When I think of Arabian Food and eating in the Arabian Peninsula I see myself sitting about nibbling on dates, sipping tea, and munching down on shawarma wraps. This is also what I kind of do. But there is of course more to the region’s food and each nation of course shares a set of their own unique cuisine.
An Introduction to Omani Cuisine
This week brings us to Oman, via Salam Air, where we find a delightful mix of Arabian, African, and Indian influences, making it distinct from its regional counterparts. The use of aromatic spices like cardamom, cinnamon, and saffron creates an exciting balance of flavours. Signature dishes like Shuwa (slow-cooked lamb) and Mashuai (roasted spiced fish) showcase Omani culinary excellence.
Here we share a bit about the more mealy-type foods of Oman, not just the nibbles, the teas, prunes and bread (although Khubz Ragag is worth checking out). Remember also that food in the Sultanate of Oman is Halal meaning no alcohol and no pork but do expect some exciting substitutes like mutton and, have you ever eaten camel? Anyway, here we share our top 10 foods of Omani Cuisine to tick off on any visit to the Pearl of Arabia.
Starting with my much-loved Shawarma kebab, because who doesn’t love a good kebab? For those new to Shawarma, it is a popular Middle Eastern staple and street food comprising slices of marinated meat, commonly chicken, beef, or lamb, slowly roasted on a vertical spit. Shawarma is typically served on warm pita bread with tahini sauce, pickles, and fresh vegetables. To find shawarma in Oman the bustling central Mutrah Souq in Muscat is well known for its shawarma.
While the terms Shawarma and Kebab are often used interchangeably, the former is traditionally cooked on a vertical rotisserie without direct contact with the heat source. Whereas Kebabs would be the opposite. So Mishkak is Omani grilled meat skewer kebabs, a widely popular street food in Oman, made with chunks of marinated meat, typically lamb or chicken, seasoned with a blend of spices like cumin, coriander, and turmeric. Mishkak is often served with a bowl of fragrant saffron rice and again are best found around the bustling food stalls of Muscat’s Mutrah Souq in Oman.
Slow-cooked dish marinated lamb or goat meat wrapped in banana or palm leaves and cooked in an underground sand oven for up to 48 hours. Shuwa is often prepared for special occasions, such as weddings, religious festivals, and family gatherings, and is considered a symbol of hospitality, generosity, and community bonding. The best place to find authentic shuwa would be at the local Omani restaurants and during festive occasions
Majboos is a popular Omani rice dish made from a combination of spices, rice, and meat (typically chicken, lamb or maybe beef). Ingredients will commonly include basmati rice, meat, onions, garlic, tomatoes, dried lime, turmeric, and a blend of spices. Majboos is one of the more common foods of Oman and can be found in traditional Omani restaurants, at local street food stalls, as well as at the souks throughout Oman.
A traditional Omani dish made from wheat and meat, again typically chicken or lamb, Harees is a hearty porridge-like dish prepared by slow-cooking wheat and meat together until they blend into a smooth consistency. Other ingredients may include ghee, spices, and occasionally milk. Harees is commonly found during the holy month of Ramadan and would be a staple dish on festive occasions. In Oman, Harees can be found in traditional Omani restaurants, at local food markets, and during cultural events.
Another popular Omani dish is Mushaltat, a thin, layered bread filled with a mixture of spiced meat, onions, and herbs. The bread is rolled and cooked on a hot griddle giving a crispy exterior and a soft interior and is found both as a street food snack or as a main course at restaurants. Otherwise, Mushaltat is commonly found at local souks and markets, as well as at traditional Omani restaurants known for their authentic and mouth-watering Omani cuisine.
Halwa is a popular Omani dessert known for its rich and sweet flavour and its smooth, sticky texture. Made from a mixture of ingredients including sugar, ghee, rosewater, saffron, cardamom, and various nuts, Halwa would typically be served in small, bite-sized pieces. For some of the best Halwa in Oman check out the traditional sweet shops and souks, particularly in the cities of Muscat and Nizwa.
Kahwa is a fragrant and spiced green tea prepared using a blend of green tea leaves, saffron, cardamom, and a taste of rosewater. This traditional aromatic tea is normally served in small cups accompanied by dates or Omani halwa (the dessert above). Kahwa is widely found throughout all Oman including local cafes, in the markets and souqs, and just at any hospitality setting in Oman. Kahwa is an integral part of Omani culture.
Another traditional Omani beverage, Laban is made from a mix of yoghurt, water, and salt, and is commonly served chilled making it popular during hot weather as it is known for its cooling properties. Laban can be found in the local markets in Oman, at traditional Omani restaurants, and even at street food stalls across the country.
A roasted whole spit-roasted lamb or goat where the meat has first been marinated with a blend of spices such as turmeric, cinnamon, and black lime, before slow-roasting until tender and flavorful. Traditionally served on a bed of fragrant rice and accompanied by a tangy sauce made from dried limes, Mashuai can be commonly found in traditional Omani restaurants, at local food stalls, and of course special occasions like weddings and national celebrations throughout Oman.