By: Jane Borges

Semsom’s The Hummus Games at the Lebanese food chain’s Muscat branch in MGM, saw food bloggers, foodies and media professionals compete against each other to create unique dishes out of hummus.

At the Lebanese restaurant Semsom, the tables have been laid out. But it’s not the regular plates and cutlery that adorn the dining area. Instead, the tables have doubled-up as kitchen workstations, making room for knives, chopping boards and wooden mortars and pestles. Somewhere in the corner is a wide array of condiments, spices, vegetables, fruits and bottles of olive oil – all carefully placed around two huge bowls of hummus.

Renowned Lebanese food blogger Anthony Rahayel is hard at work, inspecting all the ingredients. “The combinations appear to be very interesting,” he says. “It will be fun to see what twist people bring to the hummus.”

Rahayel is talking about Semsom’s The Hummus Games, which made a stop at the Lebanese food chain’s Muscat branch in Muscat Grand Mall on Tuesday after a successful run in New York and Beirut. The competition saw food bloggers, foodies and media professionals from the region compete against each other to create unique dishes inspired from local flavours, using hummus and ingredients available at the event. The winning dish would take home the title of ‘Muscat Hummus’ and make it to the menu of Semsom’s eateries across the globe for two weeks in January next year.

Rahayel, who specially flew down to Muscat to judge the event, said, “What we are doing today is taking the simple hummus, which has been around for thousand years, and bringing some funkiness to it by adding some colour and changing the flavours and aromas.”

Before the competition, Rahayel also revealed a few tips to the participants on how they could create a tasty hummus without being over-ambitious. “What I expect is not complexity or too many ingredients at a time. Just a little bit of one ingredient could make all the difference to the dish. Add aromas and taste and most importantly, ensure that there is a long-lasting flavour to the hummusit’s all about making that first impression,” he said.

The participants were given five minutes to choose their ingredients, and half an hour of preparation time.

Smitha Devadas, who is an avid food blogger and runs, was seen creating a dish inspired from her mother’s famed south Indian chutney, which she quite predictably named Mamma Hummus. “The chutney is a combination of roasted coconut, lentils, coriander seeds, tamarind and jaggery. Mixing this with the hummus gives it a textural difference. I quite like the combination.”

Another self-proclaimed foo-die Fatima Hammadi, project manager at I Love OM, who has had a dig at hummus across the Gulf, said she had never tried her hands at making her own hummus before, but was quite happy with the outcome. Named Besame Mucho (Kiss me), her dish saw a combination of lemon and orange zest, parsley, mint and sesame seeds, all intended to bring some freshness to the hummus.

However, in a unanimous decision, the judges – Christine Sfeir, CEO and founder of Semsom, Rahayel, Chef Ali and Rami Nasser, operations manager of Semsom Oman – chose Green Goddess.

The dish, which the judges praised for its “perfect balance of flavours,” was created by Oneza Tabish, founder of the Facebook group, What’s Cooking Oman? and her group member Susan Sarada. “We prepared three hummus dishes that were inspired by the three colours of the Omani flag. The judges loved the green one,” said Oneza.

Speaking after the event, Christine said, “The idea behind the ‘The Hummus Games’ was to get people to have some fun, be creative and to take the hummus to a completely different level. The mood and vibe here was brilliant. And we will definitely be coming back for more.”