel like fish.

“That’s also combined over rice, like sushi, because the UAE is now working with China to develop a rice that can grow in the salty conditions,” Denfeld said. “So, this is a way of combining a future where rice is actually grown (in the Emirates) — which has never been done — and an alternative approach to fish, where we might eat a little bit less fish or only have the (selected) parts.”

Exhibition visitors will get the opportunity to taste the food and discuss the future of popular dishes. “We are giving four very different perspectives, and people can choose what their favourite is,” Denfeld said.