The sweet and fragrant aroma of vanilla is much loved in kitchens all around the world. And Oman is no exception to that. You'll find a wide variety of vanilla-based products in the local supermarkets, from vanilla sugar to essence. These may be ok products, but your tiramisu or crème brûlée tastes so much better if you use the real thing!
Adding a vanilla pod to your dish gives wonderful flavours to it. We admit, they're not cheap, but very much worth the money. A food-crazy chef friend of us isn't satisfied if it isn't Tahitian vanilla (or was that Haïtian? Well, never mind...), but we'll do with whatever we can lay our hands on. And there's the catch: fresh vanilla pods are nowhere to be found in Muscat. Why is this? Are they so incredibly difficult to come by? Or are modern cooks just lazy? We don't know, but we decided to start a quest for vanilla. And we found it! A couple of months ago Al Fair had a small stock of two brands: Waitrose's and Schwartz Chef's. Both are fine to use, especially since there is nothing else around.
Last time we checked at our local Al Fair, both were already sold out, but do ask for it. You might get lucky.