Omani cuisine

Diana Darke gives a window into Oman’s rich cuisine

Written by Bradt Travel Guides


Typical Omani cuisine is quite simple, with rice eaten as the main accompaniment to beef, mutton, chicken or fish. Spices are used to flavour the meat and fish, not hot and spicy ones but rather more subtle and aromatic ones like cardamom, cinnamon, cumin, ginger, turmeric and saffron. Salads are simple lettuce, cucumber and tomato with a slice of lime for dressing. A few local dishes to look out for are maqbous, a saffron-coloured rice dish cooked over spicy meat; harees, a wheat-based dish with chicken, tomato, onion and seasoning; rabees, boiled baby shark fried with liver (a Dhofari speciality); shuwa, marinated meat (goat, mutton, calf or camel) cooked for 12 hours in an earth oven with date juices and spices, wrapped in banana leaves and served on a giant communal tray called a fadhl; and mashuai, a whole spit-roasted kingfish with lemon rice. The main meal is eaten at midday, with a lighter evening meal. Food is always eaten with the right hand only.

Produce, suq, Oman by Oman Ministry of TourismProduce at an Omani suq © Oman Ministry of Tourism

Favourite local drinks are laban, heavy salty buttermilk and yoghurt flavoured with cardamom and ground pistachios. Fresh fruit juices are also made from local fruits like mango, banana, pineapple and pomegranate, and are very cheap by Western standards. The sweet sticky halwa is a popular dessert, made by men, with the recipe handed down from generation to generation. After the meal bitter cardamom coffee is traditionally served from brass long-spouted coffee pots into tiny china cup-like bowls.

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