Kaleidoscope of memories

Liju Cherian –
Muscat, MArch 17 –

Omani dishes and desserts namely, Amar Al Din, Kabsa and Mohlabia, found favour with a visiting Indian master chef. Oman is one of extravagance, adventure, beauty and tranquillity, she says.
Celebrity Chef and restaurateur Shipra Khanna recognised as one of the top celebrities in India experienced gastronomic delight during her short visit to the Sultanate.
As ambassador and ‘master chef travel’ for Cox and Kings, the visit was organised by the Ministry of Tourism. She flew back to India carrying memories of the food and love of the people, experiencing Omani cuisines first-hand. Shipra specialises in global cuisine, baking, desserts and fusion food.
She found a taste of preparing some Omani cuisines and shared her wide experience with some of the reputed chefs from among the star hotels in Oman.
Shipra has a different feel of the country savouring the local delicious drink or local desserts.
She was surprised to know that Oman has some interestingly designed restaurants which serve fusion food with a natural ambience and refined cuisine. At ‘Al Loomie’ Omani Fusion Restaurant, she was delighted to taste local cuisine with a twist by Chef Salim al Kalbani. Al Loomie brings together local products and contemporary culinary techniques for a five-star dining experience in a local ambience.
On stand-alone restaurants, Shipra fell in love with authentic cuisine, culture and people. Her best experience was at ‘Bait Al Luban’, a popular restaurant facing Muttrah sea front and known as the home of Omani hospitality, which reflected local culture and age old recipes.
For a chef, Shipra admits, Oman makes for a special journey, rather than being one of spices and sensory flavours, of ancient recipes handed down through generations and a distinct cuisine that is rich, complexly exotic and headily aromatic which made her more curious!
“Omani cuisine reflects rich ethnic and tribal influences, blending flavours from Arabia and the Indian sub-continent with unmistakable Portuguese and African influences, in dishes that have become typically Omani.”
Says Shipra after completing her visit: Oman is an experience that encompasses all of this and creates a kaleidoscope of memories with the well cultured. Omani is haven for a tourist and is a must visit. The experience left me richer for having tasted a little bit of it all. “I simply fell in love with this distinctly luxurious country.” Upon arrival, she tasted Amar Al Din, a delicious drink made with apricots and suffused with saffron. Kabsa or Makbus, the main course, she says, consists of an intricately complex dish which is a rich rice dish cooked with whole chicken. Simmered for hours till the rice grains become puffy while soaking up the unique blend of spices and meat and with the chicken cooked to moist perfection. Popularly known as Makbus, it is a must-try for any foodie, visiting the Sultanate. She rounded off the meal with Mohlabia, a decadent local dessert which is a creamy rice pudding, strongly infused with cardamom and freshly made raspberry and white chocolate ice cream by Cluster Executive Chef Subhabrata Maitra from Grand Millennium.
Shipra feels Oman is a luxury beyond compare. “A country that impressed me right from travel, food and hospitality and moreover people, what else can one ask for a home away from home!”
Pampered by the opulent extravagance at ‘Al Husn’, Shangri-La’s Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa, she guided through the preparations that went into making the elaborate hot and cold Mezze Platters, delicacies like Shish Touk, Couscous Jabali and desserts like Kounaffa, a Middle Eastern cheese pastry soaked in sweet. The best part she felt was of consistency in quality and taste.
At Dunes by Al Nahda back camp, along with bonfire and barbeque on the sands, tiger prawns, lamb, chicken and other seafood and veggies, expertly grilled by Chef Mathi greeted her. Turning out as a rock climber at Jabal Akhdhar, she experienced an incredibly new form of rock climbing called Via Ferrata through a protected climbing route using a steel cable periodically fixed to rocks.
Having done numerous TV shows, the ‘Pure Sin’ is the only dessert show in India. Shipra is also coming out with cook books soon after her earlier success with The Spice Route, Spice Trail and Sinfully Yours. As master chef travel ambassador, she works in liaison with the tourism boards of Australia, Singapore, Switzerland, Britain, France and Oman.