Somali cuisine varies from region to region and is a fusion of different Somali culinary traditions, with some East African, Arab, Turkish and Italian influences. It is the product of Somalia's tradition of trade and commerce. Some notable Somali delicacies include sabayad, lahoh/injera, halva, sambuusa, and Muqmaad (beef jerky).
Breakfast (quraac) is an important meal for Somalis, who often start the day with some style of tea (shaah) or coffee (qaxwa). The tea is often in the form of haleeb shai (Yemeni milk tea) in the north. 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 (maraqe) or soup. In addition to canjeero many Somali people eat chopped meat mixed with some cumin, garlic, onions and pepper.
Lunch (qado) is often an elaborated main dish of pasta (baasto) or rice (bariis) spiced with cumin (kamuun), cardamom (heyl), cloves (qaranfuul), and sage (Salvia somalensis). The diffused use of pasta (baasto), such as spaghetti, comes from the Italians. It is frequently presented with a heavier stew than the Italian pasta sauce. As with the rice, it is often served with a banana.
Spaghetti can also be served with rice, forming a novelty dish referred to 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.
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 usually served with meat and/or a banana on the side. In Mogadishu, steak (busteeki) and fish (kalluun/mallaay) are widely eaten.
Somalis commonly 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 variation of the desi 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.
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). Additionally basmati rice is popular in the somali cuisine. The rice is cooked and then fried with some onions, any meat and then mixed with different spices such as cumin.
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 from 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. 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 sesame oil (macsaro) and sugar, then mashed together with black tea.
Before sleeping, a glass of milk spiced with cardamom is often consumed.
Sambusa, the Somali variation of the Desi samosa, is a triangular snack that is commonly eaten throughout Somalia during the afur (iftar). The Somali version is spiced with hot chili pepper, and the main ingredient is often ground meat or fish. Kabaab is a snack eaten by southern Somalis. The Somali version is a mixture of ground meat, potatoes, onions and vegetables, which is then coated with flour and deep fried. Fruits such as mango (cambo), guava (Seytuun), banana (moos) and grapefruit (liinbanbeelmo) are eaten throughout the day as snacks.
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 from coconuts mixed with sugar to form a bar.
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). 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.
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