Oman is home to adobe fortresses, wadis 2,000 miles of fertile coastline, and much more. Despite being a small coastal country, its access to the ocean contributes to an abundance of resources, from trade routes to the incredible Oman foods on offer.
Although Oman is often known for its grand landmarks like the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, Nizwa Fort, and Mutrah Souq, they are not the only things worth your attention. If you ask us, the traditional Omani food you can find in Muscat, Salalah, Nizwa, and other cities throughout the country are highlights you absolutely don’t want to miss!
What Is Special About Oman Food?
Oman food is all about blends of marinades, spices, and herbs. The food from Oman is usually influenced by Persian, Indian, North African, and Mediterranean cuisines. Lamb, chicken, camel, rice, bread, dates, tea, and seafood are the staples of this country’s cuisine.
The long coastline on the Arabian Sea provides Oman with all kinds of seafood. Where sharks are the biggest delicacy of Omani food, kingfish is the most consumed by the locals. That said, the natives also love their seafood porridge and soups.
While Oman foods are influenced by Middle Eastern cuisine, there is a slight difference in the use of spices and herbs. Traditional Omani dishes are usually seasoned with ginger, saffron, and nutmeg, and are less spicy than other Arab foods.
Most Famous Oman Food
Shuwa (Slow-Cooked Meat)
Due to its popularity among locals, Shuwa is considered the national food of Oman.
This traditional dish usually consists of lamb or goat meat, but you can find some variations with camel or beef. No matter which meat you choose, it is cooked with the same special recipe.
The meat is marinated, wrapped in banana leaves, and then placed in a sack made of tree leaves. The bag is tossed in an underground pit where the meat is cooked for 24 hours. The spicy, smoky, roasted meat is served on a white rice bed with tomato sauce, just like mandi.
As this Omani food requires a lot of time for preparation, it is only cooked for Eid. It is usually prepared on the first day of Eid and consumed on the second day with family and guests.
Popular Rice Dishes In Omani Food
Kabuli Rice (Chicken Rice)
Kabuli is a famous food of Oman, with many adaptations in different regions. You might know this dish as Afghani pulao which is popular in Afghanistan cuisine. It is one of the national foods of Oman and captures the hearts of both locals and tourists with its incredible taste.
Kabuli is similar to biryani, but it has some different ingredients and flavors. This Omani food consists of aromatic basmati rice, fresh meat, local ground spices, fried onions, and fresh herbs. Before serving, kabuli rice is garnished with sultanas, carrots, dates, chickpeas, and almonds, which give it a splendid appearance.
Just like shuwa, this traditional Oman food is consumed mostly during special occasions like weddings or Eid. It is usually served on a huge plate and meant to be shared with guests.
Chicken Biryani (Spicy Chicken Rice)
Biryani is known worldwide for its flavorful rice and tender pieces of meat. Aromatic basmati rice with fresh herbs and saffron gives it a sweet floral aroma. Traditional Omani chicken biryani is a localized take on Persian chicken biryani.
Just like any biryani, the main ingredients are basmati rice, chicken legs or breasts, spices, and herbs. While the use of spices and herbs is typical of Oman food, this one is not heavily spiced. Instead, it is served with cucumber, yogurt sauce, and slices of lemon and onions.
This traditional food in Oman is commonly eaten for lunch and dinner. It is available in many restaurants and local eateries throughout the country, so you won’t have trouble finding it. That said, you want to try the local haunts for the best biryanis on offer.
Majboos (Spiced Rice And Herb Chicken)
Majboos, also known as kabsa, is another rice and meat dish that originated in Yemen. It is incredibly popular and enjoyed throughout the Gulf States. Majboos means “to be engaged” so it is not surprising that this dish is usually served at weddings and engagements.
This divine dish is also inspired by traditional Indian and Persian biryanis. It consists of saffron and cardamom rice with spicy white or red meat.
In Oman, kabsa or majboos can be cooked with chicken, lamb, camel, fish, shrimp, truffles, or duck meat. The cooked meat is placed on the rice and served on a large plate. This food from Oman comes with so many options, making it a local favorite.
Majboos is meant to be shared with guests and eaten with bare hands. This tradition of eating together showcases the importance of social values for the Omani people.
Muthbe (Stone-Cooked Meat With Rice)
Muthbe is a meat dish that reflects the beautiful and unusual heritage of Oman cuisine. The word “Muthbe” is actually a technique that includes cooking meat on hot stones, and that is how this Oman food, rather uncreatively, gets its name. Nevertheless, the unique cooking method makes this a must-try when visiting the country.
For cooking, clean and flat river stones are selected and placed over a large fire. Once they get to the right temperature, the marinated meat is placed on them. The meat cooked with this ancient technique gets ready within a few minutes.
Omani people mostly use chicken or camel for muthbe. The meat is crispier on the outside and moist on the inside. It is served hot with a bowl of spicy rice, salad, and some sauces.
Typical Snacks And Street Food In Oman
Shawarma (Meat Wrap)
Originating in Turkey, shawarma is the most beloved street food in many Middle Eastern countries. It not only satisfies your hunger but also has the perfect flavor of sliced meat with soft pita bread.
In Oman, shawarma includes marinated lamb or chicken. The meat is roasted on a vertical skewer, and thin cooked layers are cut and spread on the bread. It is sometimes served with pickled vegetables, different sauces, or potato fries.
This Oman food is an easy snack and dinner to just grab and enjoy. Many street food stalls in Oman serve authentic shawarma. It’s one of those dishes that you can hardly go wrong with.
Mishkak (Skewered Grilled Meat)
Mishkak is the Omani version of barbecue. This skewered meat is a favorite street food for all ages. It consists of marinated chicken, beef, or mutton, which is skewered and grilled over hot coal.
The bite-sized chunks of meat are flavored with a combination of various aromatic spices and fresh herbs. The secret of this succulent Oman food is the long cooking time. Knowing the right time to remove skewers from the grill requires experience.
This Oman food is often enjoyed with chili or tamarind sauce and fresh salad. You should also try the mishkak sandwich, where the grilled meat is placed inside warm bread.
Mushaltat (Stuffed Puff Pastry)
A piping hot puff pastry, mushaltat is a delicacy in Oman cuisine. The soft bread is made of thin patties of flour dough which are stuffed with delicious filling and baked to perfection. The filling can be sweet or savory to suit your preferences.
These stuffed pastries have a layered and flaky texture, where the sweetness of bread pairs perfectly with a spicy filling. The sweet version of mushaltat has cream or cheese filling and is drizzled with sugar syrup or honey.
This traditional food in Oman is often prepared for weddings and offered as a gift to visitors and friends. You can buy it from popular bakeries and restaurants and enjoy it with your evening tea.
Chicken And Chips Samoon (Chicken And Chips Sandwich)
The Omani chicken and chips samoon is an inspiration to homemade sandwiches. As many people like to add crunchy potato chips to their homemade sandwiches, this might be a game changer for them.
This Oman food is prepared with flattened bread. Yogurt is spread evenly on the bread and topped with shredded shawarma chicken and famous Chips Oman. The bread is then rolled and tossed in a sandwich toaster where it is toasted to perfection.
Chips Oman are spicy and sour chips that give a tangy and crispy touch to this sandwich. While this traditional Omani food may not be strong enough to compete with fancy burgers or sandwiches, it is a great way to satisfy your evening cravings.
Samosa (Stuffed Puff Pastry)
Samosas are triangular-shaped little pockets stuffed with the deliciousness of spicy and savory veggies or meat. It is a common snack and street food that rules the Arab world. The versatility of samosas keeps them on the list of the top snacks in the Middle East.
In Oman cuisine, a typical samosa consists of small crunchy pastry pockets filled with seasoned lentils or shredded vegetables. It is among the rare vegetarian options in traditional food in Oman. The flaky outer covering combined with buttery-soft potatoes gives a burst of different flavors and textures.
Samosas are best enjoyed with Omani milk tea or coffee. You can easily find street food stalls selling these little triangular snacks with ketchup.
Shakshouka (Poached Eggs)
Originating in Ottoman North Africa, shakshouka is a popular food in Oman. The word “shakshouka” means a mixture, and this is a Maghrebi dish of poached eggs with a rich tomato sauce.
In Oman cuisine, the sauce is made of tomatoes, olive oil, peppers, onion, garlic, and local spices. This sauce is used as a base with eggs poached on top. There is no better way to enjoy the dish than dipping some freshly baked bread and scooping up a generous serving of the tasty sauce.
Shakshouka is a simple and healthy Oman food, usually eaten for breakfast or lunch. The dish is supposed to be moderately spicy, but you can always add more or less cayenne pepper as per your taste.
Traditional Seafood Dishes In Oman Food
Dry Shark Salad
When you are in Oman, you must try their shark dishes. While this is a rather unique food in many parts of the world, eating sharks in Oman is almost as common as eating bread. If you have never tried shark before, you should start with their dry shark salad. The dried shark is first rehydrated by boiling in salted water. The shark pieces are chopped and tossed with onions and sprinkled with fresh lemon juice.
This Oman food is always served cold and has a salty and sour flavor. Many restaurants in the coastal cities of Oman serve this refreshing and healthy salad.
Shark Stew With Rice
Shark stew with rice is one of the most tempting Omani foods. It is a regional specialty of Muskat.
Shark stew is prepared by slicing shark meat into cubes and seasoning with garlic paste, chili powder, and Omani spices. A sauce made with yogurt, tomato sauce, and lemon juice is also mixed with the shark cubes. The mixture is sautée until it gets the right color and consistency.
Once it is ready, cooked rice is tossed on the mixture and the pot is flipped on a flat dish. The final sight is of a beautiful meal of rice topped with sautéed shark meat. You can use your hands to dig into this unique combination of rice and shark.
Mashuai (Grilled Fish)
Oman is blessed with a long coastline and generous seafood from the Arabian Sea. Fish farming is so common in this state that fish has become one of the most popular Oman foods. Tourists from all around the world visit here to taste the delicious seafood.
Mashuai is among the favorite white meat dishes in this region. It consists of kingfish, which is abundant in the coastal waters of Oman. Like any grilled fish, it is marinated with oil, spices, and herbs, and roasted as a whole fish.
The smoking hot grilled fish showcases the excellence of foods from Oman. It is served piping hot over a bed of lemon-flavored rice with a savory lemon sauce.
Porridge And Soups In Oman Foods
Harees (Meat Porridge)
Harees is an ancient food dating back to the Armenian ages and documented in manuscripts dating all the way back to the tenth century. Talk about history and legends when it comes to food.
Throughout time, the diverse flavors of harees also spread in the Middle East and India. Today, it is a staple among Oman foods and is an especially common dish during Ramadan.
Many countries have created their own unique recipes and given local names to harees. In Oman, it is prepared with coarse ground wheat, meat, sheep tail fat, butter, and spices. All the ingredients are mixed and soaked in water to be left overnight.
Harees is like a meat porridge, served with chopped onions. You can find this traditional Oman food everywhere in the country.
Madrouba (Spicy Rice Porridge)
Interestingly, the word “madrouba” means beaten rice. The dish got its name from the beating technique with which this Oman food is prepared.
Madrouba portrays the originality of Omani cuisine. It is a spicy porridge with a creamy consistency that melts in your mouth like hummus. It includes cooked rice, chicken, and spices, which are mashed together for an extended period, giving it an extraordinary texture.
The final result is a golden porridge with aromatic and smoky spices and the zest of lime. Everything in madrouba blends so perfectly that it is very hard to guess the individual ingredients. It is always served hot instantly when it comes off the stove and is preferred with fresh lime.
Omani Paplou Soup (Fish Soup)
Omani paplou soup is a fish soup often enjoyed as a starter or an appetizer. Many restaurants in the coastal cities of Oman serve this incredible soup.
Paplou usually comes with tuna as the main ingredient, but sometimes tuna roe or shellfish can also be used. The key ingredient that gives the unique flavor to soup is dried limes, also used in many other Oman foods.
The soup has a tangy citrus flavor that balances its warmth. This traditional Omani food is garnished with lime wedges and cilantro; it is best paired with basmati rice for a fulfilling meal.
Tharid (Bread Soup)
Tharid is a bread soup that originated in several Arab countries. This soup holds religious value for the Muslims of Oman. It was the favorite dish of the Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H), so specifically consumed during Ramadan.
It is a nutritious Oman food, prepared with broth and unleavened or crumbled flatbread. The bread is stacked and moistened with the meat broth or stew. Another variation involves dipping the bread in the soup and eating it with meat.
Common Bread In Traditional Omani Food
Khubz Ragag (Omani Bread)
Middle Easterners love bread, so you will find many kinds of bread in Oman. The most popular and traditional Omani bread, locally known as hubz ragag, is a common accomplice to many Oman foods.
The base of this typical Omani food is water, flour, and salt. All the ingredients are kneaded into a thin and sticky batter. The batter is spread evenly over a hot metal pan or a skillet in a circular motion to create thin crepes.
The batter of this plain bread is so thin that it cooks within a few seconds. In some restaurants in Oman, khubz ragag also contains cheese, eggs, and mayonnaise. The bread is topped with eggs and cheese and folded to create a thin sandwich.
Abud (Bedouin Bread)
Abud is a traditional Bedouin bread with a unique baking technique. It is a simple unleavened bread that is hard on the outside and has a doughy texture on the inside.
Like any traditional bread, abud also includes flour, water, and salt. The flour is kneaded and flattened to give a disk-like shape to the bread.
The fun part is its cooking, where a hole is created in the ground and filled with burning coals. The bread is cooked directly on the hot coals and ashes, which gives it a bitter smoky flavor. It has a thick, chewy, and slightly crunchy texture.
Abud is usually served with meat stews for lunch or dinner. This traditional Oman food also makes a great mid-afternoon snack with hot coffee or tea.
Beverages And Drinks To Go With Omani Foods
Laban (Fermented Milk)
“Laban” means sour milk in Arabic and is very popular in all Gulf countries. It is a refreshing and cooling dairy beverage used for better digestion. Laban is also a typical drink in Oman and is served almost everywhere.
Omani Laban is prepared with buttermilk and yogurt. It is very light and has a sour and salty flavor to it. However, some may find it to be a rather acquired taste.
However, we find that this is one of those foods/beverages whereby the more you consume it, the more you will suddenly start to enjoy it. This yogurt drink is also commonly seasoned with mint, cumin, pistachios, or cardamom.
You can enjoy laban with any Oman food for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Some people also like to cool off the summer heat with this delicious drink.
Omani Kahwa (Omani Coffee)
Whether you are a tourist or resident, you cannot experience the real taste of Oman food until you try kahwa. Kahwa is the essence of Omani hospitality and a part of every household in this country. It reflects the warm and welcoming traditional values of Oman.
Kahwa is an aromatic coffee prepared with saffron, sugar, and cardamom. This strong and sweet beverage is consumed regularly in Oman. It is part of the culture to offer small cups of kahwa with dates or halwa to visitors.
Karak Chai (Strong Milk Tea)
Omani milk tea, locally known as karak or karak chai, is an unofficial national drink of Oman. Many people of all ages start their day with strong milk tea.
Other than dried black tea leaves and evaporated milk, karak chai also includes ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, and clove. The sweetened condensed milk gives it a creamy richness.
This beverage usually has a stronger caramelized flavor than regular milk tea. You can enjoy it with most traditional Omani foods or snacks.
Oman Sweets And Desserts
Halwa (Omani Sweet Pudding)
When discussing the most popular Oman sweets, halwa has to rank high on the list. Halwa, which means “sweet” in Arabic, carries the crown as the national Omani dessert. It is a gelatinous and somewhat sticky pudding, made of eggs, dates, almonds, or semolina.
The base of this traditional pudding contains water, sugar, ghee, butter, and corn flour. The addition of rose water, saffron, and cardamom gives it a sweet aroma. The process of slow-cooking this Oman food takes a long time, but it can last for months without losing any flavor.
Halwa is very common at weddings, birthdays, and religious festivities. You will also love this Omani sweet with traditional kahwa (coffee).
Halawet Ahmad (Omani Noodle Dessert)
Halawet ahmad is a traditional Omani dessert that will captivate you. The ingredients of this dessert are simple, including condensed milk, sugar, roasted vermicelli, butter, and coconut. The combination of all these products results in remarkably sweet noodle balls.
All the ingredients are pressed by hand to form a nest-like or dome-like shape. They sometimes come in various colors and are sprinkled with pistachios and almonds.
Maho Halwa (Omani Toffee)
Maho halwa is one of the best Omani desserts. It is a delicacy of many regions of the Middle East.
The mouthwatering maho halwa look like brownies but they have a much lighter caramel color. This aromatic Omani sweet has a dominant flavor of saffron, cardamom, sweetened milk, and butter.
As an Omani tradition, Mahu halwa is served with Omani kahwa and is considered the hospitality symbol of the country.
FLAVORS AROUND THE WORLD
Discovering Traditional Omani Food
Oman is a coastal country that offers a lot of experiences and traditional foods for travelers to try. The most notable facts about Oman are its surplus of seafood, dates, and meat due to its geographical position.
There is something about the mouthwatering Omani dishes that makes them impossible to resist. From rice dishes to seafood and desserts to street food, Oman cuisine has a lot to offer.