Lamb Kabouli

February 3, 2010  •  Category:

Walima January Challenge representing Omani cuisine

I was  thrilled to explore Omani cuisine this month! Most Lebanese (and I am no exception) are naturally attracted by the West, probably because with the mediterranean on our border we just look out into the sea and want to explore what is beyond, like our Phoenician ancestors. This time, we are turning East, to the Sultanate of Oman, located at the tip of the Arabian Peninsula, bordering Saudi Arabia, Yemen and facing the Arabian sea.

Saveurs magazine (# 172, French edition) ran a story on Oman this month (from which these photos are taken); I wanted to share them,  as well as some observations the author made on this exotic and mysterious  country.

The author, Emmanuelle Jary, talks of a singular place where technology and ancient traditions coexist; of virgin landscapes, of  a culture untouched, still authentic and permeated by a feeling of eternal permanence. Of men dressed  in their traditional dishdasha (white robe),  wearing a qumah (embroidered cap) on their head; of traditional wooden boats bringing back daily their seafood bounty, fish lined up on the floor and sold to men who, upon sundown, gather and play hwalis,( a board game).  Of women garbed in black and rarely seen outside; however, once inside, revealing  their fondness for long and flowery dresses and described as full of laughter and warmth.

On Omani cuisine, the author notes that in addition to dishes specific to the country, this cuisine is widely inspired by Iran, Pakistan and India as well as Lebanon (apparently Lebanese cuisine is very appreciated in Oman). Thus, Omanis eat the chapathi (Indian bread) as well as the traditional Arabic rukhal bread. Meals are eaten on the floor on a large tablecloth. A description of the dishes, such as this lamb Kabouli and a chicken Magbous, show an extensive use of spices such as clove, cardamom, nutmeg, coriander, cumin, black pepper, turmeric, saffron and especially rose water.

The author observes that these dishes reveal Oman’s past as a trading center for spices, which, way before oil was ever discovered, enriched countless sultans; the island of Zanzibar, for instance, famous for its clove production, used to belong to Oman in the 19th century.


INGREDIENTS: To cook the lamb (can be done a day ahead)

  • 1 pound of lamb pieces (including bones)
  • 6 cups of water
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, 1/2 teaspoon cardamom pods, 1/2 t. whole cloves, 1/2 t. black peppercorns.


Brown the lamb pieces in a large pot, cover with cold water and throw in all the spices. Simmer for 1 1/2 hours until cooked and the lamb falls off the bones. Place in the fridge and a couple hours later, remove the fat on the surface.

INGREDIENTS: To make the Omani spice paste ( can be done up to 10 days ahead)

  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon of cumin seeds (15 ml)
  • 1 Tablespoon of coriander seeds
  • 1 Tablespoon of cardamom
  • 2 teaspoons of cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric
  • 2 Tablespoons of distilled vinegar


Place all the spices in a blender and process until a thick paste is formed, adding more vinegar if needed. Store in a tight container in the fridge for two weeks.


  • 2 large onions, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons of ghee or clarified butter or olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, mashed in a mortar with a pinch of salt
  • 3 tablespoons raisins (can substitute dates, cut up)
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 Tablespoons Omani spice paste
  • a pinch of saffron
  • 1/4 cup of rose water (3 tablespoons)
  • 2 cups of Basmati rice, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes


  1. Fry the onions in the ghee or oil until they turn golden; add a few tablespoons of water during the frying to help cook the onions; the water will evaporate in a few minutes. When the onions are changing color, add the mashed garlic and one tablespoon of Omani paste, the chick  peas,  the saffron and the rose water. Stir one minute and set aside.
  2. Cook the rice: Heat 2 tablespoons of ghee or oil in a large pot. Add the drained rice, 3 tablespoons of the Omani paste; stir the rice mixture to coat it well with fat and spices.
  3. Add the lamb stock (about 3 1/2 cups, add more if needed later), bring to a boil and cover. Turn the heat down and simmer gently for about 20 minutes until the rice is cooked, adding more stock or water if needed.
  4. Add the lamb pieces and mix in with the rice. Add a portion of the chick peas and onions and mix in. Scoop the rice on a large platter, placing the rest of the chick peas on top of the rice.
  5. Serve!

NOTE: I was pressed for time and skipped making the spice paste, instead adding the spices directly into the onion and rice. It was fine.


25 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. kano says:

    This dish looks delicious. I love the combination of flavours.

    Oman is the one Arabic country we know very little about. Before this post I didn’t know a single Omani dish (now I know one!). I need to do some research.

  2. Rosa says:

    This lamb dish is fantastic! I’m drooling…



  3. peter says:

    I did not know Zanzibar was a hub for the clove trade!

    I see some similarities in cooking approaches…rendering lamb, reserving stock and skimming fat, use of chickpeas, cumin, garlic. Some form of bread is always at our table.

    A colourful dish to match the story.

  4. dana says:

    Very interesting post, Joumana. I am curious on how well did rose water work in a savory dish as we almost always use it for sweets?


    • Joumana says:

      Hi Dana! You know at first I thought it tasted odd but within 5 minutes “it grew on me!”; besides with all the other spices, it gives a little soft taste to the rest.

  5. Ann Luke says:

    I’m on your heels, I hope to post mine by the end of this week, life has taken precedence over blogging unfortunately.
    Muscat is quite a vibrant city, so I was familiar with Oman before, I found this dish to be very similar to the Mughal influenced Indian foods e.g. the lamb biriyani is almost identical. Goes to show all the cultures are inter-related!

    Footnote – i can’t seem to view the Saveurs pics you attached.

  6. Faith says:

    What a flavorful dish! I feel like I can almost smell all the lovely spices. And I love the slight sweetness from the raisins in this dish!

  7. Sushma Mallya says:

    wow thats a very beautiful click, very nice recipe as well….

  8. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella says:

    This looks very doable and very delicious! I’m so fascinated by the cuisines of the Middle East. Even more so since my trip to Dubai. Thankyou for sharing this! 😀

  9. Cherine says:

    I had read the same article in the magazine “saveurs”, I never had the chance to eat a Omani dish. Yours looks delicious & full of flavors. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  10. Sophie says:

    What a marvellous tasty looking dish!! It looks tempting & so good,…..

  11. Nadjibella says:

    Joumana, mon amie, tu peux être sûre que ta recette ne restera pas longtemps dans mes archives.
    A bientôt.

  12. rebecca says:

    wow looks amazing I so want to go to Oman, went to Dubai but no real culture so maybe next time Oman lol

  13. TastyTrix says:

    I don;t know anything about Omami cuisine, the spice paste is really interesting. Could this be made vegetarian do you think?

    • Joumana says:

      You know my son asked the same question! If you just add a veggie broth to the rice and use only chick peas and onions you would have the same dish, same flavors.

  14. oum mouncifrayan says:

    miammmm, alléchante!! bravo

  15. Arlette says:

    Great posting Joumana,
    thanks for participating… You know i should try your version and skipping the spice pesto…
    I found it too spicy to my taste….You balanced the flavours well…

    The new challenge is posted representing the Saudi Cuisines , Noor choosen dishes never heard before,

  16. yasmeen says:

    Delish! Excellent job 😀

  17. spice says:

    As usual I loved your clicks & details….nice recipe…In India we call chickpeas Kabuli chana……all the ingredients are quite same we use it in India but chickpea & lamb together is not a usual thing……love this recipe…

  18. Ann says:

    Joumana – I have to ask since you are in dallas – where do you buy Lamb meat from? I had a hard time getting it for this challenge. My local HEB and Kroger and Whole Foods did not carry it. I ended up getting some at TARGET of all places!!!

    • Joumana says:

      I buy my lamb from Sara Bakery; the owners are Palestinians (I think) and they have a full-service meat market, halal, lots lots of lamb! and other stuff. Plus they make the pita bread on the premises; don’t go there on Mondays, that’s the only day the bread is not fresh. It is on Spring Valley and Sherman in Richardson.

  19. Ann Luke says:

    Lucky you…I’m sure there has to be good Halal butchers here, but nothing close by to where I live, I just have not found them yet – the ones I have seen were “intimidating” to say the least….=)

  20. SA says:

    Hi I have a quick question. When making the omani paste, do I use 1 tbs of ground cumin, coriandar, and cardimom, or do I use 1 tbs of the whole seeds? Thanks

  21. Leigh says:

    I made this today. It turned out awesome. 🙂

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