Here we are, the day after the A'Saffa Chicken Barbeque Challenge, and after two showers I still smell like charcoal and paraffin.
Those of you following @HeyFatSu on Instagram will have seen that we entered the contest held at the Civil Aviation Club yesterday. I was invited as a food blogger, but cunningly switched chefdom with Maurizio so as to stand a chance of winning. We were ill-informed about the rules, however, and so showed up without side dishes, or mise en place. Or charcoal. Or implements. Or a barbeque. Nothing phases us, though, and we rose to the challenge, with help from our neighbouring teams and the A'Saffa guys, and I assumed the role of Forager to complement Maurizio's actual cooking skills. With around two dozen teams of varying sizes, and supporters looking on, there was a brilliant atmosphere and it was a good family day out, staged entertainment for kids ensuring that none of the little angels flung themselves on the exposed coals. For me the five or so hours at the Challenge were sufficient to quench my MasterChef fantasies for a while. I got to compete without actually cooking, plus the club was right next door for refreshing beverages and wiping the soot out of my eyes.
What we did bring with us was pots of two spectacular homemade sauces: one a sticky, sweet-tangy marinade which on arrival was massaged into the chicken provided; the other a fresh, chargrilled tomato and mint salsa. That one was lovingly ladled onto our other chicken after it had had its turn on the grill. I can tell you they both tasted awesome, and we've already started making plans for next year, which include micro-herb adornments and liquid nitrogen.
Two celebrities were there. One was the famous Omani Chef Issa Al Lamki, who founded Al Mandoos restaurant and is celebrated throughout the Gulf for his authentic food. Chef Issa judged the contestants' offerings with flair and fairness. The other was the guy responsible for the A'Saffa Chicken ads! How many people can claim to have gotten so deep into the psyche of the resident population of Oman? I'm sure some of you will be hoping that I throttled the chap, but I applaud success and efficiency as well as Omani products, so how can I help but admire the creator (perpetrator?) of "What Does It Mean To Be Omani?" and to a lesser extent, that one with the weird bicycle exchange. You can't deny you remember the name of the product after hearing those ads, even if your mouth is hanging open in disbelief for the duration. What's more, A'Saffa consistently sees a sharp increase in sales as a direct and immediate result of those ads.
As for the other competitors, they had tasty rubs, divine dips and decorative vegetables, and put on a great display as well as cooking fantastic barbeque. One team's chef had been similarly scuppered by not knowing the rules and had come unequipped. "Good thing I had my knife on me anyway", he said, whipping out a ten-inch beast from its sheath. The winners were a team of enthusiastic young guys, who having collected their trophy and their first prize of a year's supply of chicken, sped off, elated and clutching their Omani flag hats, in a Ferrari. I don't know where they kept the chicken, there's barely any storage space in those cars.