Topic: Somali Food

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Somalis are usually slim and I am sure that a lot of people wonder the type of food somalis eat. Somalis in New Zealand may not have access to the resources that they had back home to make and consume food like they did in Somalia. Somali cuisine varies from region to region and is a mixture of native Somali, Ethiopian, Yemeni, Persian, Turkish, Indian and Italian influences. It is the product of Somalia's tradition of trade and commerce. All food is halal.



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) similar to Ethiopian injera but smaller and thinner.

Canjeero is eaten in different ways, it may be broken into small pieces and ghee (subag) and sugar added. For children it is mixed with tea and sessame 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 jerk (oodkac or muqmad), which consists of small dried pieces of beef, or goat or camel meat, boiled in ghee.

Polenta (mishaari or boorash porridge) with butter and sugar is popular in Mogadishu

In the north, bread (rooti) is popular. In Somalia a sweeter and oilier version of canjeero called malawax is a staple of most home-cooked meals.



Barris iyo digaag suqar, a melange of rice, stewed chicken and vegetables.

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

In the south, a hotpot of rice, vegetables, and sometimes meat, called Iskudhexkaris is common. Beyond the many styles of stew (maraq), rice is also served with meat on the side. In Mogadishu, steak (busteeki) and fish (kaluun) are widely eaten.

Cornmeal (soor) is popular. Unlike the ugali of Kenya, Somalis have a softer cornmeal mashed with fresh milk, butter and sugar or with a well in the soor filled with maraq.

A variation of the Indian chapati is the sabaayad. 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) is popular often served with a heavier stew than the Italian pasta sauce, more distinctively, it is often served with a banana.

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


Various types of popular Somali dishes.

Somali people serve dinner as late as 9 pm. During Ramadan, supper-time often follows Tarawih prayers, sometimes even as late as 11 pm. Cambuulo, a favorite dish come dinnertime, 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.

Likewise, qamadi (wheat) is 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 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, a glass of milk spiced with cardamom is often consumed.


Sambuusa, or samosa, is a popular snack in Somalia.

Sambuusa, a Somali version of the 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, which is then deep fried. It is eaten by dipping it in bisbaas, a hot sauce.

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

Fruits such as mango, guava, banana and grapefruit serve as snacks throughout the day.


Gashaato, a very popular coconut-based confection, set here to a backdrop of the Somali national flag.

Xalwo or halva is a fairly popular confection 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.

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.

Lows iyo sisin is a favorite sweet in the south, made of a mixture of peanuts (lows) 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. More recently 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 very soft ones called daardaar (literally "touch-touch" due to its smooth, delicate texture).

Doolshe encompass many delectable styles of cakes.


A dabqaad incense burner.

Somalis traditionally perfume their homes after meals. Frankincense (lubaan) or a prepared incense (cuunsi), which in countries in the Arabian Peninsula is known as bukhoor, is placed on top of hot charcoal inside an incense burner or censer (a dabqaad). 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.




Sources of information:

 Abdul Mohamed

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