With Smoke and Spice from the UAE | Giant National Capital Barbecue Battle

With Smoke and Spice from the UAE

With Smoke and Spice from the United Arab Emirates



Video Source: Dubai Tastemakers

Hattem Mattar

World’s First Arab Pitmaster | BBQ Ambassador | @Hattemmattar on instagram

Hattem Mattar became the Arab world's king of barbecue to find a way back to himself


Hattem Mattar is the founder of Mattar, the synonymous Dubai-based artisan smokehouse, and a staple in the UAE’s culinary scene. His secret? Hattem has fused the traditional barbeque techniques he learned in Texas with Middle Eastern spices to create a unique “third-culture cuisine” that has won the hearts of Emiratis and expats alike.


Hattem trained in the fine art of barbeque with Bryan Bracewell of the legendary Southside Market & Barbecue in Bastrop, Texas. He notes of the experience, “You can imagine how nervous I was being this Arab guy in the middle of Texas learning to do barbeque. Would they accept me? Would they think it was okay? We had nothing in common but our love of barbeque at the beginning. We have so much in common now between our cultures. We are still friends to this day.”


When he returned to the UAE, Hattem began to experiment with all he’d learned, read, and seen at his farmhouse. He started out cooking for his family and neighbors, but word (and smell!) spread quickly and soon people travelled from across the country to try this “third-culture barbeque.” Hattem has struck a chord with the community and today, this concept has expanded to brick-and-mortar locations and food festivals across the UAE and the world.

BBQ Ambassador:

Part of Hattem’s charm is his engaging and welcoming personality – he brings a special energy to every space and embraces the role of “Fire Diplomat.” Hattem remains steadfast in his message of connectivity, living with the motto for his cuisine and daily life, “Gratitude. Humility. Community.”  This summer Hattem will embark on a US tour, spreading his spirit and cuisine across the United States. Grateful at the fact. Humble in the pursuit. Communal in the cuisine.

The Spices

For Hattem, this means a fusion of Texas technique and Middle Eastern spices. You’ll experience combinations of these spices in Hattem’s mouthwatering creations.

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Za’atar is a savory Middle Eastern spice blend that typically contains sumac, sesame seeds, marjoram, salt and thyme or oregano. Sprinkle za’atar on homemade hummus or for a simple snack, mix za’atar with a good olive oil and mop it up with warm pita bread.

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The Arabic word for spices, “baharat” refers to a Middle Eastern seasoning blend that’s also known as Lebanese seven-spice blend. The mixture varies by region but it typically contains some combination of black pepper, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, coriander, cumin, paprika, cardamom and cloves. People across the Middle East enjoy baharat in rice, fish and meat dishes.

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Made from dried berries, sumac is known for its deep wine color and tart, lemony flavor. Sumac is a key ingredient in za’atar, but you can also use it on its own. Try using sumac on salads and hummus, as well as in grilled kabob recipes.

Rose Water:

With a delicate, floral flavor, rose water is a common ingredient in Middle Eastern desserts, such as halva and Turkish delight.


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Cardamom has a warm, flavorful taste that pairs well with both sweet and savory dishes.


 A picture containing food, pepper, hot pepper, crayfish Description automatically generatedSaffron:

Known as the world’s most expensive spice, saffron comes from a type of crocus flower. Cooks often pair saffron with seafood or rice, such as in a Persian tahdig (a crispy rice dish).

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Pomegranate Molasses:

Pomegranate molasses or pomegranate syrup is in many sweet and savory Middle Eastern dishes. You can make pomegranate molasses at home using pomegranate juice, or buy it online or at a Middle Eastern grocery store.

The United Arab Emirates

Map Description automatically generatedThe United Arab Emirates is a relatively young country (we just celebrated our 50th anniversary!), located in the southeastern Arabian Peninsula. The country covers an area that looks like a triangle and is approximately the same size as the state of Maine.

We can trace the heritage of the land back over 125,000 years with stories of pearl diving and sea faring evolving into the country know today – a global hub of business, culture, and innovation.





Nicknames: UAE, The Emirates

Capital: Abu Dhabi

National Currency: Dirhams (AED)

People from the UAE are called: Emirati

National Language: Arabic

 Flight from DC to the UAE: 13 Hours

Time Zone: UTC +4 (8 hours ahead of DC)

Seven States: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman,
Umm Al Quwain, Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah


Visiting the UAE:

As one of the world’s fastest growing tourist destinations, the UAE has all the ingredients for an unforgettable holiday. Where will you explore first?

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Museum of the Future


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Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque


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Louvre Abu Dhabi


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Dubai Creek


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Burj Khalifa


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Mangrove Parks



UAE in DC:

This year, the UAE is the host country for the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Visit us on the National Mall June 22-26 and June 30 – July 4 for a cultural immersion.

For the rest of the year, check us out on Instagram, @uaecultureusa and @uaeembassyus for all of the latest programming! And don’t miss following Hattem in DC, Dubai and around the world, @hattemmattar!