Somalia is one of the lesser-known African countries, but they actually boast the longest coastline in mainland Africa. With that, you can already imagine the presence of beautiful beaches in Somalia. However, beyond the coast, there are some underrated Somali foods waiting to be discovered in this country.
What Is Special About Somali Food?
Somalia cuisine is one of the most diverse on the African continent. It is a nice fusion of French, British, Italian, Indian, Arabic, East African, and Persian cuisines.
The country played a significant role in the spice trade, so the use of spices is common in Somali foods. Some popular spices in Somali cuisine include cumin, turmeric, black pepper, and cardamom.
Flatbread, pasta, and rice are typical foods in Somalia since they are high in carbohydrates. In addition, bananas and meat are also staples in Somali foods. The coastal regions offer sumptuous seafood. There is no exhausting the delicacy of this African country.
National Food Of Somalia
Locally known as bariis, rice is a staple dish in every Somali household, and many consider it the national dish of Somalia. While rice might sound boring, Somalis actually prepare their rice meal in different ways and for different reasons.
Aged people and those who can’t eat spicy food typically enjoy bariis cad (boiled rice with milk). A more common option for most people is bariis iskudheh karis (one-pot cooked rice mixed with tomato sauce and other ingredients before cooking). Lastly, there is also bariis iyo suugo (rice with sauce).
Trying all these rice varieties on your journey to Somalia makes for a very local experience.
Famous Traditional Somali Foods
Bariis Iskudheh Karis (Somali Jollof Rice)
This is a top dish out of Somalia cuisine. It is similar to the one-pot rice (jollof rice) in West Africa. Iskudheh karis has a reputation for being the tastiest Somalian food.
The name “iskudheh karis” translates directly to “cooked mixed together.” When you add “bariis”, which means rice, it infers a cooked mixed rice dish. From the name, you can imagine what the food looks like.
The rice is cooked with a local spice mixture called xawaash. This consists of turmeric, coriander, paprika, ground cumin, black pepper, cinnamon, and cloves. The spices give it an incredibly aromatic taste.
The dish usually also has orange color because saffron, red food coloring, or orange is added to it after cooking. You can enjoy this rice dish with vegetables or meat and fish.
Baasto (Somali Spaghetti)
Perhaps a more surprising fact about Somalia is that people love pasta. This dish was influenced by their then-colonial masters (Italians), but has become an integral part of Somalia’s food culture. The locals have embraced it and even made it their own, which is evident in their specialized cooking of this adapted food.
There are different variations of this food in Somalia. But traditionally, the most famously cooked pasta in Somalia is prepared with meatball sauce, tomatoes, sunflower oil, garlic, and local Somali spices (xawaash).
In the past, this food was reserved only for guests or eaten occasionally on Fridays as a family bonding meal. But today, you can enjoy this special Somali food anytime across the country.
Cambuulo (Adzuki Beans)
Cambuulo adzuki is a sumptuous traditional Somali dish that is commonly enjoyed as an evening meal in the country.
The highlight of this dish is adzuki beans (small round dark-red edible beans). They are often cooked with rice; some also include lentils, corn, or other types of beans. Cambuulo is typically served with tomato sauce, sugar, and sesame oil.
The dish is rich in protein and has a simple appearance, but don’t let that fool you; the preparation can be time-consuming. It takes close to five hours to cook this dish, but it’s a tasty meal you cannot get enough of.
Soor (Somali Maize Porridge)
Soor is a traditional Somali food, similar to the Italian version of polenta or the East African version of ugali.
This is a traditional dish made with ground maize flour. It’s cooked with basic ingredients, water and salt.
Somalis enjoy this food in various manners; some use stew and meat, some use vegetables, and others use milk. Meatballs and bananas are also suitable condiments to enjoy soor with.
This dish is very common during Ramadan (Islamic holy month of fasting), but you can still enjoy it every regular day. Whichever way you decide to consume this dish, it is an amazing treat.
Bread And Pancakes In Somali Foods
Sabaayad (Somali Flatbread)
This special Somali food, also known as Kimis, is a popular flatbread eaten nationwide. Like the unleavened flatbread in Eritrean food (injera), sabaayad is a staple Somalia breakfast food. It is also the most consumed Somali bread.
Sabaayad is a versatile dish that can be paired with different Somali stews, soups, curry dishes, and other side dishes.
The bread has a crispy exterior and soft interior. With honey and cinnamon as part of the base ingredients, this Somali food is a nice sweet way to kick-start your day.
Canjeero (Sourdough Pancakes)
Canjeero is a popular breakfast food in Somalia. This is a light dish eaten by kids and adults before going to school or work respectively.
It is similar to Eritrean injera. However, canjeero is thinner and less sour because of the yeast used to make this food.
Like sabayaad (Somali flatbread), you can enjoy canjeero in many different ways. You can eat with tea, honey, stews, and curry dishes. That said, it is also so versatile that some even enjoy this Somali food for lunch or dinner.
Muufo (Tinaar Bread)
Somalia is known for its love of bread, which plays a staple part in the cuisine. Muufo is one of many bread varieties on offer in Somalia.
However, it is not your regular bread; muufo is unique as the dough for this bread is prepared in a tinaar (traditional Somali clay oven) over hot coals. Some also use a skillet to make this bread.
It is known for being rich in carbohydrates, making it suitable for breakfast or noon.
This Somalia bread is made from corn flour and sometimes wheat flour. You don’t typically eat it with butter or cheese; instead, it is a traditional Somali food that locals enjoy with different stews or soups.
Soups, Stews, And Sauces In Somali Foods
Moos Bukeeni (Somali Plantain Stew)
Here is another fact about Somalia you probably didn’t know -Somalia was the central hub of banana export between 1987 to 1990.
Somalis living in regions with fertile soil love plantains, which gave birth to this beautiful Somali food. This appetizer is one of many ways Somalis love to enjoy their fruits.
Bananas are finely chopped and mixed with coconut milk, water, sugar and allowed to cook. Some add meat sauce to enhance the flavor. This is one of many special dishes to have originated from Somalia. You can enjoy moos bukeeni with pasta, rice, muufo or Somali bread sabaayad.
Ful Medames (Somali-style Fava Beans Stew)
Fava bean stew is a popular dish in many Northern African countries, such as Egypt. Where it originated from is unclear, but there is a similar version of this delicacy to savor in Somalia.
Ful Medames is a simple Somali dish made with fava beans steamed in tomato sauce. This food can be served as a main or side dish. It is enjoyed with different types of Somalia bread (flatbreads) to soak up the delicious sauce.
Maraq Digaag (Chicken Stew)
Maraq digaag is a sumptuous flavorful Somali dish that is particularly popular during the winter months in Somalia. However, you can enjoy this soup anytime in the country. It is claimed that maraq digaag originated from Yamen (a country in West Asia).
This is a chicken stew laced with vegetables and local Somali spices. Similar to chicken pepper soup (a local Nigerian dish), It’s a spicy stew, and the Somali people believe it helps deal with the cold.
Ginger and coriander are notable spices in this Somali food, which not only enhances the flavors but contributes to the nutritional value. You can enjoy Maraq digaag with a bowl of rice or Somali flatbread.
Maraq Fahfah (Somali Soup)
Somalia cuisine is not popular for soups, but the few soups they have are nutrient-rich and healthy; one such soup is maraq fahfah.
This local soup features meat, vegetables, and local Somali spices as base ingredients. To fully enjoy this soup, it is often paired with rice.
Maraq fahfah is believed to have originated from Yemen, but it is a hearty dish you can enjoy in Somalia and other African countries like Djibouti.
Somali Foods – Snacks, Light Dishes, And Street Food
Sambusa is one of many adopted food in Somali cuisine; this delicacy is believed to have originated in India (the Indian version is known as samosa). However, it has grown to become one of the most popular Somalian food.
Sambusa is also a common snack in many African countries today, although they are called by different names. This is a triangular-shaped pastry stuffed with fillings of veggies and/or meat and then deep-fried.
This is a lovely Somalian snack you should try as you wander around the cities. Although there is a vegetarian version of this snack, the meat version is more popular in this country.
Kac Kac (Somali Tiny Doughnuts)
Kac kac is a popular Somali snack that is crispy on the outside but soft on the inside. This Somali food is very popular during religious ceremonies (Eid and Ramadan). These deep-fried bread chunks are sweet and flavorful. It’s a snack you can chew when strolling in the cool of the evening. The crunchiness is one to relish.
Kabab is a well-loved street food in Somalia that is made from ground lamb, chicken, or beef. The meat for this dish is seasoned with local spices like cloves, black pepper, cardamom, and cumin.
Kabab is grilled or roasted over hot coals to give that nice barbeque flavor; not to mention that addictive smell that is just hard to resist when you walk by. It’s a dish you can enjoy while strolling in Somalia; locals also like to have it with flatbread or fresh milk.
Nafaqo (Egg-Stuffed Potatoes)
Somali cuisine boasts a variety of traditional delicacies like nafaqo. This is a special Somali dish made with eggs and potatoes. Seeing this food for the first time, you can mistake it for scotch egg (a classic England dish).
However, nafaqo is totally different. It is made with boiled eggs wrapped in mashed potato. This is a dish popular in many Middle Eastern and Arab countries. On your trip to Somalia, make sure you give it a try when you get the chance.
Sweets, Desserts, And Pastries In Somalian Food
Gashaato (Coconut Candy)
If you love candies, there is a perfect Somali food for you, and it would be a plus if you fancy coconut. Gashaato is a special Somali candy originating from Swahili cuisine. It is a popular sweet in East Africa.
This candy is crunchy and yummy, one you cannot get enough of. It is a favorite among kids in Somalia. Tasty and flavorful, this is a sweet you should try in Somalia.
Basbousa (Somali Traditional Cake)
This popular Somali dessert originated from one of her neighbors, Egypt. This is a special cake made with unconventional cake ingredients.
The main ingredient for this Somali dessert is semolina and syrup, rosewater, and orange. The Somali version is further enhanced with coconut and yogurt. The lime juice gives it a tangy taste.
Muqmad Or Odkac (Somali Preserved Meat)
Muqmad is a traditional dish in Somali cuisine that was h born out of innovation. Some parts of Somalia have harsh desert climates, and locals in these regions have found a unique technique to prepare and preserve their foods.
This tasty meat jerky is a product of this innovative Somali technique. Interestingly, muqmad can be preserved for over a year, becoming a consistent source of protein for nomadic Somalis.
To make muqmad you slice your meat (lamb, beef, or goat); Somalia is a Muslim country, so pork is strictly prohibited. Sundry your meat, cut it into cubes and deep fry. The meat is stored in a wooden container after frying.
Muqmad is also commonly seen during wedding ceremonies, and they are served in a Xeedho (a traditional Somali container designed with seashells and leather). You can enjoy this food with canjeero, or you can have it as a standalone snack or dessert.
Iconic Drinks In Somali Cuisine
Shaah Cadays (Somali Spiced Tea)
This is the national drink of Somalia. Shaah is a Somali spiced tea that can be taken with or without milk.
This drink is popular during casariya (the afternoon tea tradition of Somalia). Shaah is a special part of Somali food culture. Beyond the food, Somalis share sheeko (stories) when they take their tea during casariya.
Enjoying shaah depends on who you are sharing it with. The person you are taking your tea with is as important as what is inside your teacup. You can visit a café in Somalia with your family or friend to enjoy the real Somali shaah experience.
Mushaari (Somali Porridge)
Mushaari is another great way to kickstart your day. It is a special porridge and a staple breakfast meal in Somalia.
This sweet porridge with butter and nuts is believed to be an energy-giving food rich in vitamins and minerals. It is a tradition to feed women with mushaari immediately after childbirth as it helps speed up recovery and lactation.
Due to its rich nutrient, it is considered one of the healthiest foods in Somalia. It is also popular during Ramadan and Iftar, but you can enjoy this dish anytime nationwide in Somalia.
FLAVORS AROUND THE WORLD
Discovering Traditional Somalian Foods
Somali cuisine is a pure joy for food lovers. With a nice blend of multicultural gastronomy, everything about the foods in Somalia is adorable. Due to their unique spices, Somali foods are special for their distinct flavors and aromas.