Oman, the desert and dune covered country at the corner of the Arabian Peninsula is not famed for its cuisine – but perhaps it should be. Felicia Campbell’s The Food of Oman (Andrews McMeel 2015) aims to change that reputation. She is well placed to do so with an unusual background for a food writer – service in the armed forces during the first Iraq war where she developed a passion for Middle Eastern cuisine that she followed up with a degree in food studies and work at Saveur.
The Food of Oman is really a book about Omani culture, history, and food ways. It includes a useful history of Oman and an even more useful chapter on ingredients – ever had a black lime? The photographs by Ariana Lindquist of each spice and food will help you identity it as well as introduce you to the Arabic name. After looking at the stunning photographs of the port of Muscat, you may just want to travel to Oman and sample the food yourself.
The recipes are by Dawn Mobley start in the chapter called Grilled, Smoked, and Charred and the wonderful charred fish on p. 24 called Bedu Samak Mashwi that is a whole Sea Bass baked directly in the embers. All you do is remove the charred skin and squeeze lemon on the moist flesh. Mishakik (p. 26) requires a bit more preparation to make spicy beef skewers marinated in tamarind, cumin, cardamom and cinnamon. They are like the spice route distilled into one dish. Any spices left over – cayenne, ginger, cloves and garlic go to make the Lamb Kebab Sandwiches with Charred Tomato and Onion (p. 29) or the Omani-Spiced Ground Chicken Kebabs, which add turmeric to a long list of spices.
Beyond these fiery grilled dishes, Omani food is full of Zanzibar, South East Asian, and Middle Eastern influences. They make a lively Chicken curry called Kuku Paka (p. 114), an interest Spicy Zanzibari Squid Curry (p.118) or Marak Samak (p. 121) a Sur-style peppery fish steak tomato curry with swordfish. Each can be served with rice or one of the chapatti recipes in chapter 8 like Maldouf (p. 169) or Date Chapati or Kak, a nigella seed and cardamom crisp bread (p. 184).
More than a book of recipes, The Food of Oman is the story of Omani food culture, how Omanis live and understand their daily lives. Their cuisine is a rich reflection on the immigrants, traders, and invaders who roamed through their lands and settled under the date palms.