Examples of Picnic Cooking – Dhofar

On beach picnics, ocean water is often used to cook seafood, for example abalone (seen in photos above and below). Fish is cooked depending on type and how quickly people want to eat. For example, if there are several medium-size fish, they will often be cut into pieces of fish heads, fish tails and fish ‘steaks.’ The bigger pieces of meat are set aside; the heads and tails are boiled in sea water until cooked.

Fish steaks and lobster are usually cooked by simply putting them in coals. Lobsters, with the heads twisted off, are nestled into ashes near coals, sometimes wrapped in aluminum foil and sometimes covered with processed cheese. Fish steaks are doused with salt and/or fish masala powder, wrapped in aluminum foil and baked on the hot coals.

Sometimes fish or meat are cooked on small ‘hibachi’ style grills. Fish can also be grilled by setting a whole, gutted fish into a two-piece, hinged grill which is closed and set on rocks over a low fire. Although it is time consuming and labor intensive, meat can be cooked in the traditional method of being placed directly on heated rocks.

Meat and fish as discussed above are usually eaten with white rice. If the food is boiled, the cooked food is taken out of the pot and set on a metal plate. The pot is rinsed, then filled with bottled water and white rice with a few handfuls of salt. After it is cooked, the rice is transferred to a large round metal plate and “oil” (samn, clarified butter) or margarine is usually added. The fish or meat is put on top of the rice, with bottles of hot sauce and/ or limes placed next to the platter. If there is no rice and the people are picnicking near a town, someone will usually go to buy bread, either paratha or pita (khbus lebnani).

Another type of picnic meal is called a “curry.” One simple recipe is to put chopped potatoes and carrots with a little olive oil in pot which is balanced on three rocks over fire. They are stirred for a while, maybe with water added, then chopped tomatoes, onions, chili peppers, okra, eggplant are added; this is stirred until tomatoes break down, then covered and kept at a simmer. Chopped pieces of meat (cow, camel or goat) or chicken with the bone still attached are added, then salt and, possibly, spices but not necessary curry powder. This is cooked, then poured onto a platter with high sides and eaten with bread.

When the food is ready and the person in charge of the meal has decided it is time to eat, instructions are given to lay the “table” (thin sheets of plastic) and people will clear the area, brushing sand off the mat. The cook puts the food on a platter and brings it to the eating place; everyone else grabs whatever is necessary such as Kleenex, limes, bottles of hot sauce or drinks and washes their hands. Guests have no role beyond perhaps getting up to wash their hands if there is a rice dish. When everything is in place, someone, usually the cook, will say bismallah [in the name of God]; everyone else will repeat bismallah and dig in.

These examples also obtain for mountain picnics, but there meat is usually eaten, not chicken or seafood.

abalone 1

Abalone, a delicacy in Dhofar (which I think tastes like tire rubber, but don’t tell anyone!)