Saturday, September 24, 2011

Rub' Al Khali - The Legendary Sea Of Sands

For several years now I have been an expatriate in the Middle East. I have spent considerable time in Saudi Arabia and currently I am in my fourth term in Oman. Part of my job with my previous employer, a North American telecommunications provider contracted by the national telecommunications carrier of Saudi Arabia was to travel within the interiors of the countryside and look after the operations & maintenance of the Subscriber Remote System (SRS).

There was one occasion that I was tasked with the implementation of a rapid deployment of firmware and software upgrade for all the SRS stations. The zone I was assigned to was the southern part of Asir Province starting from Jizan, Sharurah, Najran Province including the remote villages located in Rub Al Khali.

My first perception after learning I will be setting foot in Rub Al Khali with a lone guide and provisions to last the trip was a combination of absolute awe and thrill.

I am already familiar with the environment of Rub Al Khali since I have read and viewed numerous publications and documentaries about that mythical fraction of the Arabian Peninsula.

A road sign before access to the Empty Quarter 

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Egg...xquisitely Egg...xtraordinary Egg

Red Salted Duck Egg

Red Salted Duck Egg (Itlog na Pula) is an edible egg dish made from duck eggs processed through meticulous curing method by packing each egg in a mixture of damp salted clay.

Red eggs sold in public market
In the Philippines, the municipality of Pateros owns distinction of being the capital in processing Salted Eggs, Balut and Penoy.

The salted clay mixture is prepared by mixing clay (usually from ant hills or termite mounds), table salt and water in the ratio of 1:1:2 until the texture of the mixture becomes smooth and forms a thick texture similar to cake batter.

The fresh duck eggs are individually dipped in the mixture, and packed in paper-lined wooden boxes. The batch is then lightly covered with papers to slow down the dehydration process.

The eggs are stored indoors at room temperature over the next 12 to 14 days to cure. This way the salt can equalize with the egg’s permeable membrane through a natural process called osmosis. Curing can last up to 18 days. The result of curing is a long-lasting egg that can have a shelf life of up to 40-days.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Balut: The Feathered Egg

If there is one food item in the Philippines that can evoke a mixture of delight, disgust, and doubt it is none other than the renowned, BALUT.

Balut is a fertilized duck egg with visible beak, legs and feathery embryo, a yolk and an egg white or albumin that hardens after it is cooked. Balut is a very popular street food among Filipinos since time immemorial. Folks, particularly men considered balut as a virility-enhancing and stamina-boosting aphrodisiac.

Balut - A Fertilized Duck Egg

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Celebrated Shuwa of Oman

I have been an expatriate in the Middle East for more than a decade. I understand Arabic as well as speak the language practically. Arab tradition is among the most distinguished and unique cultures in the world. The Arabs value family welfare and tradition distinctly. Among the notable tradition of the Arabs is their love for food.

The Sultanate of Oman shares these unique cultures. I arrived in Oman on May 10, 2007; among my first curiosity was my affection to discover the exclusivity of food dishes in Oman. There are similarities among the food dishes I have experienced with from Saudi Arabia, UAE, Yemen, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain.

Shawarma and Sarooq are common Arabic sandwiches I savour a lot. Mandi meat dish prepared the Yemeni-way is equally available and serve in different regions in Saudi Arabia; this meat dish is one of my all-time favourite Arabic dish. Kabsa whether dijaz (chicken) or laham (meat) variety is the most popular and most consumed dish in the Middle East. Samak (fish) and laham (meat) Bukhari dish served in ordinary restaurants is an Afghanistan-inspired dish, they are very popular in the Asir Region of Saudi Arabia. Mugalghal (pot roast) is an Arabic meat dish akin to the Philippines’ local Menudo (meat stew).

Oman is one state in the Gulf Region who savours meat dishes. Among its stand-out meat dishes are the Maqbous and Shuwa or roasted meat.

Before the onset of Eid Al Fitr (the feast marking the end of the Holy Month of Ramadan) on August 31, 2011; I had the pleasure to receive from one of my Supervisors an e-mail containing photograph attachment of a typical community cooperation engage in the preparation of Shuwa. Aside from the well-acclaimed and delectable flavour of Shuwa, I found the preparation and cooking technique very unique and fascinating.

Meat Preparation

A thoroughly cleansed jute sack or basket made from palm leaves is prepared and uses to drape and bind the choice cut of meat for Shuwa. Jute sack is hand-sewn after the meat is seasoned.

A Jute Sack For Binding The Meat


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