About The Somali Kitchen
Somali food is as surprising as the desert rose that blooms in the arid Somali landscape. Somali food is a rich and spicy mix of flavours from the Horn of Africa, East Africa, the Middle East, India, and as far as Italy!
Arab and Persian traders who founded the ancient coastal towns of Mogadishu, Barawa, Marca and Kismayo introduced rice, garlic, coriander, chilli, cumin, cloves and many other spices. Indian traders introduced paratha (sabaayad in Somali) and samosa, spicy triangular shaped pastries stuffed with either meat or vegetables.
The British, French and Italian colonialists influenced Somali cuisine with the addition of pasta, the ubiquitous English pudding and delicious croissants and delicate pastries sold in Djiboutian patisseries.
The nomadic nature of Somalis, a Cushitic people who live in the horn of Africa, also facilitated the transfer of new foods. Some of our relatives left Somalia and settled in Kenya, Tanzania or Uganda. Others went to the Arab countries of Yemen, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and as far afield as the United Kingdom and Italy.
The civil unrest in Somalia caused even more dispersion of the Somali people. Wherever Somalis settled Somali food incorporated elements of the local peoples’ cuisine. In Australia many cook with local olive oil and not the traditional Somali subag (ghee or clarified butter). In Canada, Somalis enjoy ready-made buur canjeero (fermented dough mix to make the canjeero pancake). Somalis in Kenya and Tanzania follow the Swahili custom of grating fresh coconuts using a traditional grater called mbuzi.
So while the influence or method of making certain dishes may not be Somali in origin it is what some Somalis cook in their kitchens. The Somali Kitchen aims to present this wonderful fusion of food and flavours that we have appropriated, changed and morphed into something wonderful and Somali.
We are based in Melbourne, Australia – undoubtedly the foodie capital of Australia and a city that has embraced cultures and flavours from all over the world.
I started The Somali Kitchen because it was a great way to combine my passions – food, cooking, eating, writing and Somali culture.
Somalis are renowned for their love of meat. You could say it is in our DNA, but these genes gave me a miss as I am that rarity among Somalis – a vegetarian! I have been vegetarian ever since my childhood. My relatives are always trying to convert me to become ‘a real Somali’, but so far they haven’t been very successful. But fear not as I do know how to cook meat and won’t deprive you of meat recipes!
My love for food and cooking came from my beloved parents who ran a popular Somali restaurant. However, it was my grandmother who taught me to love my Somali culture and heritage. Ayeyo Xaawo was a tough nomad from the Somali deserts with a massive store of wonderful stories.
The second biggest influence on my cooking was Mama Hamida, an Indian neighbor who was like my second mother. She used to feel sorry for this little Somali boy who couldn’t eat meat and would often bring me something vegetarian. Through Mama Hamida I learnt to cook with curry leaves, turmeric and mustard seeds – spices that Somalis don’t usually use.
However, it is my dear wife, Shukri, who keeps me constantly inspired to write about Somali food. She cooks with me and shares her recipes and ideas with me. You can read a bit more about Shukri below. The Somali Kitchen would not be where it is without her contribution.
I started cooking when I was nine years old and learnt how to make traditional Somali dishes like suqaar (diced meat with green peppers) and bariis iskukaris (a rice dish) from my mother.
I spent my weekends cooking up a storm cooked for the family. I would write recipes from my mother, aunties and friends in a big black book that is the source of the tried and tested recipes I share on The Somali Kitchen.
My parents left Somalia when I was still a baby and we settled in the ancient city of Mombasa, a melting pot for immigrants from Iran, Portugal, Oman, Yemen, Somalia and the Indian sub- continent, who came mainly as traders and skilled craftsmen.
I like to infuse my mother’s tasty Somali food with memories of Mombasa’s narrow streets filled with the aromatic scents of pilau (spiced rice), fish cooked in coconut sauce and fried cassava. The result is a melange – a bit of Somali and a bit of Swahili to make something that I hope you will find yummy!
This site is dedicated to Somalis wherever they are and anyone who loves taking the path less travelled. I hope that you will enjoy the recipes just as much as we and the many wonderful people who contribute to The Somali Kitchen enjoy sharing them with you.
Stay in touch
Want to contribute to The Somali Kitchen?
There is nothing I’d love more than to hear from another Somali who wants to share a recipe or add a detail or two to published recipes. Get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org