Keep Your Eyes Peeled for These Six Must-Try Dishes in Oman

Oman is visually beautiful – imposing mountains in Jebel Akhdar, stunning sea views in Salalah, magnificent architecture in Muscat – and its cuisine is equally spectacular. It is rich and diverse, touches a spectrum of tastes, and its spices not only enhance but tell a story as well.

Trade routes, neighbor countries, colonization and immigration all play a part. The main traces are Pakistani and Indian, seen in various spiced, rice-based, ‘biriyani’ style dishes, and you will also find Zanzibarian and Persian flavors in such spices as saffron, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and cardamom.

The most famed ingredient, however, is the Omani lime (called a lemon in Oman). They create a unique, musky flavor. A stew always seems better with them because they add a complex kick of flavor.

It’s not easy to condense this country’s tasty bounty into six offerings, but we have and share these examples worth seeking out.


Mishkak, a popular street food, makes a savory grab-and-go for those who want to dine on the beaches of Oman./Shutterstock

Mishkak, essentially a kebab, is often sold at roadside stands and is a favorite for nighttime beach dining. The meat – beef, mutton, chicken, goat or sometimes camel – is marinated using such ingredients such as cayenne, black pepper, cardamom, ginger, cloves, garlic, curry powder, cumin, cinnamon, salt, coriander, grated raw papaya, tamarind paste and oil, then grilled or barbecued.

This creates a succulent, palatable meat that is often served alongside salad, rice or Omani bread, along with pots of tangy tamarind and punchy chili sauces. Some diners turn it into a sandwich by wrapping the skewer with flatbread and pulling the cubes of meat so they stay in the bread, then adding some salad and sauce, creating a delicious sandwich.


Making the most succulent shuwa takes time. Those cooking in communal pits label their dish so there’s no mistake about ownership./Shutterstock

Shuwa, “grilled” in Arabic, is thought of as Oman’s national dish. This hearty meal is often served on special occasions, such as the Muslim religious holiday Eid. The presentation on large platters looks impressive and encourages people to share. 

You can’t create shuwa in a hurry. It begins with chunks of lamb, goat or camel, often with the bone still in to enhance the flavor. It is then marinated for 48 hours in a blend of spices, including cumin, chili, coriander, cloves, cinnamon and cardamom. 

The meat then is wrapped in banana leaves (some cooks prefer palm leaves), placed in a bag made of woven palm branches, then cooked in an underground pit with hot coals for one or two days. Because not everyone has a pit, people sometimes share communal ones and mark their bag with their name. (That’s important if your meat and marinade are extra special.)

Cooking usually begins on the first day of Eid celebrations and the shuwa is eaten on the second or third. It is usually served on a bed of saffron-infused rice (depending on the cook, other spices may be used too) and alongside a fresh salad, a true feast.


Qabooli is usually made with basmati rice, which can be white or brown. It is valued for its flavor and aroma./Wikimedia Commons

Afghani traders brought qabooli, sometimes called kabooli, to Oman, where Omanis gave it a twist by using local ingredients. including Omani lemons (which are not lemons but dried limes). This popular dish usually contains chicken or lamb with spiced rice, or for a vegetarian alternative, chunks of vegetables. The rice, usually basmati, is flavored with coriander, saffron, cardamom, cinnamon and cloves.

This dinner dish, often served on Sunday family days, is usually topped with fried onions, chickpeas, nuts and fresh pomegranate seeds for added texture and interest, The resulting dish is tangy, savory and fragrantly spiced and looks impressive on a platter.


Harees is rich and thick. It’s considered a comfort food./Wikimedia Commons

“Harees” translates from Arabic as “to mash” or “to squash,” apt because that’s what you do to make it.

It was traditionally made with a wooden spoon, called a medhrab, but these days, a handheld blender may be used, creating an even greater consistency. 

The dish, thought to have originated in Saudi Arabia, combines meat with coarse wheat berries, barley or rice and is cooked together for many hours until it forms a porridge-like consistency, which is rich tasting, creamy texture makes it feel indulgent.

This go-to Middle Eastern comfort food is served during Ramadan and on other special occasions, such as weddings. The meat varies from cook to cook; you can use chicken, mutton or lamb, and the spice depends on the region, although cinnamon and cardamom are a constant. To top it off, melted butter, or ghee, is often put on top.


Majboos, in this case with chicken, is a special-occasion dish./Shutterstock

This dish, also referred to as “kabsa” throughout the Gulf States, is a hearty rice-based meal, made with whole spices such as cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and coriander (which usually are removed at the end of cooking and before plating). It can include kingfish, shrimp, camel, lamb or chicken. The water in which the meat or fish was cooked is often used as a stock for cooking the rice.

This also is a sharing dish and is typically served on a large plate alongside yogurt, salad and a tomato sauce. You will find this dish at special occasions, such as engagements and weddings. 


Halwa varies by country. In Oman, it’s more jellylike and is sometimes served from decorative boxes./Shutterstock

Halwa, the celebrated pudding found all over Oman, is traditionally served with the Arabic coffee, called kahwa. The base is made from corn flour (not to be confused with the grittier cornmeal), ghee, water and sugar and sometimes dates, then flavored with saffron, rosewater and cardamom. It’s topped with nuts such as sliced almonds, cashews and crushed pistachio, which add texture and color to the delicious jelly-like, gooey brown sweet beneath.

Creative chefs have devised many ways to use its distinct taste, so nowadays you might find Omani halwa-flavored ice cream, chocolates, macrons and more. This addictive treat is easy to make and makes a good souvenir, although it may disappear before you get home.