Dubai Restaurants UAE

The McArabia Taste Test

I wanted to taste McArabia.

There. I’ve confessed it.

McArabia Mall of the Emirates

I also admit that I’m not a fan of fast food. As odd as it felt to have it as an item to tick off my culinary to-do list in Dubai, I was curious and  adamant to try McDonald’s contribution to the Arab world. Would it taste like any other McDonald’s burger or has it been adapted to suit local palates?

So after an exhaustive shop around all floors of the Mall of the Emirates, when tummies started to rumble, we searched for the Emirati golden archers. We found it tucked away in the far end of the food court, past local eateries and alongside other American fast food chains.

McArabia Mall of the Emirates

We ordered the McArabia Kofta and McArabia Chicken, as well as the ubiquitous fries and Coke that accompany packaged meals. Service was almost instantaneous as expected. We paid our dirhams and shuffled with our trays to a quiet location for the taste test.

McArabia Mall of the Emirates
McArabia Kofta

McArabia Mall of the Emirates
McArabia Chicken

Both meals presented well, packaged in a printed cardboard box which looked rather sizeable compared to an ordinary burger. The words “grilled” and “dressed in Arabic flatbread” featured prominently enticing me to open the package and sink my teeth into the meal.

McArabia Mall of the Emirates

McArabia Kofta consists of grilled kofta, a spicy ground beef patty with lettuce, tomatoes, onions and garlic mayonnaise wrapped in Arabic flatbread.

McArabia Mall of the Emirates

McArabia Chicken has two patties of grilled chicken with the same accoutrements as its kofta cousin.

The Arabic-style bread was a little thicker than I had expected. Its texture resembled pita bread, presumably to hold the meat or the chicken as well as the salad without getting too soggy. But as tempting as they may be to the eye, what about the taste buds?

I took a bite of the McArabia Kofta first. I could taste a hint of spices in the grilled meat but had I not been slightly seduced with the visuals, I could have thought I was sinking my teeth into a quarter pounder without the cheese. The lettuce, tomato and onions were ordinary and passable. I expected the garlic mayonnaise to cater to local tastes by having a little more garlic but this diluted concoction was more akin to a westernised version of a supposedly exotic dish.

McArabia Chicken tasted of plain grilled chicken, the kind you eat when trying to painfully diet before an upcoming culinary trip. The taste was so bland that I checked if I had inadvertently chewed on some of the wrapping. It fell apart halfway through eating it creating a soggy and dripping mess on the tray. McArabia Kofta fared much better in the taste test swap between the two of us.

As for the verdict, I much preferred the kofta over the chicken, due to the combination of scantily added mystery spices and the more prominent grilled taste. The fries tasted the same as any I have eaten elsewhere.

My curiosity was satiated. But not my appetite. As tempted as I was by the allure of McArabia, no matter how you label it, it still tastes like McDonald’s.

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About the author

Corinne Mossati

Corinne Mossati is a drinks writer, author of GROW YOUR OWN COCKTAIL GARDEN, SHRUBS & BOTANICAL SODAS and founder/editor of Gourmantic, Cocktails & Bars and The Gourmantic Garden. She has been writing extensively about spirits, cocktails, bars and cocktail gardening in more recent years. She is a spirits and cocktail competition judge, Icons of Whisky Australia nominee, contributor to Diageo Bar Academy, cocktail developer and is named in Australian Bartender Magazine's Top 100 Most Influential List. Her cocktail garden was featured on ABC TV’s Gardening Australia and has won several awards. She is a contributor to Real World Gardener radio program and is featured in several publications including Pip Magazine, Organic Gardener, Australian Bartender and Breathe (UK). Read the full bio here.


    • Jen: I don’t know how they’d make plain chicken sound exotic but I’d take the kofta any day, though I was told that the chicken was the more popular choice!

  • I know this wasn’t a glowing review, but I now have a real craving to go out and order a Big Mac meal, complete with fries and a coke (none of which I’ve had in the last two years).  I can’t decide if I owe you a thank you, or a ‘curse you” 🙂

    • Justin: Curse me, for sure! If this meagre review made you crave a Big Mac after a 2 year abstinence, I can’t decide whether to thank you or curse you too! 🙂

  • Me too Justin, think I will go out and try the Angus Burger.  Do you know if the McArabia burger came in Halal and non-Halal versions ?  Also, did the staff have the same routine, eg do you want fries with that, thank you come again

    • Ludivine: To my knowledge it is all Halal, and yes, the staff had the same routine and spoke English so it was just like any other outlet in the world. And what is it with Angus burgers? I’m sick of hearing about them like they’re the latest invention.

    • Anil: I didn’t even check! It was a quick order (want fries with that?) and in no time they were onto the next person. But I can say both McArabias could have done with a little more condiments.

  • Andrew my friend and I went to Marrakesh a couple of years ago and had the MacArabia and wow, it was just the yummiest thing! They must make it much nicer over there by the looks of things.   I even spent a good few hours online after the trip trying to find the actual recipe, even though I know how to make kafta. 

    • Yvonne: I wonder if it was the same McArabia that I ate or they’d spiced it up in Marrakesh. If I ever travel there, I’d try it and report back. Though I’d much rather sample local cuisine than an Americanised version. I’d bet your kofta would beat theirs any day! 🙂

  • Yes Mac Arabia from Mac Donald is the best ever.
    I feel is Healthy and tasty, with soft Arabic Pita bread.

    Thanks for sharing this article.