© Anushka Bose. All rights reserved.*
While the visits back to Dhahran during my school breaks were temporary, the joy of comfort foods I enjoyed at the local spots in Dhahran was permanent — never could I forget the taste of my favorite Chicken Tikka Masala from Olive Garden-Tandoori House, and I still, to this day, seek that same taste whenever I order the dish at different restaurants.
Living in a compound, we didn’t have a plethora of restaurants within the gated community, which meant that local spots became that much more memorable. With fewer options, you get to savor what does exist in front of you. Looking through the photos on my phone, I came across some snapshots that reminded me of the different local spots in Dhahran. The Olive Garden/Tandoori House remains one of my favorite restaurants to this day. Their Chicken Tikka Masala was not only a family favorite, but every single person I know who frequented the restaurant loved that dish, it was a true house specialty. In fact, judging by their Chicken Tikka Masala was more akin to what other restaurants would call “Butter Chicken.” Their Chicken Biryani was also one of my favorite dishes that I would get during the banquet that they hosted at lunchtime every workweek day.
Chicken Tikka Masala (left) and Chicken Biryani (right) at the Dhahran Olive Garden/Tandoori House.
My family also deeply cherished the Dhahran Dining Hall Breakfasts during the weekends. My dad would wake up early in the morning and grab waffles, Spanish omelets, and sausages for us that would be waiting on the dining table when we woke up and made our way to the living room/kitchen. I still remember that innocent joy! For evening snacks, my dad would occasionally bring over the delicious cheese bread and honey-labneh bread from the fire-roasted spot inside the Dhahran Commissary—the name escapes me right now! Not only would I be happy to see my dad after work, but when I saw that he came bearing the packet that smelled of fresh bread and cheese, I would also be ecstatic.
Dining Hall Waffles and Eggs
Cheese-bread and Labneh-Honey Bread
Even though my family has departed from Aramco, I still remember the smell, taste, and memories associated with these foods. They remind me of home, and I associate the smell of those dishes to them. Even today, if I get a sniff of za’atar, I am teleported back in time to the freshly backed za’atar bread that I would buy from the Dhahran Commissary. I’ve realized that not only are the dishes tasty in and of themselves, but I also associate them with familiarity and comfort. To home. I will forever look for the taste of that Chicken Tikka Masala whenever I try that dish/butter chicken at any local Indian place, and my hunt for the cheese-bread will forever continue, no matter where I am.
To end, I would love to know what kinds of comfort foods you savored during your time/or in your present time in the Aramco compounds? What were/are the dishes called, and in which local spot can you find them?
Dhahran Olive Garden/Tandoori House
Dhahran Dining Hall
Anushka is a Graduate Student at Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. She spent her youth growing up in Dhahran, where she attended Dhahran Elementary, Dhahran Middle School, and Dhahran Academy. She loves learning about new cultures and is fascinated by the diversity that brings us all together, especially the expatriate community, where the only thing that is common is that we are all different, in culture, religion, and the perspectives we hold. One day she hopes to publish a book on the third culture kid experience. Dhahran holds a big place in her heart.
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