Bread in Dhofar

[Part of my research search on foodways in Dhofar, photo by Salwa Hubais]

The Arabic word for bread is khubz/ khoubz; sometimes it is used with an adjective such as khubz lebnani (Lebanese bread, called pita bread in America); the types can be divided into three broad categories: without sugar, with sugar and fatayer.

The most common sort of bread for breakfast and snacks is called kak, qaleeb, tanoor (meaning oven) or thakheen (meaning thick) in Arabic, in Gibali dofdof or godom. It’s about 6 inches across, ¾ of an inch thick with hebba sowda (black seeds) and marked with pressed fork tines on top. It can be cooked in wood-fired or gas ovens and can be eaten warm or kept for several days. A thinner, cracker-like, plain bread called qibqab/ qalib (meaning ‘put in a mold’ or ‘turned’) is about 12 inches round and baked by slapping the dough onto the side of a sunken round oven with coals at the bottom. It is usually eaten with Omani halwa. Khubz roqaq/ raqeeq or rekal is most often used in Ramadan to make thareed/ threed/ farid (this bread soaked in a beef or chicken stock with spices). Raqeeq is round, about 24 inches across and very light. The dough is dabbed by hand onto a convex, oiled, heated surface and taken off (not flipped). It is sometimes eaten with processed cheese, rolled up like a long cigar.

Sweeter breads include mukuskus, a yeast dough a little lighter and sweeter than pizza dough which is deep fried into pillow shapes about 2 to 3 inches across. These can be kept up to 2 or 3 days after frying and are eaten with tea or milk. A similar dough is used for luqaymat/ loukoumades which are round fried balls of dough, coated with a  sweet topping such as sugar syrup, Nutella or sweetened coconut. These need to be eaten soon after they are fried. Khaliyat al nahla (bee cells) are little yeast rolls with processed cheese in the middle and a sugar/ honey syrup poured on top when still warm. Khubz luhuuh is made from a dough with baking powder that is cooked in a skillet with a size/ consistency between an American pancake and a French crepe.

Fatayer (pie/ pastry, can also be used to mean “pancake”) means two different types of snacks. One is a thick pastry (with dough similar to but lighter than pizza dough) that is rolled out into an oblong shape with the dough pinched into two pointed ends usually 8-12 inches long and 4 to 6 inches wide. This is topped with processed cheese spread and a variety of savory toppings, such as chopped hotdogs, and sweet toppings, usually honey. It is baked open-face and then covered in tin foil. They are sold in many Arabic restaurants and by a few stores (some belonging to a chain) that specializes in them. Usually cooked upon order, they are available throughout the day and are sometimes served as part of a meal, especially picnics as they are easy to transport.

The second fatayer is very different – it is a very thin batter, similar to a crepe, which is spread on a flat, heated, round, oiled cooking surface. When the bottom is cooked, a filling (usually processed cheese) is spread over the surface. The sides are then turned in until it is rectangular-shaped, then it is flipped over. When cooked, it is transferred to a paper plate and cut into 12 square pieces and usually drizzled with honey. They should be eaten immediately as the dough becomes rubbery and gummy when cold. They are usually for sale at small stalls at festivals or road-side stands and since they are not readily available or transportable they are seen as a ‘treat.’ People buy them and eat them quickly, usually with tea or fruit juice, either standing by the stall or sitting at a table or in their car.

In Indian restaurants, roti means a flatbread made with stoneground wheat and water (healthier than a paratha because it is not cooked in oil); in fast-food stands, roti means any kind of soft, white flour bun that is cut in half. Western-style sliced loaves of bread are sometimes called ‘toast,’ even if not toasted. Yemeni bread refers to a round, 24 inches across bread with hebba sowda (black seeds) served plain or drizzled with honey cooked in a wood fire oven (like a West Indian oven) and available only in Yemeni restaurants. It’s pliable with variable consistency, some sections thin and crisp like a cracker, and some about ¼ of an inch thick and chewy.