Right after high school, Felicia Campbell was based in the Middle East with the U.S. Army. While there, she became entranced by the food of the area, studied it after she was discharged, and eventually made her way to a food career at Saveur.
The Food of Oman is her tribute to an under-appreciated, complex cuisine influenced by India, Iraq, Afghanistan, Zanzibar, Egypt, Turkey, among other spots.
These are the (surprisingly manageable) recipes we’re excited to make first:
Lahm Kalia (Slow-Cooked Caramelized Beef). You can’t really pass up something called “caramelized beef,” can you? It’s similar to Indian or Pakistani meat curries in consistency—not too saucy, but full-flavored—while the technique is more like carnitas. You put cubed beef, water, tomato, onion, and a blend of warm spices—coriander, cumin, cardamom, clove, ground ginger, turmeric—into a pot and forget about it for two hours. Once the meat is soft, boil off the remaining liquid until you have meltingly tender, crunchy bits of beef with a sauce. I found it very workable for a weeknight dinner, as long as you’re home in time to get it started—but it sounds like the greatest Sunday project, too.
Paplou (Citrusy Seafood Soup with Basmati Rice). This is an ideal meal from now until whenever your next holiday celebrations begin. It’s a light mixture of poached vegetables and tuna, brightly colored from all the turmeric and brightly flavored from the dried and fresh lime and plenty of fresh ginger. You’re hardly depriving yourself of anything with an ingredient list like that.
Madhbi Djaj (Hot Stone Dhofari Chicken). You can now add impeccable roast chicken to the list of things your pizza stone can do. Porous rock wicks away moisture, which makes for perfectly even caramelization. Campbell says the method produces some of the most flavorful chicken she’s ever eaten—using only salt! You simply spatchcock a whole chicken, sprinkle it with salt, and cook for 50 minutes to a hour, flipping once.
Samar’s Date Cake—an old-fashioned bundt cake made way better with dried dates and date syrup. The result is a moist, caramel-flavored cake that’s actually pretty good for you.
Dehydrated coconut milk powder. It’s the only ingredient called for that you can’t make at home and probably can’t find at your grocery store. But it’s worth finding online to give your dishes a malty, deeply coconut-y flavor. It’s also an ingredient that can work with a lot of other recipes in your repertoire: I’m thinking malted coconut ice cream and some crumbly coconut-flavored shortbread.
Which Omani recipes are you keen to explore? Let us know in the comments! (We might steal your ideas.)