Friday, May 13, 2011

The Taste of Oman

guest post by Amy Baker

The people of Oman are known for their exceptional hospitality. In fact, when visiting don’t find it surprising if you are invited into a strangers home as it is customary for Omani people to welcome others for refreshments and if you are lucky, a little nibble on something tasty.

Be warned: Omani cuisine varies a great deal across the different regions and is entirely different from the traditional dishes of the other Gulf States. For example, dishes from Muscat (in the North) and Salalah (in the South) are so incredibly different that it is hard to draw any comparison at all. This makes it difficult to make an informed decision on your meal and that’s why we’ve stepped in. Here is a handy rundown of some of the essential dishes that you absolutely must sample on your trip to this charming country.

As Oman is an Islamic country, alcohol is illegal and therefore when invited into someone’s home, it will be for kahwa (coffee). This strong, bitter drink is flavoured with cardamom and will often be served with something sweet to counteract the drinks bitterness.

Halwa is a sticky, sweet spread made from brown sugar, eggs, honey and various spices. It can be served at any time of the day and is often flavoured with ingredients such as rose water, nuts and chocolate and is a nice little accompaniment to kahwa.

You will be hard pressed to find any establishment that doesn’t offer you Rukhal bread with every meal. This thin, round bread is traditionally baked over a fire made from palm leaves and can be served with honey or halwa for breakfast or alongside your evening meal.

Lokhemat is another dish served to compliment your coffee and is particularly delicious. Here, balls of flour and yeast which have been flavoured with Cardamom, are deep fried and then served up with syrup and sweet lime juice.

There are two main festivals in the Islamic World; Eid Al Fitr, which is celebrated following the month of Ramadan, and; Eid al Adha, which is celebrated on completion of the pilgrimage to Mecca. These festive periods are when visitors can sample Omani food and drink at its best.

The most famous of these festive dishes is named shuwa and whole villages unite to collectively prepare this delicacy. Shuwa consists of a whole goat or cow roasted incredibly slowly, for up to two days, in a specially prepared clay oven underground. The meat is marinated in a plethora of herbs and spices which permeate the meat as it cooks giving it its distinct flavour.

Other dishes that you should expect to find during festival time are aursia which is mashed rice flavoured with herbs and spices and mashuai, a meal of whole spit-roast kingfish served up with zesty lemon rice.

For those of you with a sweet tooth, the treat of all treats when it comes to Omani food and drink is sakhana. This delectable and, frankly, very naughty dish is a thick, sweet soup made of date molasses and milk. Omani people love to drink yoghurt drinks and laban which is a salty buttermilk drink.

There you have it, when it comes to Oman there are so many different choices when it comes to their food and drink that you will be spoilt for choice. And one last top tip, although the food may be made with all the same ingredients as Asian food, Omani cuisine is not spicy at all meaning that you haven’t got to worry about missing that beer when it comes to putting out the fire in your mouth caused by hot food! For more information visit My Destination Oman.

Photo Credits: coffee pots, halwa, shuwa, laban


Nabeel Zafar said...

laban is Arabic of milk but what you have tasted might be a brand of milk which serve that special flavor

Flights to Orlando said...

Oman is really best place in the world. It looks like heaven on the earth. This is the place where everyone wants to go.

Sherry Ott said...

I love how they use cardamon in their cooking so much - it has always been one of my favorite spices. I find that in all of the arabic cooking they tend to use spices in their meals that Americans only reserve for dessert. The food looked amazing!

Mark H said...

@nabeel: Thank you for the correction.

@sherry: I'm a huge fan of cardamon in cooking as well.

Anonymous said...

What a great web log. I spend hours on the net reading blogs, about tons of various subjects. I have to first of all give praise to whoever created your theme and second of all to you for writing what i can only describe as an fabulous article. I honestly believe there is a skill to writing articles that only very few posses and honestly you got it. The combining of demonstrative and upper-class content is by all odds super rare with the astronomic amount of blogs on the cyberspace.

Mark H said...

@anonymous: A very generous tribute - thank you.

Anonymous said...

Oman is really a travel secret in my opinion. One of the most surprising places I've ever visited - with an absolutely stunning landscape.

Mark H said...

@anonymous: I suspect Oman is starting to be discovered. It is starting to appear in "countries to visit this year" type lists.

flights to harare said...

Oman has a significant history and "laban " is a common used compound/shake of milk and yoghurt which is consumed in a large volume in almost all gulf states as well.

Mark H said...

@flights: Thank you for your explanation of laban. It sounds popular across the Gulf states.

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