Dining Out 3 minutes 18 August 2022

Behind The Bib: Why Teible Wants To Fly The Flag For UAE Ingredients

Creating a restaurant centred on local produce, seasonality and sustainability might sound “insane” for many in the UAE – but it’s just the ticket for Teible. Its executive chef explains why

When South Korean restaurant-cum-design entrepreneur Peter Ahn first met Mexican-Russian chef Carlos Frunze, he challenged the latter to create a soy sauce without soybeans. Ahn’s vision was to create a restaurant to spotlight local produce, and soybeans are almost impossible to find in the UAE.

The chef thought Ahn was “insane”, he laughed. Yet, “the concept really appealed to me.”

Frunze eventually rose to Ahn’s challenge by creating what he calls bread shoyu, a soy sauce alternative made by fermenting bread off cuts for 60 to 75 days at 60°C with high humidity — and that was how the duo’s path to building the casual fine dining restaurant Teible came about.

The homegrown eatery set in the Jameel Arts Centre at the creek of Dubai’s Jaddaf Waterfront neighbourhood earned a Bib Gourmand award in the first-ever edition of the MICHELIN Guide Dubai.

Today, the restaurant sources 85 to 90 per cent of its ingredients from the UAE – and it does not feature the same menu twice. Its menu changes three times a year and incorporates experimental items underpinned by a farm-to-table approach. The restaurant also tries to minimise its impact on the environment through sustainable practices and its minimal wastage ethos.

Its overall vision: to promote the UAE’s agricultural sector and farmers.

Making The Impossible Possible

The path to the restaurant opening was slightly rocky. It took both Ahn and Frunze several months to open the eatery after careful planning and research to find local farms that were willing to collaborate with Teible. They travelled across the UAE for seven months, to Sharjah, Ajman, and Fujairah, just to find farmers and connect them with the restaurant. It was really hard to convince some of them that Teible was all about supporting local, according to Frunze.

As farmers started realising that this concept was gaining traction, more were willing to collaborate. Teible now works with three to four local farms, such as My Farm and Greenheart Organic Farms. Being ingredient-led means that Teible’s menus are determined by nature’s bounty as much as the chef’s creativity. “We spend time with farmers because our menus depend on them. It takes us three months to coordinate with them on the available produce before I even start creating the menu,” explains Frunze.

Even meats, which most restaurants source from abroad, are sourced from native stock. “While most beef in the country is chilled, we get fresh local beef from two local farms that brought two different types of cattle to the UAE back in the 1990s: Jersey and English. We only buy 60 per cent of the cow, because we use specific cuts,” says Frunze.

When Carlos and his team are unable to find the produce they need in the UAE, they either amend the seasonal menu or source their ingredients from the region, such as from Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia.

Achieving Zero Waste

This eatery tries to instil the philosophy of minimising waste through fermentation and sustainable practices.

“European restaurants have been doing [fermentation] for a decade, but who said we couldn’t do it here? Just set your mind to it and be patient,” Frunze says.

Summer produce is particularly difficult to source in the UAE due to the harsh conditions that farms face in this season, he explains, adding that only 15 per cent of ingredients on their summer menus are local. But to extend the length of these ingredients, the restaurant preserves them through fermentation, drying or freezing.

Chef Carlos Frunze - Teible - Bib Gourmand - MICHELIN Guide Dubai 2022.jpg

By keeping food safety in mind, Frunze tries to use ingredients in their entirety to avoid food waste. For instance, he uses the ghaf tree for different purposes: to make a kombucha with hibiscus called Kombucha Hibiscus Fluid Gel, to use its leaves for marination by drying out and grilling them first then grinding them as powder, and finally to make oil out of its stems and roots. “Zero waste is all about caring for the planet. My career and life pushed me to think about it. The pandemic also made it obvious that food was not totally secure. Food security is very important for our future and that of our children. I want that to happen in this region,” Frunze says.

“We use everything in our chicken and beef, from skin to bones. We roast then ferment the bones to make our own soy sauce. It takes almost 80 days to extract the old moisture from the bones. We make vinegars or powders out of the skins. As for the eggshells, they’re used as compost for our adjacent four-square-metre garden,” he continues.

At Teible, the interior design is minimalistic to shed the light on food
At Teible, the interior design is minimalistic to shed the light on food

What To Order At Teible

While Teible transforms its whole menu every season, one dish slightly changes based on the available seasonal produce, with another one remaining the same: Beef Tartare and Garum Burger.

Beef Tartare - Signature Dish - Teible - Bib Gourmand - MICHELIN Guide Dubai 2022.jpg

The Beef Tartare is a signature of Teible and inspired by American celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain and the way he makes this French staple from “fresh beef, freshly hand-chopped at the very last minute.” Frunze’s team prepares it by chopping up fresh raw beef portioned for each order. It is then mixed with fermented beef to enhance the flavour, dehydrated egg yolk, and beef garum seasoning. 

The Beef Tartare is also shaped to look like a canal in tribute to the dish’s French origins. “It’s the beefiest tartare ever,” Frunze says.

The Garum Burger is also a must try. It took Carlos four months to create this burger, because fermented beef is the star ingredient. It features charred local beef, 80-day fermented local beef Garum glaze, aged cheddar cheese, burnt local onion powder, in-house beef Garum powder, 15-day fermented chilli aioli, pickled gherkins, and in-house sourdough potato bun.

One of the signature dishes at Teible is the Garum Burger
One of the signature dishes at Teible is the Garum Burger

Have a look at all 14 Dubai restaurants that were awarded a Bib Gourmand in 2022 here.

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