Ok, before anyone gets defensive, I'd like to say that this post is in no way a commentary on the lack of Platetrotter-worthy food in Oman.
I'm sure there is plenty of it out there. I've definitely read enough about the mix of Arab, Indian and African ingredients and techniques that shape the country's cuisine. And I've definitely had enough people praise the halwa or the tender shuwa meat that falls off the bone after being slow roasted for two days to want to try some.
I've heard about the delicately spiced rice and meat dishes like maqbous and arsia. And the sweet wheat, date molasses and milk soup called sakhana that's traditionally used to break the fast during Ramadan....
I've just never found anywhere to actually sink my teeth into any of it! Despite visiting Oman five times - more than any other country I've ever been to - and driving through some of the country's largest cities as well as several remote towns.
Two of these visits were during Ramadan and Eid - possibly the best time to try out some local delicacies - and I still came out empty-tummied!
For this and this reason alone, Oman has been a personal Platetrotter failure.
I have come close to having a few successes. I have tasted harees (the wheat and meat porridge that makes an appearance in some form or the other on local menus of several of the Gulf states). Sadly, the first thing I noticed about said pot of harees was a big black splotch right in the middle that looked suspiciously like a fly (I convinced myself it was cardamom because the people offering it to me were two tottering old men whose feelings I didn't want to hurt) but it was almost literally a case of finding a fly in the ointment - or in this case harees - that ruined my enjoyment of the dish.
The second potential success was finding an Omani village preparing for an Eid feast of shuwa. Sadly, the shuwa was in a rather early stage of preparation (read more blood and guts than tender, succulent beef) and we couldn't stick around for the lengthy roasting process.
Still, with a trip to Muscat on the cards this weekend, I'm hoping the curse of the non-appearing Omani food will finally be broken.
If anyone has any tips on where to find the best Omani food in the country's capital - or names of dishes I need to try - I'm definitely taking notes :)
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