Love it or loathe it – the weekly food shop is unavoidable. Despite doing our best to get out of it, it is a necessary evil, often complicated by the perceived lack of groceries available here. New residents may be used to the abundance of choices to be had at home, and perhaps feel that they will not be able to have the same gastronomic options here.
Quite simply one of the first questions you ask when moving to a new country is where to buy those things from home that you are used to, be it yeast‑flavoured food spread, a particular brand of chocolate biscuit or genuine wasabi paste.
But fear not, thanks to the diverse expat population in the country pretty much everything is available at one supermarket or another. All carry a vast variety of fresh fruit and vegetables, grown both locally and flown in from abroad – strawberries from Qatar, tomatoes from Holland, carrots from Australia, aubergines from Thailand. Those that like to cook from scratch can find flours made from wheat, rice, corn and lentils; dried and tinned beans and pulses in abundance; and a multitude of dried herbs and spices, from peppercorns to garam masala and jerk seasoning.
Given the diversity in Qatar, this is a great opportunity to broaden the horizons and try those strange‑looking (and sometimes unpronounceable) foodstuffs that you may otherwise not see: look out for dried shrimp, gourds and white radish, lime pickles and hot sauces, dried soya chunks, and unfamiliar cheeses.
Let us know if you find other unusual items via our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages. And be aware that stocks go quickly – if you see it, buy it!
A Dubai‑based company, LuLu has a number of stores in Qatar: Al Gharrafa, Al Khor, Al Rayyan, the D Ring Road and Qatar Foundation. The company aims to cater for multi‑ethnicities, and to this end has a diverse range of groceries. There are aisles full of items from India, Japan, Thailand, the UK and the US. Those with specific dietary requirements are especially well attended to, with foods suitable for coeliacs, vegetarians and vegans. Expect to find gluten‑free breads and cakes from the UK, tofu and soya milk products from the UK and Asia, rice and noodles from Asia, and cereals and sauces from the UK and the US, as well as a number of organic products from around the world. For those with pets, LuLu stocks a great selection of foods, scratching posts, pet beds and accessories.
Spinneys has supermarkets at The Mall and The Pearl‑Qatar. Their Imports and Healthy Living ranges cover a wide selection of bio, organic and gluten free products, including pastas, cereals, biscuits, non‑dairy, and much more. Choices include: Amy’s frozen meals; non‑dairy milks made from soya, almonds and quinoa; snacks, nuts and pulses by Suma Wholefoods; vegetarian meals; and organic and antibiotic free meat products. There is a good selection of fresh organic fruit and vegetables.
A veritable cornucopia of gastronomic pleasures await at Mega Mart. There are three supermarkets – at 01 Mall, Barwa Village and The Centre – and two express stores – at Messila petrol station in Al Rayyan and Parco mall. The three supermarkets have by far the largest selection of international groceries in Qatar and should be the first place to head to if you’re after something specific.
The range of foodstuffs is somewhat staggering. Need a gluten free birthday cake? Make your own using any number of flours made from rye, rice, corn, potatoes, lentils, coconuts and flax. Got a fussy vegetarian at home? There are products by MorningStar, Tesco, Waitrose, Linda McCartney and Lightlife, as well as a huge selection of frozen ready meals and snacks from India and the Philippines.
Mega Mart has a large number of products from the UK and the US, but also items from South Africa, Australia and Europe. Fill the trolley with tins of organic beans from Waitrose from the UK, nori sheets from Japan, Bokomo cereal from South Africa, fragrance free Tide soap powder from the US, and Ecover and Ecoleaf products from Europe. Again our animal companions are well thought of, with cat and dog food by Waitrose, and Purina Smartblend from the US. Shoprite on Airport Street is a branch of Megamart.
The world’s second‑largest retailer, Carrefour, has stores at City Center‑Doha, Dar Al Salam, Lagoona, Landmark and Villaggio malls, and at Abu Hamour. The company dedicates separate aisles to foods imported to Qatar, with Asian, Filipino, Japanese and Mexican items. There is a ‘Diet’ section for those on a health‑drive, but this is also where diabetics and coeliacs can find a number of items, such as Schär Gluten Free Products and sugar‑free condiments.
The Carrefour BIO organic line has 130 fresh and frozen products and grocery items, many of which you will find in Qatar, even at the smaller Carrefour Markets. All products are inspected and approved by the independent certification organisation ECOCERT, so you can be assured of the quality. There is also a good range of fresh organic fruits and vegetables.
Carrefour is one of the only places you can purchase oddities such as jars of chestnuts and white asparagus, and raw honey.
Want to make the perfect adobo chicken? Have a thing for champorado (chocolate rice pudding)? Just behind Bin Zaid, Qatar Islamic Cultural Center lies what is popularly known as the Filipino Souq. Here the Filipino expat community converge for their spices, fresh meat and fish, rice and pancit (noodles). There are a wide range of the delicious glutinous desserts made with rice and coconut. It is apparently as much a social as it is a shopping experience.
Located in Al Jazeera Street in Bin Mahmoud. Korean food features a number of intensely flavoured ingredients, which may be available in general supermarkets but perhaps lack authenticity, in which case a visit to the Korean supermarket is in order. Treats on offer here include: kimchi, the famous spicy cabbage; sesame oils; kochujang, a chili pepper paste; kochukaru, or chili pepper flakes; daenjang, soybean paste; and various soy sauces.
Marks and Spencer
A little piece of the UK in Qatar. Not strictly a supermarket, of course, but the stores at Landmark and Villaggio malls have a growing selection of all those peculiarities the Brits love – extra strong tea bags, fruit preserves, strange crisp flavours, and savoury and sweet biscuits. A whole aisle is devoted to traditional‑style sweets, such as rhubarb and custard and lemon sherberts.
There is also a frozen section, with a small range of ready meals, desserts and fish fillets, including gluten free cod fillets and fish fingers. At the beginning of December, Marks and Spencer brings in Christmas cakes, yule logs, mince pies, chocolate coins, and speciality teas and coffees. The recently opened bakery also offers fresh scones, loaves of bread and Danish pastries.
At the Indian Supermarket on Airport Street you can find a number of uniquely Indian foods – from dosa batter (crêpe made from fermented batter) to ready-to-eat iddyappams (rice flour pressed into noodle form and then steamed), and more. If you’re looking for cookware designed specifically for South Indian cuisine this is the shop to visit in Qatar. The fresh snack counter has a number of treats on offer.