Country #2 – Oman

Tuesday 16th February 2016 10.25pm

After ticking Liberia off my list, I shake up the jar and pick another country:

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I have no idea where Oman is.  I can see the bad joke of this challenge is going to be “Oman.  Oh man!”

Time to start Googling again…..

 

Tuesday 16th February 2016 11.01pm

I’ve never heard of Oman.  At a guess I would have said that it’s in Africa, but it turns out it’s on the south eastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula.  Bring on some middle eastern cooking!

Some tidbits I discovered about the country are:

  • It is an absolute monarchy ruled by a Sultan who is pretty much free to do whatever he likes as there is no system of checks and balances in place.  It also seems that he is not a fan of criticism.
  • From the sounds of things, this hasn’t been going too well and there have allegedly been a number of serious civil rights violations in recent years.  I was disturbed to read “The practice of torture is widespread in Oman state penal institutions and has become the state’s typical reaction to political expression”
  • Oman ranks #45 in the 2014 Global Slavery Index
  • As of 2007 there has been only one Omani film made.
  • It does however seem to have a very diverse music culture with traditional songs and dance found in over 130 different forms.

Wikipedia states that “Omani cuisine is diverse and has been influenced by many cultures. Omanis usually eat their main daily meal at midday, while the evening meal is lighter. During Ramadan, dinner is served after the Taraweeh prayers, sometimes as late as 11 pm. However these dinner timings differ according to each family – for instance, some families would choose to eat right after maghrib prayers and have dessert after taraweeh.”

There is mention of a festival meal called “Shuwa” which is cooked in an underground clay oven for up to 2 days.  Obviously I won’t be able to cook it in the traditional way, but I wonder if there’s a way I might be able to replicate something in a slow cooker or similar? Worth more investigation I think.

Sunday 21st February 2016, 1.54pm

Challenge Log:

#2            Date selected:   16/2/16                Date completed: 21/2/16

Country selected:  Oman

Dining Selection:  COOKED OWN

What was on the menu:  

  • Shuwa

Restaurant/Recipe address:  http://www.thasneen.com/cooking/shuwa-slow-cooked-lamb-served-over-aromatic-basmati-rice-omani-delicacy/

Notes:

Today I had a Sunday roast with a difference!

I decide to go with the Shuwa recipe that I found online and it was nothing short of delicious.  Easily one of the best, most flavoursome, lamb roasts I’ve had in a long long time!

One of the main challenges of this challenge turned out to be finding dried banana leaves.  I had expected that the dried leaves might be a bit difficult to source, but I hadn’t expected finding fresh leaves would be as problematic as it was.  I knew of several places that stocked banana leaves but none of them seemed to have any in stock.  Shane & I even did a trip to Dandenong Market but there was nothing available anywhere.

As a side note I should point out that this was our first time at Dandenong Markets and it was much better than we had expected!  They have a little food court area made up of food vans.  Being a very multi-cultural suburb of Melbourne, there was a lot of different types of food on sale – The aroma coming from the Sri Lankan van was making my mouth water and Shane was able to grab himself a Mauritian chicken curry to take to work for lunch.  Along with the food court area, there was a decent sized meat and seafood area (where I picked up my leg of lamb for the Shuwa), heaps of little grocery stores stocking every spice and canned good you can imagine (need to know where to buy canned quail eggs?  Try Dandenong Market!!).  There was also an extensive fruit and vege section.  Noting for future challenges!

I was eventually able to source some frozen banana leaves which I thawed out and dried myself.  This was surprisingly easy.  Laid out the banana leaves in an oven for an hour at 100 deg Celsius and voilà!  I also had a couple hanging over cupboard doors overnight.  They were partially dried by the time I took them down and I imagine hanging them like this for a few days would probably also be quite a successful method.

Wrapping the lamp in the dried leaves was also quite the challenge.  The leaves crumble very easily so I ended up wrapping several layers and the meat, then wrapping it again using fresh banana leaves to make sure it was sealed correctly.  It wasn’t necessarily the prettiest thing in the world, but it did the job.  So much so that I didn’t need to baste the meat when it was cooking.  The juices stayed wrapped in the leaves.  I did turn it once during the cooking process though to make sure that both sides were done evenly.

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My twice-wrapped lamb ready to go into the oven

The instructions say to uncover the meat near the end of cooking and cook for 30 mins at a higher heat.  I would highly recommend stripping off all banana leaves and any other coverings for this.  Mine looked a little dry so I also added a little bit of oil over the top.  This last half hour gave the meat a nice crust around it and stopped the spices from falling off.

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Ready for carving!

I’m still a little unsure about using food colour to dye the rice with.  I think I might have put the orange dye in a little too soon as that portion of the rice got a little gluggy.  The yellow rice was beautiful and fluffy though.  I’m thinking if I do this again, I will probably use saffron as a colouring agent.

That said, this was a fantastic dish to make.  So glad I found it and definitely one that I will be making again.  I would love to try one that’s cooked in the traditional style oven or even on charcoal.  I think that smoky flavour would give it a wonderful extra kick.

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My Omani Sunday Roast
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