Oman is an Arab country located in Western Asia on the Arabian Peninsula. The country is bordered by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen, while sharing maritime borders with Iran and Pakistan. The countries’ southern and eastern sides are bordered by the Arabian Sea.
Like its neighbors, Oman’s climate is dry and hot. It is made up mostly of desert but generally the nights are cool and the country can experience snowfall particularly in the mountainous regions during the winter months of December to February.
The population of Oman is just over 5 million people and its major religion is Islam. Amongst its natural attractions are the Binmah Sinkhole, a natural sinkhole filled with pretty turquoise colored water and Jabel Shams which is also called the mountain of the sun, due to being the first piece of land to receive the morning sunlight. It is also the highest mountain in Oman.
Most Popular Omani Dishes
Omani cuisine could be considered synonymous with Khaleeji cuisine, i.e. the food eaten by people on the Arabian peninsula. But also other country’s cuisines have had a major influence on the typical types of food eaten in Oman including Pakistani, Iranian, Indian, Eastern Mediterranean and African.
Despite the dry climate, the country does manage to grow some foods. Some of the crops grown in Oman are fruit like bananas, papaya and dates, grains such as wheat, barley and sorghum. However, most fruit and vegetable foods consumed in Oman have to be imported.
Oman has a rich food culture. Staple ingredients used in most dishes include meat, rice and vegetables. Meat consumption is high and typical meats eaten include beef, chicken, fish, goat, sheep and camel.
Seafood consumption is higher in the regions near the ocean where fishing is an important industry and continues to grow commercially and recreationally. Amongst the most abundant of Oman’s seafood is lobster, mahi mahi fish, several species of tuna and barracuda. Spices, herbs and marinades are used to flavor foods. Omani people love sour foods.
So without further ado, here are the absolute must-try traditional dishes of Oman along with recipes for you to try for yourself.
Kabuli Rice is considered to be the national dish of Oman and consists of lamb, beef, chicken or goat meat mixed with rice, raisins, cinnamon, black pepper and chickpeas. Usually only consumed during special events like weddings or the Eid holidays, it is generally served on a huge plate to be shared. There are also many different variations of Qabuli depending on the region.
Khubz Ragag Bread
Khubz Ragag is a wheat bread cooked on hot metal. The bread is made from a flour batter with a sticky, thin consistency. The batter is spread in a circular motion over a hot cooking surface like a pan, griddle or flat top. The batter is so thin, it cooks within a few seconds. The bread is flipped to cook the other side and the folded over as it is removed from the heat.
Khubz means bread and ragag refers to the thinness of the bread. Its appearance is similar to crepes.
Khubz Ragag is sometimes filled with items like cheese, egg and mayonnaise. As the bottom side of the bread is cooking, the fillings are spread thin over the top later and cooked slightly, then the bread is folded with the fillings on the inside of the fold. This is commonly done with eggs and eaten for breakfast.
Shuwa is a dish of roasted lamb. The lamb is cooked in a shuwa pit. The pit is a hole, several feet deep under the ground. The lamb cooks very slowly, for 24 hours or more. First, the meat is marinated. Sacks madefrom palm trees are lined with banana leaves. The meat is then placed into the sack. The sack and banana leaves prevent the meat from burning.
Shuwa is usually served with rice. This dish is popular during Eid, the celebration which follows the fasting period of Ramadan.
Harees is a dish of wheat and meat. Whole wheat berries are soaked then cooked together with the meat until the wheat berries break down. The wheat and meat mixture is then pounded into a thick porridge. Lamb is usually the meat used but other meats like chicken can be used.
Grain other than wheat can also be used, such as oats and rice. The dish is very lightly flavored with seasonings like cumin, garlic, cinnamon and cardamom but it’s often served with ore flavorful components such as a spiced topping. It is a popular Ramadan food.
Mashuai is spit roasted kingfish. The fish is spiced and flavored before cooking. The practice of spit roasting involves cooking over an open flame, using a stick or rod through the food item and rotating the food as it cooks. Mashuai is served with rice.
Mushaltat is a stuffed flatbread. The raw dough is kneaded thin then filled with cheese, honey, spinach or meat then sealed. The stuffed dough is then baked for a short time.
Arsia is a dish of pounded rice, lamb, spices and sauce. Arsia resembles hummus but it firm enough to be handled. It is eaten with the hands, by scooping up a portion and dipping into a sauce or oil.
Shawarma is a type of pita wrap which includes fillings such as marinated chicken or lamb meat, with garlic paste, pickles and french fries inside. It is very similar to kebab, and it is considered to be the most common street food in the Arab Gulf countries. The meat is roasted on a vertical skewer, in a similar manner to the “Greek barbecue” in Brazil.
Mishkak is skewered meat that has been marinated and grilled. The meat, which can be beef, chicken, goat, sheep and sometimes even camel is marinated in tamarind sauce and yogurt with spices and peppers. It is popular a as street food and is usually served with sour or tangy sauces and eaten with rice or Omani bread.
Kahwa is a fragrant, mild green tea prepared using whole spices, saffron and almonds. In Oman, khawa is consumed on a regular basis and is always offered to visitors along with dates or other dried fruits. The flavor is weak and extremely sweet (as it is strained with cardamom grains and sugar), and it also has a fragrant smell. Although kahwa is an Arabic coffee, it is also popular in other cuisines, especially in Kashmiri cuisine.
Muthbe is a traditional Southern Omani method of cooking meat over hot stones. Burning coal is layered with stones. When the stones are red hot, the salted or seasoned meat is placed directly over the stones to slow cook. This style of cooking is popular with camel meat. The hot stones retain heat for a long time.
The stones used are usually river rock or stones from the wadi. Oman has many wadis. They are valleys or stream beds that fill up with water during the rainy season.
Kabsa is a mixed rice dish. It is also known as Majboos. It’s similar to biryani. The rice dish consists of meat, vegetables and spices, usually saffron and cardamom. Chicken Kabsa is one of the more popular versions of this dish. Large platters of Kabsa can be found served during special occasions such as weddings
King Fish is one of the most common species in the Arabian Sea and is easily found in Omani restaurants and barbecues. Generally prepared on a grill, its taste is believed to be a mix of freshwater and saltwater fish. King Fish is typically served with a mixed salad, rice, lemon and bread.
Shark salad is made from salted shark pieces. The dried shark is rehydrated by boiling in water then cooked with onions and sprinkled with lime juice. Served cold, this salad has a salty sour flavor.
A samosa is a triangular-shaped, thin dough fried and it consists of a spicy filling of potatoes, lentils, onions and other shredded vegetables. One of the rare vegetarian options in Omani cuisine, this street food can be found in many kiosks and cafes.
Halwa is a dessert made of sugar, spices like cardamom and nuts like almond and pistachio. It is sometimes referred to as candy. To make Halwa, Omani brown sugar is cooked over wood fire until it becomes a syrup. Ghee is added and flavorings like rose water, cardamom, saffron and nuts.
Some Halwas are made with dates. After cooking, the mixture is cooled before eating. Halwa has an interesting texture. It’s not solid like a candy but not liquid either. As the Halwa cools, it does become firmer but doesn’t completely harden. It’s easiest scooped up with a spoon but can also be held with the hands, though a bit gooey and sticky. Halwa is often served when greeting house guests.
Lemon Juice with Mint
Lemon juice with mint is a widely consumed drink, generally served in a tall glass in a shape that looks more like an ice slurry than a liquid juice. There is a huge variety of fresh juices in Oman’s restaurants and cafes, but this Omani beverage is considered to be one of the most refreshing ones and is a perfect choice for the summer months.