Somali cuisine

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Somali cuisine varies from region to region and is a fusion of Somali, Ethiopian, Yemeni, Persian, Turkish, Indian and Italian culinary influences. It is the product of the Somali people's tradition of trade and commerce. Some notable Somali delicacies include sabayad, lahoh/injera, halva, sambuusa, basbousa and ful medames.


Canjeero is a staple bread in Somali cuisine.

Breakfast (quraac) is an important meal for Somalis, who often start the day with some style of tea (shaah). The main dish is typically a pancake-like bread (canjeero or canjeelo) similar to Ethiopian injera, but smaller and thinner. It might also be eaten with a stew (maraq) or soup.[1]

  • Canjeero is eaten in different ways. It may be broken into small pieces with ghee (subag) and sugar.[2] For children, it is mixed with tea and sesame oil (macsaaro) until mushy. There may be a side-dish of liver (beef), goat meat (hilib ari), diced beef cooked in a bed of soup (suqaar), or jerky (oodkac or muqmad), which consists of small dried pieces of beef, goat or camel meat, boiled in ghee.
  • Polenta (mishaari) or porridge (boorash) with butter and sugar is eaten in the Mogadishu area. Elsewhere in the south, such as in the Merca region, special bread known as rooti abuukey with tea is preferred. This is also known as muufo, and is cooked in a special clay oven by sticking the mixture to the walls and waiting for it to fall off when done.[5]

Flatbread referred to as rooti is consumed in the north. Nationally, a sweeter and oilier version of canjeero called malawax (or malawah) is a staple of most home-cooked meals.


A bag of traditional Somali cambuulo (azuki beans).

Lunch (qado) is often an elaborated main dish of pasta (baasto) or rice (bariis) spiced with cumin (kamuun), cardamom (heyl), cloves (qaranfuul) and sage.

In the south, Iskudhexkaris, a hot pot of rice, vegetables and meat, is a regional staple. Beyond the many styles of stew (maraq), rice is also served with meat and/or a banana on the side. In Mogadishu, steak (busteeki) and fish (kalluun/mallaay) are widely eaten.

Somalis also consume a soft cornmeal referred to as soor. It is mashed with fresh milk, butter and sugar, or presented with a hole in the middle filled with maraq.

A Somali camel meat and rice dish.

A variation of the Indian chapati is the sabaayad/kamis. Like the rice, it is served with maraq and meat on the side. The sabaayad of Somalia is often somewhat sweet, and is cooked in a little oil.

Pasta (baasto), such as spaghetti, is frequently presented with a heavier stew than the Italian pasta sauce. As with the rice, it is also served with a banana.

Spaghetti can also be served with rice, a novelty dish known as "Federation". The dish is usually served with equal (whole) portions of rice and spaghetti, split on either side of a large oval plate. It is then layered with assorted stewed meats and vegetables, served with salad and an optional banana. It has been suggested that the name of the dish is derived from the union of two dishes in Somalia and also from the size and quantity of the food. You will not find this dish served in the average Somali household since it is uncommon to cook both rice and pasta in one meal. It is instead more common to order the dish from traditional Somali restaurants, where both rice and spaghetti are always readily available. Hence, its novelty status.

Popular drinks at lunch are balbeelmo (grapefruit), raqey (tamarind) and isbarmuunto (Lemonade). In Mogadishu, cambe (mango), zaytuun (guava) and laas (Lassi) are also common. In Hargeisa in the northwest, the preferred drinks are fiimto (Vimto) and tufaax (apple).


Baasto (pasta) and digaag (chicken) take-out from a Somali restaurant.

Dinner (casho) in Somalia is served as late as 9 pm. During Ramadan, supper-time often follows Tarawih prayers, sometimes as late as 11 pm. Cambuulo, a common dinner dish, is made of well-cooked azuki beans mixed with butter and sugar. The beans, which on their own are referred to as digir, can take up to five hours to finish cooking when left on the stove at a low temperature. In 1988, the Somali newspaper Xiddigta Oktoober conducted a survey in which it found that 83% of Mogadishu's residents preferred cambuulo as their main dinnertime meal. It was a startling discovery since the dish is considered to be somewhat "low class" due to its flatulence-inducing after-effects caused by the natural sugars (known as oligosaccharides) in its beans. Qamadi (wheat) is also used; cracked or uncracked, it is cooked and served just like the azuki beans.

Rooti iyo xalwo, slices of bread served with a gelatinous confection, is another dinner dish. Muufo, a variation of cornbread, is a dish made of maize and is baked in a foorno (clay oven). It is eaten by cutting it into small pieces, topped with macsaro (sesame oil) and sugar, then mashed together with black tea.

Before sleeping, a glass of milk spiced with cardamom is often consumed.


Somali sambuusas (samosas) being prepared.

Sambuusa, a Somali version of the samosa, is a triangular snack that is commonly eaten throughout Somalia during the afur (iftar). The Somali version is spiced with hot green pepper, and the main ingredient is often ground meat or fish. Bajiye, a variation of the Indian pakora, is a snack eaten in southern Somalia. The Somali version is a mixture of maize, vegetables, meat, and spices, which is then deep fried. It is eaten by dipping it in bisbaas (hot sauce). Kabaab is a snack eaten by southern Somalis. The Somali version is a mixture of ground meat, potatoes, onions, and vegetables with flour, which is then deep fried. Fruits such as mango (cambo), guava (Seytuun), banana (moos) and grapefruit (liinbanbeelmo) are eaten throughout the day as snacks.


Gashaato is a coconut-based confection, set here to a backdrop of the Somali national flag.
  • Xalwo (halwo) or halva is a popular confection,[6] served during special occasions such as Eid celebrations or wedding receptions. Xalwadii waad qarsatey! ("You hid your xalwo!") is the phrase that follows a person who has eloped or has a small, private wedding. Xalwo is made from sugar, cornstarch, cardamom powder, nutmeg powder, and ghee. Peanuts are also sometimes added to enhance texture and flavor.[7]
  • Gashaato, Kashaato or qumbe, made of coconut, sugar and oil, and spiced with cardamom, is a much-loved sweet. The sugar is brought to a boil with a bit of water, then the cardamom is added, followed by shredded coconut.
Xalwo (halwo) or halva is a staple of Somali cuisine.
  • Lows iyo sisin is a favorite sweet in the south. It consists of a mixture of peanuts (lows) and sesame seeds (sisin) in a bed of caramel. The confection sticks together to form a delicious bar.
  • Jalaato, similar to the American popsicle, is made by freezing naturally sweet fruits with a stick in the middle. More recently in Mogadishu (Xamar), it has grown to include caano (milk) jalaato, which then requires sugaring up. The word jalaato comes from gelato, which is Italian for "frozen".
  • Buskut or Buskud comprises many different types of cookies, including very soft ones called daardaar (literally "touch-touch" due to its smooth, delicate texture).
  • Doolshe encompasses many delectable styles of cakes.
  • Icun is also a sweet mostly eaten by southern Somalis. It is made of sugar and flour mixed with oil. People prefer to say Icun I calaangi caloosha I gee (Eat me, chew me, then take me to your stomach) when they see it. It is mainly eaten during weddings and Eid times but southern Somalis always do make it at home and eat it as part of a dessert.

There are many sweets eaten during festive occasions such as weddings, parties or Eid. Among these are baalbaaloow, shuushuumoow, Bur Hindi, Bur Tuug, and qumbe (coconut), the latter of which is made of coconuts mixed with sugar to form a bar.


A dabqaad incense burner.

Somalis traditionally perfume their homes after meals. Frankincense (luubaan) or a prepared incense (uunsi), known as bukhoor in the Arabian Peninsula, is placed on top of hot charcoal inside an incense burner or censer (a dabqaad).[9] It then burns for about ten minutes. This keeps the house fragrant for hours. The burner is made from soapstone found in specific areas of Somalia.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Abdullahi, pp.111-114.
  2. ^ "Dishes Across The World, Saint Lucia - Zimbabwe". Travel Junction. Retrieved 8 March 2015. 
  3. ^ Mohamed Diriye Abdullahi, Culture and Customs of Somalia, (Greenwood Press: 2001), p. 113.
  4. ^ Little Business Women
  5. ^ "Somali Polenta Flat Bread (Muufo)". The Somali Kitchen. Retrieved 8 March 2015. 
  6. ^ "Somali Halwa." Accessed July 2011.
  7. ^ Ali, p. 79
  8. ^ "The Recipes of Africa". p. 241. Retrieved 2014-07-18. 
  9. ^ Abdullahi, pp.98-99


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