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Tips for eating your way around Oman

Middle Eastern sweets and spices meets traditional Indian cuisine in this culinary haven known as Oman. But before you grab the fork and knife, here are few tips for eating your way around Oman.

Middle Eastern sweets and spices meets traditional Indian cuisine in this culinary haven known as Oman. But before you grab the fork and knife, here are few tips for eating your way around Oman.

1. How does one eat like a local in Muscat?

Image: Cornelia Pithart/Shutterstock

Image: Cornelia Pithart/Shutterstock

One thing about eating like a local is of course foregoing alcohol, as most places that are off the tourist track don’t of course serve alcohol.

Two factors influence the food available in Oman – one is that there is an enormous influence from India; both because we have a long historical connection with the subcontinent and because we have a large Indian population here.

So whilst Omanis will eat ‘Omani’ food at home, when going out they eat a lot of Indian and there are many fabulous little Indian restaurants – lots of them vegetarian – like the Bollywood Cafe in Qurum or the various Kamat outlets around the city – where you can feast with a local crowd for less than 3 OMR (9 dollars) for a full meal and soft drinks.

More upmarket (and licensed!) but still with a big local crowd are Woodlands (specialising in South Indian cuisine).

Many Omanis also have a Zanzibari connection and there are some excellent Zanzibari seafood restaurants around the fish market area up in Seeb, north of the airport.

 

2. How about great local snacks?

Oman food

If you’re talking about snacking (which is a national pastime) you can’t go beyond the ubiquitous shawarma. This is a small snack roll of our local Arabic bread, barbequed chicken; a couple of french fries; some garlic tahina sauce and a smidge of salad. Don’t forget to add hot sauce.

This can be purchased from any one of a thousand roadside ‘coffee shops’ around the country, usually attached to a service station.

A late night in Oman isn’t complete without a couple of shawarma on the way home and everyone argues about their favourite.

 

3. What is traditional Omani food vs tourist imitations?

Image: Paul Cowan/Shutterstock

Image: Paul Cowan/Shutterstock

Omani food is home cooking.  It always features rice, rice and more rice that is often cooked with chicken or meat or fish.

There’s lots of salads – Omanis love their fresh veggies; crispy cos lettuce and rucola is our local greener. The dish is often served simply with radishes, spring onions, cucumbers and capsicums.

 

4- Any tips on etiquette when eating in Muscat?

Image: Greta Gabaglio/Shutterstock

Image: Greta Gabaglio/Shutterstock

People are very generous and will ask you to join them; do offer to pay your share but acquiesce politely if they insist.

If you’re eating with your hands use only the right (but it’s perfectly okay to ask for a spoon and fork, many Omanis prefer to eat their rice and curry with a spoon anyway).

If you’re invited to a traditional meal, be prepared to sit on the floor with the meal spread out before you all on a plastic sheet; your host may well dig into a lamb ouzi or shuwa (whole baked lamb) with his hand to give you a specially tender bit; don’t worry his hands are clean.  Be sure to just take a little bit to taste otherwise it’s rude.

Obviously if you’re vegetarian you should tell your hosts that from the beginning as they will understand but Omanis are not vegetarians – quite the opposite – so if you are invited home, expect that they’ve killed something for you and they expect you to appreciate the gesture.

What are your tips for eating in Oman?