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Somalia : Overview of Somali Cuisine History

More by user: osmaanoow
Created: 10th Jan 2011
Modified: 10th Jan 2011

Situated in eastern Africa, Somalia forms the cap of the Horn of Africa. Somalia has a nomadic culture where people are organized in clans. Somalia was a colony of England, France and Italy. In 1991 began a civil war between clans that lasted for 2 years and that disrupted agriculture and animal husbandry, which left the people in starvation. The conflict was not completely resolved and Somalia does not have a central government. The Somali cuisine has been influenced by the English, French and Italian cuisines. However, traditional Somali foods are meat based. Like other Muslims, Somali do not use Pork in their diet and they do not drink alcoholic beverages. In addition to meat, rice is used often in the Somali cuisine. Common foods in Somalia include a type of homemade bread called Anjara (it looks like a large, spongy pancake) and Sambusas, which are deep-fried triangular-shaped dumplings usually filled with meat or vegetables. Somalis have scrumptious meat and Chicken dishes called Bariis, often served with basmati rice that has been flavoured with cardamom and cinnamon. In Somalia, location and livelihood influence diet, but on the whole, the Somali diet is low in caloric intake and high in protein consumption. Somali cuisine reflects the people's clever use of scarce resources. People usually begin the day with a flat bread called canjero or laxoo, liver, and either cereal or porridge made of millet or cornmeal. The midday meal is the largest and consists of rice or noodles (pasta became very popular under Italian rule) with sauce and perhaps meat. The evening meal is very light and might include beans, muffo (patties made of Oats or corn) or a salad with more canjero. Somalis adore spiced tea, but sheep, goat and camel's milk are also popular. milk is a staple food for many rural Somalis, and men who travel with the camel herds may drink up to nine litres a day. Stored in either a covered pitcher called a haan or a wooden bucket, fresh milk will keep for days despite the hot climate. By shaking milk, Somalis make butter; cooked butter becomes ghee, which will keep for several months when stored in a leather container called a tabut or kuchey. Camel milk fermented for a month becomes jinow, a solid, yoghurt-like substance. People on farms in the south eat a more varied diet that includes corn, millet, sorghum, beans, and some fruit and vegetables. millet is made into porridge or mixed with milk to form cakes. Beans are usually served with butter or mixed with corn, while sorghum, a type of grain, is ground to make flour and bread. People also frequently eat rice, which is imported. Favourite meats are goat, camel, sheep or Lamb, and to a lesser extent, Beef. Muslims are forbidden to eat Pork or Pork products. Only young male animals or females too old to produce offspring are used for food. Camel meat also includes the fat contained in the camel's gol (hump). A camel whose gol has grown very large may be slaughtered for this food. Cuisines of Somalia Edit Cuisines of Somalia sectionEdit Map of Somalia- Click to enlargeMaintenance scriptAdded by Maintenance script Ethnically and culturally, Somalia is one of the most homogeneous countries in Africa. The great majority of the people speak dialects of the same language, Somali, and practice the same religion, Islam. Nomadic pastors eat milk, ghee (liquid butter), and meat in large quantities, supplemented by wild berries and fruits. This diet provides nomadic pastoralists with about half of their traditional diet. Other foods such as sorghum, corn, rice, tea, Sugar, dates, condiments, and occasional vegetables are purchased or traded for livestock and livestock products. Despite Somalia's long coastline, fish consumption traditionally has been limited to coastal towns. Traditional society holds fishermen and the eating of fish in low regard. Nomads, in particular, disdain fish consumption: to eat fish is to show that one is not a good herdsman. Farmers have more variety in their diet as they eat more cereals (often soor, sorghum porridge and canjeero), grain legumes, and vegetables than do the nomads. Farmers in that live close to rivers consume more fruit, especially bananas and citrus. Among the Raxanweyn people, coffee beans cooked in ghee are considered a delicacy. The coastal cities and towns’ cuisine was influenced by the Arabian Peninsula and it offers a greater variety of dishes. The Italian influence is also seen in the large amount of spaghetti, known as Baasto. Camel meat is also widely consumed. In rural areas, Somalis slaughter camels to feed whole villages. In cities, it is served in restaurants and sold in meat markets. Northern Somalia has received influences from its neighbour to the west, Ethiopia. Due to these influences, people in the northern regions of Somalia are accustomed to eating Doro Wat (Chicken stew with hard-boiled eggs) or Iab (cottage cheese and yogurt). berbere, a combination of powdered chile pepper and other spices is an important ingredient used in many dishes in this region of Somalia. Also essential is niter kebbeh, a clarified butter infused with ginger, garlic, and several spices. Firfir made from shredded injera with spices is the typical breakfast food in northern Somalia. Dulet is also popular for breakfast, a spicy mixture of Beef parts with injera. Fatira consists of a large fried pancake made with flour often with a layer of egg, eaten with honey. Chechebsa is a very good food too, it is made pieces of pancake, with spices and honey, and it can be eaten with a spoon. Legumes form an integral part of the vegetarian meal in this part of Somalia. Common legumes include lentils and chick peas. The cooked legumes can be eaten as salads, seasoned with chillies and ginger. Dried legumes can be ground into flour and used as the base of vegetarian fritters. Preparation Methods for Somali Cooking Edit Preparation Methods for Somali Cooking sectionEdit The preparation and cooking methods in Somalia are directly influenced by the Muslim tradition. There are special standards for fresh meat preparation, and Somali people are willing to go to stores that are far away from their neighbourhoods in order to get meat that is properly prepared. The Islamic mode of slaughtering involves two steps: mentioning the name of Allah before beginning the slaughter and severing of the throat, wind pipe and the jugular veins in the neck, without cutting the spinal cord. Traditional foods are specially prepared for various types of celebrations. Since many Somalis are nomads, back home they often ate a popular type of jerky called Otka - meat that is dried and then fried in butter and spices. The preparation of Otka allows the meat to be preserved for a long time, which makes it ideal to take on long trips. The traditional preparation methods for goat, Beef, Lamb and Chicken require that the meat is fried in ghee, grilled or broiled. The meat is then is spiced with turmeric, coriander, cumin and curry and eaten with basmati rice. Somalis eat this dish for lunch, dinner and sometimes breakfast. Ground meat cooked with tomato sauce is another traditional dish. It is served with spaghetti. This dish clearly shows the way in which the Italian cuisine influenced the Somali preparation and cooking methods. Special Equipment for Somali Cooking Edit Special Equipment for Somali Cooking sectionEdit Cooking in Somalia is usually done over an open fire. There are two popular kinds of stoves used in Somalia. The first are stoves that are made from clay and stone. This type of stove is mainly used in the big cities and villages. Stoves made from clay are the most popular as they can be locally produced. They are also very cheap and they use charcoal as fuel. The second most popular type of stove is made from tins. This kind of stove is mainly used in villages. The second kind of stove consumes much more charcoal and wood than the first one. Most houses in the big cities and villages have their own kitchen built-in stoves that are used for cooking with charcoal. Cooking the food over an open fire gives it a special flavour. However, you can cook almost any food from the Somali cuisine using your normal cooking equipment. Somali Food Traditions and Festivals Edit Somali Food Traditions and Festivals sectionEdit Celebrations in Somalia are associated with religious, social, or seasonal events. Like all Islam followers, Somalis are required to fast from eating or drinking from dawn to dusk during the ninth month of the Muslim calendar known as Ramadan. While fasting is obligatory during Ramadan, fasting is also practiced among Somalis at any time of the year they want more spiritual purification. At the end of Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting, Muslims celebrate the Id-al-Fitir for three days. Many Somalis fast for one day or more at least every month. Social occasions such as engagement, marriage, the circumcision of boys on the seventh day after birth and the remembrance of saints are rooted in both culture and religion. It is typical at traditional Somali weddings for the bride and groom to serve fresh slices of just slaughtered Beef to guests. In the rainy season, when grazing and water are abundant, young nomadic boys and girls perform traditional dances out in the open and often at night. They also cook elaborate meals. Some of the dishes served include Roti (pan cooked bread without oil), Malawa (a dish that looks like a pancake and is made with flour, Sugar, oil and eggs; it may be served with honey) and Sambosa (curry puffs stuffed with meat and vegetables and then deep fried). The public holidays in Somalia are New Year’s Day (January 1), Labour Day (May 1), Independence Day (June 26) and Foundation of the Republic (1st of July). People in Somali Food Edit People in Somali Food sectionEdit Somali cuisine reflects the people’s clever use of scarce resources. People usually begin the day with Canjero (flat bread) and porridge made of millet or cornmeal. Breakfast usually consists of 2-3 pieces of Injera (fermented pancake-like bread made from corn and Wheat) with ghee or regular butter. Most families make enough Injera to last three days at a time. A family of four can eat about 25 pieces in three days. Lunch is the largest meal and consists of rice or noodles (pasta became very popular under Italian rule) with sauce and perhaps meat. People of Somalia also use many spices (especially curry) in the preparation of main dishes. The evening meal is very light and might include beans, muffo (patties made of Oats or corn) or a salad with more canjero. Somalis also enjoy herbal tea. At dinner a light meal is consumed, such as Injera or regular bread with butter and jam, or a traditional Somali meal which consists of rice and dry beans cooked with water, butter and Sugar. Somali culture is male centred, at least in public, although women play important economic roles in both farming and herding families and in business in the cities. Female labour is valued for productive tasks as well as for household chores. Women are in charge of preparing the meal and it is considered a sign of disrespect for the woman of the house if her husband enters the kitchen while the meal is being prepared. Frying is the most common method of cooking meat in Somalia. Lamb or goat meat is considered the best meat to eat. Meat is combined with vegetables to make various types of stews.

Originally, oyster sauce is used for flavoring and provides authenticity of Chinese cuisines.. I think! But this time, I decided to make Chicken Ginger without oyster sauce because we were out of it , besides I could make it an Allergy-Free version who craves for the real taste of this wonderful chicken cuisines but can’t do shellfish - oyster, scallop, shrimp, squid and anything made from one of these. In my humble opinion, by using sesame oil for sauteing really gives the true taste of Chicken Ginger , and yes.. do not omit the ginger; that’s where the main flavor and aroma comes from. So make sure you have dark or light sesame oil in hands ;it can be found almost anywhere now.

The substitute I used in place for oyster sauce was based on my grandma’s whom I adore for her cooking soooo much, she is absolutely a great cook to the whole family. I guess everybody thinks their grandma’s foods are the best.MasyaAllah, my grandma doesn’t use oyster sauce much in her cooking yet still get the wonderful flavor and of course taste. She loves tamarind and palm sugar in most of her recipes . The idea of subbing these 2 ingredients came up then. Thanks grandma! I love you…!!

I forgot to measure each ingredients in detail because it was a quick ‘experiment’ . The good news is the Chicken Ginger turned out as good even though no oyster sauce added. The actual taste is still there.. alhamdulillah!

Ok, let’s see what we need to make No Oyster Sauce Chicken Ginger...Please adjust salt and sugar to your taste.

Chicken Ginger


To marinate:

1 1/2 lbs chicken breast , sliced

1/2 cube chicken bouillon

1 tsp. white pepper powder

1 Tbsp. cornstarch (See Notes)

Combine all together and marinate for 20 - 30 minutes in the refrigerator.

Mix together :

1 or 2 Tbsp. palm sugar

1/3 Cup thick tamarind juice

1/4 Cube chicken bouillon (See Notes)

Mix all until sugar and bouillon are completely dissolved.

Other fresh Ingredients:

2 Inches ginger root, thinly sliced

1 large yellow onion, roughly sliced

3 Cloves garlics, pounded

2 Tbsp. dark sesame oil ( See Notes)

1 Cup thinly sliced carrots

1 Cup green peppers , slice 3 inches length

1 Cup red peppers , slice 3 inches length

1Tbsp. Cornstarch mix in 1/4 - 1/3 Cup water

Salt , palm sugar and white pepper to taste ( See Notes)

Garnishing : Chopped green onions , fried shallot, toasted sesame seeds


Heat a medium sized pan on medium-high, drizzle 2 Tbsp sesame oil and let it heat for 1 minutes or 2.

Add in sliced ginger and marinated chicken and saute for 2 minutes. Stir every few minutes until the chicken just slightly crisp and fragrant from the ginger .( Do not cook the chicken too long especially chicken breast , this is to keep the chicken moist and tender)

Stir in the onions, peppers and carrots until they begin to soften. About 4 - 5 minutes. Pour the sweet sour mixture ( tamarind, palm sugar, chicken cube) , let it boil. Lower the heat to low , slowly pour cornstarch mixture, keep stirring to avoid lumps.Add more water if necessary . Let it thicken , add salt/sugar / white pepper to your taste. Garnish with chopped green onion, fried shallot and sprinkle sesame seeds on top.

Serve immediately with hot rice.

Served with hot jasmine rice

Notes Of The Day

  1. If you can’t use or out of cornstarch, replace with potato starch or sweet ( glutinous) rice flour . These too are great option to thicken your sauce.
  2. If you can’t find chicken cube ( the halal) in your place, vegetable bouillon would be find.
  3. Use Dark sesame oil for best result. light sesame works too. Like olive oil, grape seed oil and other low saturated fat oil… sesame seed oil provides health benefit to us and help lower cholesterol. If canola oil all you have, that’s find! .. it just the real flavor you will miss. Try not to use olive oil.. it works terribly.
  4. I didn’t have to add salt and extra sugar - chicken cube contains salt. I only had to add a little more white pepper - I wanted it hot and spicy.

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