Oman: Food                                                      

Introduction

  • The Omani people are well known for their hospitality and food offerings.
  • Meals often have rice as the main ingredient which is served with cooked meats.
  • Main course dishes are extensive and range from marak, a vegetable curry, to assorted kebabs, barbecued, grilled and curried meat, as well as chicken and fish dishes.

Meal Time

  • The main meal is usually eaten at midday. The evening meal is lighter.

Regional Variations

  • Omani cuisine is distinct from other Gulf States and even varies within the Sultanate's regions. Sometimes the difference between the dishes in Salalah (in the south) and those prepared in Muscat (in the north) are so marked that it is difficult to find any commonalities.

Herbs

  • Although herbs, onion, garlic and lime are used liberally in traditional Omani cuisine, the food is not usually hot or spicy.

Festive Dishes

  • Aursia is a festival meal, served during celebrations, which consists of mashed rice flavored with spices.
  • During Ramadan, two of the most popular traditional dishes served at Iftar, the breaking of the fast, include sakhana, a thick, sweet soup made of wheat, dates, molasses and milk and fatta, a meat and vegetable dish mixed with khubz rakhal, thin Omani bread made of unleavened dough.
  • Another popular festival meal is shuwa, which is meat cooked very slowly (sometimes for up to two days) in an underground clay oven. The meat becomes extremely tender. Before cooking, it is marinated with spices and herbs to give it a very distinct taste.

Everyday Cuisine

  • Everyday Omani cuisine includes a wide variety of soups, vegetables, lentils, lamb, fish and chicken.

Salads

  • Salads are also popular and usually include fresh vegetables, smoked eggplant, tuna fish, dried fish or watercress.

Rice

  • Rice is used widely and is served in a variety of ways from steamed to elaborate dishes served with meat and vegetables.
  • Maqbous is a rice dish that is tinted yellow with saffron and cooked over spicy red or white meat.

Bread

  • Breads rage from plain to those flavored with dates, sesame, thyme and garlic.
  • The rukhal bread is a thin, round bread originally baked over a fire made from palm leaves. It is eaten at any meal. It is usually served with Omani honey for breakfast and is often crumbled over curry for dinner.

Fish

  • Fish is often used in main dishes. The kingfish is popular. Mashuai is a meal comprising whole spit-roasted kingfish served with lemon rice.

Beverages

  • A favorite drink is laban which is a salty buttermilk.
  • Yogurt drinks, flavored with cardamom and pistachio nuts, are also very popular.
  • Omani coffee, khawa, is prepared with freshly roasted ground coffee that is then mixed with cardamom powder.

Dessert

  • For dessert, Omani halwa, or sweetmeat, is a traditional favorite. In the photo below, a man prepares halwa.