This light, citrusy soup is perhaps one of the healthiest dishes in the entire canon of Omani cooking. The origins of paplou are hotly debated, claimed by both Lawati Omanis, whose ancestors trace their roots to traders from the Old Muttrah neighborhood and South Asia, and Baluchi Omanis, whose ties are to Baluchistan in what is now eastern Iran and western Pakistan. The dish is one of the most popular in the coastal regions of Muscat and Al Batinah, beloved by nearly everyone.
Variations abound, with some adding shellfish or samak beed (tuna roe), some versions spicy, and others containing no chili at all. The most common version of this dish is a simple but flavorful combination of black lime, onions, tomatoes, turmeric, chili, and fresh tuna. Served over a scoop of basmati rice, it is a wonderful summer supper.
(makes 4-6 servings)
3 cloves garlic
1 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
¾ teaspoon ground turmeric, divided
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped, plus more for garnish
1 dried lime
¼ teaspoon black pepper, ground
1 plum tomato, cored and diced
1 small or ½ medium red onion, diced
¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
⅛ teaspoon cayenne
1 pound tuna steaks, cut into 1 ½–inch pieces
Cooked basmati rice, for serving
Lime wedges, for garnish
In a small food processor or using a mortar and pestle, make a paste of the garlic, ginger, ¼ teaspoon turmeric, salt, cilantro, 1 ½ tablespoons water; set aside.
Scrub the dried lime and soak for a few minutes in water to soften the skin. Make a small hole by piercing it with a paring knife.
Bring 4 ½ cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat; add the black pepper and the remaining ½ teaspoon turmeric and cook 2 minutes. Add the tomato, boil 5 minutes, then add the onion, and cook 5 minutes more. Stir in the lime juice, garlic-ginger paste, cayenne, and dried lime; cover, decrease the heat to medium-low, and cook 15 minutes.
Remove the lime to avoid making the soup bitter. Add the tuna and gently stir; cover and simmer until the fish is cooked through, 10 to 15 minutes more.
Serve over cooked basmati rice, and garnish with chopped cilantro and lime wedges.
Courtesy of “The Food of Oman” (Andrews McMeel, 2015)