Arabian Peninsula - The Gulf States




Part II





Kimaje - Flat Bread  

This bread is traditionally served warm from the oven and is used to scoop up other foods.

1 package active dry yeast

1.5 (or more) C lukewarm water

1 tab oil

½ teas sugar

½ teas salt

3½ cups flour  


In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water.  Add oil, sugar, salt, and 2 cups flour, and stir until smooth. Add just enough of the remaining flour to make a dough that is not sticky and is easy to handle.


Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead until it is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Put the dough in a lightly oiled, large mixing bowl and move it around to grease all sides with the oil.  Cover the bowl with a towel and set it in a warm place to rise, for about 1 hour, until the dough doubles in size.


When the dough has risen, punch it down and move it to the lightly floured work surface. Divide into 6 equal balls. Place the balls side by side on the work surface and cover with the towel. Let them rise for another 30 minutes.


After they have risen, flatten each ball with a lightly floured rolling pin or the palm of your hand, until it is a circle . Using 3 cookie sheets, place 2 breads on each so that they are not touching, cover them with towels, and let rise for another 30 minutes.  Preheat oven to 450°F.  When breads have risen, bake in oven for about 10 minutes or until golden brown and puffed. 





Oman offers history, mountains, sea and Bedouin tradition.  Although spices, herbs, onion, garlic and lime are liberally used in traditional Omani cuisine, it is not hot.  Omani cuisine is also distinct from the indigenous foods of other Gulf States and even varies within the Sultanate's different regions.


Rice is used widely and is served in a variety of ways. Breads rage from the plain to those flavored with dates, sesame, thyme and garlic.  Shawarma is Oman's (street) food staple. Other staple food is rice, together with cooked meats. Chicken, fish and mutton are regularly used in dishes. 

The main daily meal is usually eaten at mid-day, while the evening meal is lighter.

Maqbous is rice with saffron which is cooked over spicy meat.  A special festival meal is shuwa, typically Omani delicacy which is prepared only on very special occasions, a meat cooked very slowly in an underground clay oven. Whole villages participate in the cooking of the dish which consists of a whole cow or goat roasted for up to two days in a special oven prepared in a pit dug in the ground. The meat is marinated with red pepper, turmeric, coriander, cumin, cardamom, garlic and vinegar and then wrapped in sacks made of dry banana or palm leaves.

Mashuai is a meal comprising whole spit-roasted kingfish served with lemon rice. The rukhal bread is thin, round bread originally baked over a fire made from palm leaves. It is eaten at any meal, typically served with honey for breakfast or crumbled over curry for dinner.

Strong, bitter coffee with cardamom will be served with dates, halwa or Lokhemat, balls of flour and yeast flavored with cardamom and deep fried until golden, served with sweet syrup.



 3 C flour
2 teas yeast with  pinch of sugar
2/3 C yogurt
1/2 C warm water 
oil for frying

Add the flour a little salt, water and the yogurt, and mix to a thick batter. Leave aside for six (6) hours. Mix the yeast with the sugar and warm water, leave to ferment. Add the yeast to the batter and mix until batter peaks, leave aside for a further three hours.

Heat the oil. Shape batter into little balls, and put few at a time in the hot deep oil and fry it until golden brown, while entirely covered with oil during frying. Soak the balls in syrup and serve hot.

Sweet Syrup 

2 C sugar
1 C water
1 tab rose water
juice of half a lemon

Put the water in a pan with the sugar and place over medium heat, boil for ten minutes, removing the froth as it appears. Add the lemon juice and leave to simmer for ten minutes, add the rose water.


Bahrain, 15 miles off the eastern coast  of Saudi Arabia in the Persian Gulf, is about 30 miles long and nine miles wide. With the exception of scattered oases, the central and southern areas consist of flat desert and rocky slopes.


Before the development of the oil industry, date palm cultivation dominated Bahrain's agriculture, producing sufficient dates for both domestic consumption and export.  At least 23 varieties of dates are grown, and the leaves, branches, buds, and flowers of the date palm  are used extensively.


The waters surrounding Bahrain traditionally have been rich in more than 200 varieties of fish, many of which constitute the staple of the diet. Bahraini cooking is much the same as all other Middle Eastern cuisines.


Meals usually start with mezze, consisting of hummus, eggplant spread, olives, beans and fritters.  The main course normally consists of a fish, chicken or meat-based dish served with rice and accompanied by salad, which is then polished off with red tea, sweet desserts and fresh fruit.


While most Bahrainis eat with a knife and fork, it is common to see people eat with their hands.  Also here, be sure to only use your right hand when eating or passing food, as the left hand is considered ‘unclean’.




Date Cake 

1/4 C melted butter
1 C  flour
1/2 C brown sugar
1 teas shredded orange peel
1/2 C orange juice
1 egg
2 Tabs baking powder
1/2 C chopped nuts - any
1/2 C chopped dates

In a mixing bowl beat butter with sugar. Add about half of the flour, orange peel, half the orange juice, egg and the baking powder. Beat until thoroughly combined. Beat in the remaining flour and orange juice, stir in the nuts and dates. Pour batter in a greased cake pan. Bake in 350*F / 180*C for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted at the center comes out clean.


Kuwaiti cooking reflects its tribes and the unique Bedouin influence. Tent cookery cooked meal in a single large pot over charcoal. Meat or fish, vegetables and spices are first browned at the bottom of the pot. Rice or wheat and water are then added, and the pot is covered and left to simmer for some time. This method is still used in Kuwaiti homes to make meat porridges and some traditional prawn and vegetable dishes. 

Under Persian influence, the meal is cooked in a large pot, but the ingredients are first fried or boiled separately before being combined and steamed together.  Spices in use are cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, ginger, nutmeg, black pepper and paprika .


Kuwait borders the Gulf, and fish has been a mainstay diet for centuries. Chicken is also on the menu. From tent cookery comes grilled, skewered meat. Traditionally, the meat would be lamb.  Salads are usually made with romaine lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, radishes, and red onions, dressed with lemon juice and salt. Pickled turnips, tomatoes, and peppers are common side dishes.



Batter Kofta

1 lb. beef - minced
2 onions, finely chopped
1/4 bundle chopped parsley
1 tab finely chopped fresh mint
1 teas salt
1 teas ground black pepper
1 teas ground cinnamon
4 eggs
1/2 cup flour
1 teas baking powder
oil for frying

Mix meat with parsley, onion, mint, spices and salt.  Mix thoroughly. Take a small piece of the mixture and roll into a ball between wet palms, place in a pan. Continue until all the mixture is used.  Pour half a cup of warm water over the koftas, cover the pan and cook over low heat .  Remove from heat and leave to cool. 

Mix the eggs with the flour, baking powder, a pinch of salt and half a cup of warm water. Mix to a batter. Heat the oil, dip the koftas in the batter, place in hot oil and fry until golden brown.  



Qatar, bordering Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, was ruled by Baharain from the 1700s until the mid-1800s, and then by Great Britain and the Ottoman Empire.  Qatar became independent in 1971.


Qatari cuisine reflects the lives of nomadic tribes and the influence of other countries as Pakistan, Iran and Lebanon 


As in other gulf states, fish and seafood are available including lobster, crab, shrimp, tuna, kingfish and red snapper. Lamb is the favorite meat. Milk from cows or goats is usually made into yogurt or sour cream cheese. Rice and burgul (aka bulgur), are used in many dishes. 


Lunch is the biggest meal of the day which often begins with mezze, followed by fish/lamb stew, salads, cooked vegetables, bread and fruit.  As mentioned above, the majority eat with their hands, holding  a piece of bread in the right hand and uses it to scoop up the food.  Common specialities include stuffed zucchini, shawarma,  machbous (spiced lamb with rice), slow-cooked wheat with lamb and seafood .  Desserts include bread pudding, sweet cheesecake with a cream topping and pudding made with rosewater.




Lamb Stew


4 tabs unsalted butter

1 1/4 pounds lean boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 1-inch pieces

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

3 carrots, thinly sliced

1 onion, finely chopped

1/2 teas ground cinnamon

orange zest  (from half orange)

1 can diced tomatoes, drained

3/4 C chicken stock  


Melt the butter in a medium casserole. Season the lamb with salt and pepper. Add the meat to the casserole and cook over moderately high heat until browned all over, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meat to a large plate. 


Add carrots and onion to the casserole and cook over moderate heat until just softened, about 10 minutes. Return the meat to the casserole. Add the cinnamon and orange zests and a generous pinch of pepper and cook, stirring, until fragrant. Add the tomatoes and stock and bring the stew to a boil.   

Partially cover the stew and cook over moderate heat until the meat is just tender, 40 minutes. Discard the orange zests and serve.





Yemen, the Southern Arabian Peninsula was ruled by three successive civilizations - Minean, Sabaean and Himyarite. These three kingdoms all depended for their wealth on the spice trade. Aromatics such as myrrh and frankincense were greatly prized in the ancient civilized world and were used as part of various rituals in many cultures, including Egyptian, Greek and Roman.


In the early 16th century Portuguese merchants came to Arabia and took over the Red Sea trade routes between Egypt and India. 


The main meal of the day is lunch, which is usually eaten without implements, using a piece of bread to scoop up the food. All ingredients are fresh, simple and spiced, incl. fresh garlic, onion, tomatoes, cilantro and more.  Yemenis love hot spicy foods prepared with cardamom, caraway, coriander, cumin, fenugreek, saffron, turmeric, garlic and a good number of herbs.

Chicken, beef and lamb, the most favored meat, are grilled or boiled.  The stock made from boiling the bones is used in the preparation of soups.  Burgul, leafy greens, dried beans, lentils, rice, eggplants, okra, tomatoes, and sorghum always accompanied by bread, served hot out of the oven.

Hilbeh, a spicy relish made from freshly ground fenugreek, and schug, a bright green mix of cilantro and chili, are served separately and added to food according to taste.




Wheat Soup

3/4 lb. meat
1/2 teas ground cinnamon
1/2 C cracked wheat
1/2 teas pepper
6 tomatoes
1/2 teas salt
2 onions
2 tabs oil
1/4 teas cinnamon
5 cups water

Peel and finely chop the onions. Heat the oil in a sauce pan. Lightly fry the onions. Add the meat and fry on all sides. Cover the meat with water and cook until almost tender. Pure the tomatoes and season with salt & pepper and cinnamon. Add the cracked wheat to the soup. Cover the pot and simmer, checking the water level occasionally. Pour soup into tureen. Sprinkle the cinnamon on top. Serve hot.



Part I


Recipe Index