The cuisine of Oman is a fine blend of several flavors that Oman has accumulated due it geographic location at the crossroads of the Middle East, Africa and the Far East. The diverse terrain of the country has created several cooking styles that vary from one region of Oman to other. Besides, a long tradition of maritime and trade has brought culinary influences of several different regions to the Sultanate. These traditions have been adopted and developed into the ethnic tastes of Oman over the years.
Omani food makes use of chicken, fish and mutton quite often to prepare their dishes. Traditional Omani cuisine is prepared with liberal use of various marinades, spices, herbs, onion, garlic and lime and yet it is not as hot as other Asian cuisines. The cuisine of Oman also stands out from the cuisines of other Gulf States and varies within the Sultanate's different regions. However, one delight that is the universal symbol of Omani hospitality Kahwa or Omani coffee served with dates.
Main meals often comprises of rice as the main ingredient, together with cooked meats. The main daily meal is usually eaten at midday, while the evening meal is lighter. Everyday Omani cuisine includes a wide variety of soups prepared from vegetable, lentil, lamb and chicken. Salads are also popular and are usually based around fresh vegetables, smoked eggplant, tuna fish, dried fish or watercress. The dishes for main course include Marak - vegetable curry, Kebabs - barbecued, grilled and curried meat, chicken and fish dishes. Fish is often used in main dishes too and the kingfish is a popular ingredient. Mashuai is a meal comprising whole spit-roasted kingfish served with lemon rice.
Rice is served in a variety of ways, from steamed to elaborate concoctions with meat and vegetables. Maqbous is a rice dish, tinged yellow with saffron and cooked over a spicy red or white meat. Breads rage from the 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, typically served with Omani honey for breakfast or crumbled over curry for dinner.
There are certain special dishes for festive occasions in Oman. In Dhofar and Wusta, the festivities start with Ruz al Mudhroub - a dish made of cooked rice and served with fried fish and Maqdeed - special dried meat. Muqalab - a dish of tripe and pluck cooked with crushed or ground spices (cinnamon, cardamom, clove, back pepper, ginger, garlic and nutmeg) is served as the main dish in Muscat, Al Batinah, Dahira and Sharqiya regions. Other dishes served during Eid festivities include Arsia - a dish of lamb meat cooked with mashed rice and Mishkak - skewered meat grilled on charcoal.
Lunch on the first day of Eid is usually Harees - wheat mixed with meat while Mishkak is for the second day. Shuwa comprises the whole day's meal for the third and last day of Eid. Shuwa is a typically Omani delicacy prepared only on very special occasions. Whole villages participate in the cooking of the dish that consists of a whole cow or goat roasted for up to two days in a special oven prepared in a pit dug in the ground. The meat is marinated with red pepper, turmeric, coriander, cumin, cardamom, garlic and vinegar and then wrapped in sacks made of dry banana or palm leaves. The sacks are then kept into the blazing oven that is covered with a lid and sealed so that no smoke escapes.
The month of Ramadan is the best period to experience typical Omani food. The two of the most popular traditional dishes served at Iftar (the breaking of the fast) include Sakhana - a thick sweet soup made of wheat, date, molasses & milk and Fatta - a meat and vegetable dish, mixed with Khubz rakhal (thin Omani bread made out of unleavened dough).
Among the beverages, Kahwa (coffee) - a strong, bitter drink seasoned with cardamom and Laban - salty buttermilk are popular. Yoghurt drinks that are flavored with cardamom and pistachio nuts are also very popular.
Omani Halwa - a sticky sweet gelatinous substance made from brown sugar, eggs, honey and spices is one of the popular desserts of Oman. It can be flavored with many different ingredients such as nuts, rosewater or even chocolate. Lokhemat are balls of flour and yeast having essence of cardamom and deep fried until golden then served with a sweet lime and cardamom syrup.
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