Times of Oman
Dec 01, 2015 LAST UPDATED AT 06:28 AM GMT
Oman food: Muscat's Mid summer night's delights
July 18, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Photo - Hi Weekly

As the rising tide of the Arabian Sea beats across the beige sands at Shatti Al Qurum with a soft, rhythmic resonance and the last calls of truant seagulls punctuate the silence at the dark seafront, a smoky, taste-bud tantalising affair unfurls in the parking lot at the far end of Shatti Street as gridirons are set over blazing hardwood charcoal, loaded with what would soon put you into a culinary trance! 

The delicious aromas from the searing savouries, combined with the crackling sounds of melting fat, fills the air all around in no time. Nay, it seizes you from a distance itself and compels you to take up an unscheduled detour (in case, you weren't heading for it) awakening one's senses to a beckoning hearth, teeming with sizzling Shish kebabs or Shashliks. Marinated cuts of meat (chicken, lamb, beef and seafood) are being grilled on the spit and served skewered for all those caught in the spell. 

Slowly, vehicles start stacking the place, and soon enough the place is alive with jovialness people feasting and indulging in friendly banters as they gobble up these steaming hot street snacks in seconds and wait expectantly for more. Roadside barbecue joints during Ramadan are a popular getaway for residents of Muscat, who simply love to spend the late evening hours feasting on these high-protein snacks doused with chilly/tamarind sauces (locally known as Mishqaq - skewered meat grilled on charcoal.) And, you only need to stop by once, to get into this seasonal sway.

"Barbecue is about as red, white and blue as it gets and, the only real question is how to save room for seconds and more. You just can't have enough of it," says an avid gastronome, Amjad Rashid, a regular visitor at the place. Although there are restaurants around the city serving barbecue delights, it is the street-corner joints that hold the charm for true lovers of these charred delicacies. 

"These roadside joints give you more free space and freedom to be yourself. No mannerisms are required – you could just be yourself and enjoy the delicacies they way you like it," says Sami Salim Al Qiyumi, another barbecue buff at the evening haunt.

And, there are numerous regulars at these joints who'd stake their all for this 'steamy affair' every evening.

If already you are starting to feel the pangs for char broils, Hi brings you the most frequented street barbecue spots, loved by foodies for their great taste and originality:

Shabeeb's Al Qurum BBQ
Location: Ministry of External Affairs parking lot, Al Qurum
Specialties: Grilled beef skewers, BBQ roast quail 
Timings: 7.30 pm to 12.30 am

They're all here: the expats, the tourists with dog-eared guidebooks, and the locals, comforted that even with its newfound fame, they can still find the Mishqaq prepared as it was decades ago. Probably the most popular barbecue joint in Muscat, it offers the widest array of skewered delights.

The joint's owner and master cook, Shabeeb Abdullah, presides over the barbecue. Whole quails are seasoned with an electrifying mixture of chilies, lemongrass, galangal, and turmeric, and then grilled over smouldering hot embers on the gridiron, before being served drenched in the sweet and sticky, honey mustard dipping sauce. Roasted quail has expanded to nearly all the joints, but the experience here has an altogether different flavour.

Another of his assistants doles out servings of the crispy, spice-scented lamb, and beef skewers after dipping them in chilly tamarind sauce. Boasting of being the only joint to strictly stick to the traditional cooking methods, Shabeeb declares that he prepares, not only the condiments and spices, but also his sauces and dips, and adds that perfect grilling was only half the task. 
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