By: Abdihakim Mohamoud
A staple in many East African households, Somali food is incredibly diverse and enjoyed by millions of people worldwide. From a tender meat soup dish known as ‘suqaar’, to spicy coffees and teas known as ‘qaxwo’ and ‘shah’ there is an incredibly wide range of Somali cuisine. Often compared to the more popular Ethiopian food, Somali cuisine is often overshadowed by its more populous neighbor.
According to Thetakeout.com, the lead chef at a popular Somali restaurant in New York City referred to Somali cuisine as “The jewel out of East Africa that nobody has yet explored.” This statement puts in perspective how little the complex culinary traditions of Somalia is known globally.
Breakfast dishes can consist of ‘soor’ which is a cornmeal type dish, ‘canjeero” which is a famous, fermented, pancake-like dish, and ‘oodkac’ which is a sun dried meat typically served with canjeero.
Lunch is typically the largest meal of the day for Somalis, where dishes loaded with meat, veggies, and rice are served. The classic ‘baaris’ is a delicious seasoned rice cooked in rich meat broth, and is one of the most popular dishes. ‘Baasto’, which is a savory pasta dish, is also eaten during lunch, and traces its origins back to the days when Somalia was a colony of Italy. Both of these dishes are served with ‘hilib’, which is slow-cooked, tender goat meat.
Somali cuisine cannot be complete without mentioning the necessary addition to the food—the banana. The fruit is eaten with the savory dishes, creating an amazing combination of sweet and savory. Lime and a tangy hot sauce is also added to create a spectacular sour, savory, and sweet combination—resulting in a perfectly balanced dish. Somali cuisine is becoming more recognized globally, with many cookbooks and Somali restaurants coming to light in dozens of first world countries.
Here are some local restaurants that you could check out, to try some Somali cuisine:
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