An Exploration of Omani Cooking

Under-represented in English-language cookbooks, Omani food deserves more recognition

The Food of Oman by Felicia Cambell | Amazon

I spent a long time looking for an Omani cookbook. If I had been searching for Syrian, or Palestinian, Turkish or Moroccan there would have been dozens to choose from. I would have been spoilt for choice and would have had difficulty picking just one. But recipes from the Gulf, and Oman in particular? Look, and there's a paucity of choice. I also looked for Yemeni cookbooks, but the options were even fewer (just one self-published cookbook, only available in America).

Contents | The Food of Oman by Felicia Cambell | Amazon

‘The Food of Oman’ by Felicia Campbell was one of the few options available, and the reviews were good. I popped my order through to Amazon and diligently waited for its arrival. Luckily it didn’t take long, and soon I was flicking through its gorgeous pages, sumptuous recipes and perusing the stories interspersed throughout.

There was just one problem: the recipes looked like they took a lot of work, especially when only feeding myself. My Omani friend laughed — Omani food was made for sharing. No matter, I thought. I’ll just be eating the same dish for a week!

The book starts off with an introduction to Oman, its history, and its food scene. The rest of the book is then split into three sections: the pantry, meals, and in-betweens.

Whilst the recipes are in the imperial system, there is also a handy conversion from pounds to grams at the back of the book, easily accessible before the end.

Section I — The Omani Pantry

Chapter 1: Ingredients and Substitutions

The first section gives an overview of the important ingredients in Omani cuisine, as well as possible substitutions if they are difficult to find. I used substitutions in both the recipes I tried, and they worked well.

Section II — Omani Meals

Section two is where the bulk of the recipes lie — they're the everyday meals but also the extravaganzas for special occasions. The recipes are a mix of Omani and Zanzibari, reflecting Oman’s rich history; and the dishes themselves are a fusion of influences resulting from centuries of trade.

Swahili coconut shrimp curry | Photo by Rosalind Noor

The Kamba wa Nazi’ — Swahili coconut shrimp curry — is heavenly. I used coconut cream instead of coconut milk powder as suggested in the alternatives, and the taste was just divine. I was worried about the spiciness, but it was just right, and the creaminess from the coconut was oh-so-good. Whilst I did need to wash up three pans (!), the result was so good that I honestly didn’t mind. This recipe is definitely one that I will go to again and again and again. I even found it hard to go to sleep that night, because I was too busy remembering how tasty my dinner had been!

Spicy Zanzibari Squid Curry | Amazon

I wasn’t as impressed by the Spicy Zanzibari Squid Curry (left), however. The sauce was slightly tart, slightly fruity with a gentle heat behind it, but I wasn’t impressed overall. Perhaps it’s because I’m not the biggest fan of squid, or perhaps I didn’t get the recipe quite right (it certainly didn’t come out looking just like the picture — mine was far more creamy-looking), but it didn’t hug my soul in the same way that the Swahili coconut shrimp curry had. The recipe suggests that an alternative to squid could be cuttlefish, however, I can imagine the sauce going well with a meaty white fish, and definitely think this could be worth a try.

I’m building myself up to try the Zanzibari Biryani, which is reportedly excellent but a lot of work.

Section III — Between Meals

This section is comprised of nibbles, breads, teas and puddings/desserts. They all look yummy (especially the Khubz Mahallah, below), but I haven’t attempted any yet. The final chapter gives the basics such as stock and Omani clarified butter, which I feel should have been in section one rather than in section three.

Crepes with Date Syrup | Amazon

Final Thoughts

Overall, you can tell that this book is a labour of love, and that Felicia Campbell really did fall in love with Omani cuisine. Yes, some of the recipes are difficult and for me some turned out better than others, but overall this book is a big win and a gem on the shelf.

Available worldwide from Amazon, other online retailers and may be available through local bookshops (in which case, please support them).




Rosalind is an Australia-based doctor and Fellow of the RACGP. She is currently studying for her Masters in Islamic Studies and Classical Arabic.

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Rosalind Noor

Rosalind Noor

Rosalind is an Australia-based doctor and Fellow of the RACGP. She is currently studying for her Masters in Islamic Studies and Classical Arabic.

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