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Cuisine of Somalia

The Cuisine of Somalia varies from region to region and consists of an exotic mixture of native Somali, Ethiopian, Yemeni, Persian, Turkish, Indian and Italian influences. It is the product of Somalia's rich tradition of trade and commerce. Despite the variety, there remains one thing that unites the various regional cuisines: all food is served halal.

Breakfast

Quraac or breakfast is one of the most important meals of the day in Somalia. As Muslims, Somalis wake up to the adhan, or the call to prayer by the Masjid.

More often than not, people start the day with many styles of shaah or tea. The main dish is typically Canjeero -- a Somali version of the Ethiopian injera. Unlike the Ethiopian type, canjeero is smaller and thinner, so people eat quite a few of them at a time.

There are many ways to eat the canjeero. You can break it into small pieces and add subag (a kind of Somali butter) and sugar, and wash that down with black tea. Or you can eat it with shakshuka -- an Egyptian dish made of eggs that are cooked with onions and tomatoes. Many prefer it served with beer or liver, while others favor goat meat. Suqaar, beef cut in small pieces and cooked in a bed of soup, is also a favorite side-dish.

Boorish or mishaari (Porridge) is very popular in Mogadishu. It is identical to the porridge eaten in Italy, but with butter and sugar added for flavor.

In the north, rooti or bread is quite popular. In the country at large, a sweeter and more oily version of canjeero called malawax is staple of most home-cooked meals.

Lunch

Qado or lunch is the most magnificent meal of the day. It is often eloborate, and here is where you find most exotic dishes. Varieties of bariis (rice), the most popular probably being basmati, usually serve as the main dish. Spices like cumin, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and sage are used to aromatize these different rice dishes.

In the south, a mixture of rice and vegetables (and sometimes even meat) called Iskudhexkaris is fairly common. Aside from the many different styles of maraq (stew), rice is also served with meat on the side. In Mogadishu, buskeeti (steak) and kaluun (fish) are widely consumed.

Soor (cornmeal) is very popular. Unlike the Ugali of Kenya, Somalis have a softer cornmeal mashed with fresh milk, butter and sugar. Or, a hole is made in the soor and filled with a maraq.

Then there is the sabaayad, a variation of the Indian chapati. Like the rice, it is served with maraq and meat on the side. The sabaayad of Somalia is often a little bit sweet, and is cooked with a little bit of oil.

Baasto (Pasta) is extremely popular in the south. To give this European dish a distinctly Somali twist, Somalis serve it with stew instead of pasta sauce. And to make it even more exotic, it is served with a banana.

The most popular drinks for lunch are balbeelmo (grapefruit), raqey (tamarind) and isbarmuunto (lemonade). In Mogadishu, cambe (mango), seytuun (guava) and laas (Lassi) are popular as well. In Hargeysa in the North, the preferred drinks are fiimto (Vimto) and tufaax (apple).

Dinner

Somali people serve dinner as late as 9 pm. During Ramadan, it is often eaten after Tarawih prayers -- sometimes as late as 11 pm. Cambuulo, a favorite dish come dinnertime, is made out of well-cooked azuki beans mixed with butter and sugar. The beans, which on their own are referred to as digir, can take as long as five hours to finish cooking when left on the stove at a low temperature.

In 1988, the Somali newspaper Xidigta Oktober conducted a survey in which it determined that 83% of the Mogadishu residents preferred cambuulo as their dinnertime main dish. It was a startling discovery since the dish is considered of to be somewhat "low class" due to its flatulent after-effects caused by the natural sugars (known as oligosaccharides) in its beans.

Likewise, qamadi (wheat) is used. Cracked or uncracked, it is cooked and served just like the Azuki beans.

Rooti iyo xalwo, slices of bread and Somali jelly, is another popular dinnertime 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 , adding macsaro (Sesame oil), sugar and then mashing the whole with black tea.

And before bed, one often takes a glass of milk... spiced with cardamom for good measure of course!

Snacks

Snacking is a national pastime in Somalia. People snack all the time.

Sambuusa, a Somali version of the South Asian samosa, is probably the most popular form of a snack in Somalia. It is especially popular during Ramadan, as it is the dish of the afur (iftar). The Somali version is spiced with hot green pepper, and the main ingredient is often ground meat.

Bajiye, a variation of the Indian pakora, is a popular snack in southern Somalia. The Somali version is a mixture of maize, vegetables, meat, spices and is then deep fried. It's eaten by dipping in bisbaas, a hot sauce.

Kabaab, Kebab similar to that of Persia is not that widespread, but a few Somalis in the diaspora eat it.

Fruits like mango, guava, banana, grapefruit and others are used as snacks throughout the day.

Sweets

Xalwo, a sweet hardened Somali jelly that they enjoy a lot, is by far the most popular of all sweets in Somalia. It is a delicacy in the south, where it is favored as a wedding dish. Xalwadii waad qarsatey! ("You hid your xalwo!") is the phrase that follows a person who has eloped or had a small, private wedding. It is made out of basic ingredients, water, sugar and honey. Being extremely sweet and loaded with sugar, it should be consumed in moderation as it can cause some harm if eaten a lot.

Gashaato or qumbe, made of coconut, oils and sugar, and spiced with cardamom, is a much-loved sweet. The sugar is brought to boil with a bit of water, then the cardamom is added followed by shredded coconut.

Loos iyo sisin is a favorite sweet in the south, made of a mixture of peanuts (loos) and sesame seeds (sisin) in a bed of caramel. It 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. In the later years in Mogadishu, 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, comprise many different types of cookies, including super-soft ones called daardaar (literally: touch-touch, for its smooth delicate body.)

Doolshe, encompass many delectable styles of cakes.

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