It was the 3rd day of Eid al Adha when Musalam (an Omani ex-colleague and friend) invited me to his village in Izki for the shuwa which I haven’t tried yet in my 7 years stay in Oman.
In the morning of 6th October, Monday, I took along my friend with me, Piya, and we set off to Izki. We arrived in Izki at 11am.
For the information of those who haven’t heard of it, shuwa is an Omani dish which is normally served whenever there is a festivity. It is a meat of goat or beef cooked underground, covered for 24 hours prior to the expected time of serving.
We went to Musalam’s house first where his Mom and sisters gathered together along with the young girls. We were welcomed with sweets – Omani Halwa, dates, nuts and of course Omani Kahwa (Omani Coffee).
One of Musalam’s sisters and her daughter speaks good English so we were able to communicate with them. They were all wearing vibrant colored clothes, mother and daughter wore the same fabric so they can easily identify who belongs to who. Unfortunately, can’t post the pics due to privacy reasons.
After the refreshment we moved to the second house which belongs to Musalam’s cousin where the shuwa is being cooked. Most of the gents are sitting in the living room waiting for the time to open the shuwa. After 15 minutes, the most awaited time came, the shuwa will be taken out of the pit.
From the surface and in the eyes of a stranger, it looks like just a pile of junk ……
The stone, sand and a piece of a G.I. sheet on top was removed first…..
Then the wooden cover was lifted, it revealed a steel covering. For each layer of covering, sand is there to keep the heat inside the pit and prevent it from coming out to ensure that the meat is cooked properly.
After clearing off the sand on top, the steel cover was lifted up, it was the last layer of covering……
Inside the pit were several shuwa, each belongs to one family. The shuwa was wrapped in a sack cloth-like material and again wrapped with GI wire net.
Then one by one the shuwa were taken out of the pit with a steel rod….
Each shuwa has a tin can bundled onto it as markings to identify to which family the shuwa belongs to……
Once identified, the shuwa is put on a small wheelbarrow for delivery to home where the rest of the family are waiting to have a share of their shuwa.
According to Musalam’s brother, shuwa preparation requires a lot of work, aside from the pit which has been ready long time to be used whenever there is a festivity, they will start gathering the firewood and killing the animal the day before the shuwa is to be served. The shuwa is placed in the pit and covered for at least 24 hours and to be cooked slowly underground. Those who do not have their own pit, they can use the village’s pit and has to pay RO 1/- for each shuwa, but the disadvantage of the common pit, the meat might not be cooked well done due to the number of shuwa placed inside the pit, hence they made their own pit for their family and relatives requirement.
After the shuwa for Musalam’s family was identified, it was taken home to his brother’s house where we moved next. All the ladies are already gathered in front of the house, Musalam’s mother and sisters, and sister’s children and the family of his brother. His brother started to open the shuwa by cutting the wire net and removing all the wraps of the meat including some leaves while all ladies and children are watching.
After all the wraps has been removed, we all started to eat the shuwa with bare hands. The meat was very soft that it fell away from the bone, softer than tenderloin! But….. this is not the finale…..this was just like an appetizer or sampler.
After having sampled the shuwa from Musalam’s brother’s house, we moved to his another cousin’s house. There was a separate hall for ladies and men, we were led to the hall for the ladies. All the ladies and children are gathered, they are all dressed with bright, lively colors and golds were worn by ladies and children, and even the toddlers. It was indeed a festive atmosphere. Some ladies are giving money to children, drinks are being distributed, everyone is chatting with each other while sitting on the floor. Children are moving around and very curious about us being different among them. They struggled to talk to us with their little English.
After half an hour, some ladies started to bring the platter of rice with shuwa on top. This platter is shared by around 6-8 persons and to be eaten with bare hands. The meal went with green salad. I was really full afterwards.
Both Piya and I went back to Muscat with happy memories of a very unique and wonderful experience.
If you happen to be in Oman, make sure to try this food, I heard some restaurants are serving shuwa, however, the village shuwa which is freshly cooked is still the best!