Ox head (shuwa), one of world's weirdest dishes
Here is some information about Ox head (Shuwa) - one of the weirdest dishes in all over the world.
We had the wonderful experience of joining a family in a mountain oasis of Misfat al Abriyeen in Oman to eat an ox head which had been cooked for two days (shuwa) in a communal underground fire pit to celebrate Eid. Two days earlier we had been in the same house to witness the butchering of the same animal with knives and handsaws.
Here in pride of place on the roof terrace, we saw the animal’s head lying on a dish with an orange in its mouth being daubed with the marinade and wrapped in banana leaves. After this, it was wrapped in a sack labeled with a piece of iron and placed with similar offerings from the other families in the communal village fire pit.
We have tried lots of strange foods on our travels – from fermented mare’s milk in Kazakhstan to snake, tarantula and scorpion in the Far East. Most of them were just weird foods, but not really tasty. Until we tried an ox head in Oman – Yucky to look at, but all the same, one of the most delicious meals we have ever eaten.
Traditional slow cooked meat
I was invited by a journalist to photograph the preparation of shuwa for her newspaper article. Shuwa is a traditional way of preparing meat in Oman by putting it in a communal fire pit, where it slow-cooks for two days.
When we arrived in the village of Misfat Al Abryeen, our hosts had just killed their steer and were butchering it with axes and saws in the staircase of their house. They told us that they would freeze most of the meat and we would eat the head. When I saw the severed head lying on the roof terrace, smeared in spiced marinade with an orange in its mouth, my stomach revolted.
Ok to photograph, I thought, But for sure I’m not going to eat that! The head was then wrapped in banana leaves and covered with an old sack and dropped to the pit with other bags of meat belonging to other families. There was one big communal pit for the whole village.
All the families went home to celebrate the Eid, and we returned to Muscat with promises that we will be back after two days to take more photos and try the food. We did come back, join in the drumming, and watch the show of digging for food. It was great fun – imagine all the young men from the village in their white robes digging in a hot dirty pit to take a sack of meat. Our hosts found their own sack and we followed them back to their house to enjoy the Eid feast.
|What does ox head taste like? |
Once the ox head was unwrapped, we saw the skull with the tender meat peeling from it. We received our portions, and it was delicious. My kids were coming back every five minutes for more. Me too. Sometimes – though not often, the most exotic foods are the tastiest!
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