Cuisine of Somaliland

Cuisine of Somaliland

The Cuisine of Somaliland is a mixture of Ethiopian, Middle eastern and a few Italian influences but also different in diet and lifestyle. The cuisine of Somaliland and other parts of Somalia are largely similar, although there are a few differences. Somali cuisine dates back to colonial and nomadic eras which makes it important to Somali lifestyle.


In Somali culture, it is considered polite for guests to leave a little bit of food on their plate after finishing a meal provided by their host. This shows that the guest was given enough food. If a guest were to clean their plate, that would indicate that he or she is still hungry. Fortunately, most Somalis don't take this rule seriously, but it is certainly not impolite to leave a few crumbs of food on one's plate.

As virtually all Somalis are Muslims, their cuisine incorporates Islamic dietary customs. All food is required to be Halal. Muslims are prohibited from eating pork and so Somaliland cuisine uses no pork. Muslims are also prohibited from drinking alcohol in all forms. Muslims must fast throughout the Islamic month of Ramadan.

Neighboring countries' cuisines are incorporated by Somalis in their diet. For example, Injera which is eaten in border areas along Somaliland and Somalia. Some Somalis living in the Saaxil region of Somaliland/Somalia enjoy eating Yemeni cuisine.

Daily lifestyle

People usually begin the day with a flat bread called laxoox, 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. When Italy ruled the Somaliland, they brought some of their cuisine, for example "Pasta Al Forno" (in Somali language, "Paasto Forno"} and they also planted bananas in the south of the region. During lunch, the diet may consist of a traditional soup called "maraq" (It is also part of Yemen cuisine) made of vegetables, meat and beans and usually eaten with flat bread or pitta bread. The evening meal is very light and might include beans, Ful medames, muffo (patties made of oats or corn) or a chapathi-like bread called Sabayad, hummus or a salad with more laxoox.

Somalis adore spiced tea. A minority of Somalis drink a tea similar to Turkish tea which they brought from Middle eastern countries to their homeland. However, the majority drink a traditional and cultural tea known as "Shah Hawaash" because it is made of cardamom (in Somali, "Xawaash" or "Hayle"} and cinnamon bark (in Somali, "Qoronfil").

During Ramadan, Somalis are required to fast from sunrise to sunset. The women of the house make the Iftar (Somali "Afuro") which may be a huge meal depending on the size of the family. The fast is broken by first eating dates and water. Afterwards, they eat pastries called "Samboosa" (similar to samosa) filled with either vegetables, mincemeat, chicken with spices or lamb. Afterwards they drink a fruit smoothie or again water. This is followed by soup, rice, pasta or meat.

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 frequently eat rice, which is imported.

Favourite meats are goat, chicken, Camel, sheep or lamb, and to a lesser extent, beef. Only young male animals or female animals 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 (sometimes as high as one metre) may be slaughtered for this food.


Somalis usually do not serve dessert at the end of a meal, however there are a few Somali desserts; sit might be served during special occasions or when hosting guests. Somali desserts include "Shushumoo" (Somali cookies), "Buskud/Buskut" (biscuits for Ramadan}, "Xalwo" (Somali jelly made out of sugar, honey and sometimes peanuts), "keek" (Somali cake), "Sisin" (sesame bars), "Loos" (peanut bars), "Qumbe"/"Qumbo" (coconut bars) and "Sambus" (Somali pastries).

"Xalwad" or "Xalwo" is a Somali jelly-like sweet that is by far the most popular dessert. The "Xalwo" is made of basic ingredients: sugar, water and cornflour Sometimes, "Loos" (which is Somali for peanuts) is added. If the flavour is still not sweet (even though the Xalwo is very sweet generally with those basic ingredients) Cardamom seeds and Cinnamon are added to boost the intense flavour of the dessert. This dessert is eaten during Eid, Somali weddings and/or special occasions.

Arabized Somalis generally eat Middle eastern desserts like baklava, falafels and other sweets.


It is traditional for Somalis to perfume their homes after meals. Frankincense (in Somali, "Lubaan"} or a special man-made incense called "unsi" (in Arab countries it is called Bukhoor, this also may be used) is placed on top of hot coal inside the Dabqaad which will burn continuously for about ten minutes until the "luban" or "unsi" is completely consumed. This will keep the house fragrant for hours. The pot is made from a white clay that is found in areas of southern and northern Somalia.

External links

* Cuisine of Somalia
* [ Somalis Eating the Somali Way]
* [ A Taste of Somaliland]
* [ Somali Restaurant Review]

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