Five cuisines that diversify the food scene in Oman

With almost half of Oman’s population made up of expats, the food scene in the country is continuously evolving. One product of globalisation is also the proliferation of different cuisines from different countries because as people move around, so do their food. Arabic, Indian, Turkish and Mediterranean food can be found almost in every corner of all big cities and even in the far-flung wilayats. It’s impossible to find a citizen or resident of Oman who has not tried some of the cuisines from those mentioned.  The Italian and the French are proud people and much so about their food. To some, knowing popular cuisines from these regions of the world is synonymous to being cultured which is why it was also easy for their kinds of food to penetrate Oman’s growing food market.

But other than these major food influences, smaller or less known cuisines are also starting to flood Oman, creating an even crazier food filled with choices. With the help of online food delivery services like Talabat and Akeed, chowing down has become even more convenient if you are located both in Muscat and Salalah. If you are looking forward to experimenting on food these weekend, these are a few top suggestions you definitely should give a try. And yes, that means that these cuisines can be found in Oman. You might not know about it yet.

Mongolian cuisine
This actually came as a surprise to us, but we were enthralled to discover that some restaurants in Oman now offer Mongolian cuisine. Usually consist of dairy products, meat and animal fats, their cooking style and method had been influenced by the Russian and the Chinese (due to close proximity geographically), but many of their dishes are reflective of the Mongolians’ nomadic lifestyle. In Muscat, some suggested Golden Oryx and Savannah Barbecue for Mongolian food, but the one we tried recently is the Mongolian barbecue whipped up at The Asian Restaurant. What made the experience fascinating is that the chef used a giant griddle to cook the food item and just watching his cooking performance alone already made the experience worth it. Taste-wise, it was on the spicy side which caters best to the preference of many people living in Oman.

Mexican cuisine
Mexican food is more than just taco. And yes, we will never say no to good, delicious guacamole any day. Mexican food has been in the country for several years now and their staple of corn, beans, avocados, tomatoes among others had exploded many taste buds with pleasure. With its long history (ever heard of the Aztecs?), the Mexicans had perfected some techniques and skills in the development and preparation of their food. It’s the reason why a burrito, carne asada or quesadilla will easily make you full with but a few bites. (They are sneaky eaters these Mexicans.) Several restaurants are offering or specialising in Mexican cuisines. Some of the most popular are Pavo Real, Taco Man, Sombrero Restaurant and Loko. The latest we tried is Bombaburrito in Al Hail and what made the experience more memorable is that we get first-hand advice from a Mexican waitstaff on how to gobble our food. And yes, that includes churro. (You can’t miss the churro.

Filipino cuisine
Give Filipinos soy sauce, vinegar and any meat, and they will concoct a simple yet memorable dish like adobo. Hand them a few more items, including spices and vegetables and they will blow your mind with dishes like papaitan, kare-kare, and sinigang. It’s not every day that you will be invited to a Filipino feast and that’s for a reason. Some of the food items on their arsenal, they want to keep for themselves which is all the more reason why you have to spy on them and check out what they are sharing. There are still less than a dozen of Filipino restaurants in Muscat, but the Crispy Bulalo in Palayok in AlKhuwair and the Papaitan in Purefood are a must-try. You have to ask the chef for a special though if you want to learn more.

Japanese cuisine
The thought of raw fish repulse some people but Japanese cuisine is more than just sushi. While it’s the easiest to identify, you can’t just try one dish and decide Japanese food is not for you. By doing so, you’ll be missing a lot. One thing you have to know about Japanese cuisines, same with French and Mexican food, has been recognised by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage which means the Japanese had gone a long way to perfect what they offer you. While most of their food looks simple, they are usually packed with flavour. Have you tried a miso soup, an udon or ramen? How about tempura or yakitori? There are tons of traditional Japanese food you can choose from restaurants like Zen Asian Bistro, Tokyo Taro, Wasabi Sushi and Sumo Sushi. The latest one we tried, however, is Takara at the Intercontinental Muscat and while the teppanyaki is entertaining, you can’t forget the taste as well. It’s superbly delicious!

Thai Cuisine
You like spicy? Then Thai food will make you sizzle. The fact is, Thai food is good because there’s always a perfect balance of every flavour — from sweet to salty, to sour and spicy. It’s so complex that most of the time, preparing food items required excellent technical skills. Many starred-hotels in the country like Al Bustan Palace, Anantara and Intercontinental Muscat offers them. A few easy favourites in the Thai food repertoire would be the stir-fries. They are usually fast to make, and when you are hungry, then they come in a handy. To get you started, try out some authentic tom yum (a classic sour soup) and thom kha khai (chicken bathe in coconut soup). Follow it up with a good plate of pad thai (stir-fried noodle) and some of the curries paired with rice. Personally, however, I will settle for sticky rice with mango any day. If it oozes with that sweet coconut milk syrup, then you would have tasted ambrosia.