Somali cuisine is strongly influenced by the culinary cultures of Ethiopia, Yemen, Iran, Turkey, India and Italy. Moreover, as most Somali tribes are Muslim, the cuisinehas adapted to the precepts of hallal food.
One of the most important meals in Somalia is the breakfast, called quraac. The day begins with shaah, a kind of tea. The main elements of the breakfast are the lahoh, as well as the mishaari, a kind of porridge. In the north of the country, people eat another kind of flat bread, that is thicker, called rooti.
Across the country, another type of lahoh, sweeter and much fatter is called malawax. It is similar to the Yemenite malawach.
The qado (Somali lunch) is often rich in the most exotic dishes. Different types of rice, especially basmati, are often served with the main course. Spices such as cumin, cardamom, clove, cinnamon and sage are used to flavor various rice dishes. In southern Somalia, it is quite common to use a mixture of rice and vegetables, and sometimes even meat, called iskudhexkaris, much like the Indian biryani, the Omani chicken majboos, or the arroz con pollo from Latin America and the Caribbean.
The most popular dish of the casho, the Somali dinner, is the cambuulo. It consists of boiled azuki beans mixed with butter and sugar and a glass of spicy milk with cardamom. The same azuki red beans are used in many Asian cuisines such as Japanese, Chinese, and Korean cuisines. Sambuusa, the Somali version of the South Asian samosa, is probably the most popular snack in Somalia.
Gashaato, a famous coconut treat, is one of the most popular desserts.
What is lahoh?
Lahoh is a flatbread that is not only popular in Somalia but also in neighboring countries like Yemen, Ethiopia or Djibouti. It is a cousin of the ubiquitous flat bread from Ethiopia and Eritrea called injera. Indeed, injera is prepared in much the same way as lahoh, with the difference that the injera is made from teff flour, a cereal that is close to millet.
Lahoh is a flatbread that can be eaten both in a savory version with bisbas (traditional spice blend from Yemen) or s’hug (hot pepper-based condiment). It is also the key ingredient of shafout (spicy yogurt). Lahoh can also be eaten sweet as pancakes with honey or sugar.
How to make lahoh
The steps for the preparation of lahoh are not too complicated. First, you have to start 3 days in advance. Indeed, this flat bread is prepared with a sourdough starter. This starter is made only with flour (regular and whole wheat), water and yeast. This preparation is covered and left at room temperature to ferment for 3 days. This is what gives this bread such a characteristic sour taste.
“Waa canjeera kulul ! Waa canjeera kulul ! Nin cawa leh iyo cawaalaa cuna Gaaridooy gado Geesiga uggeey Haku-guuxee !”
Anjero Hot Anjero! Hot ! Happy whoever gets it! Happy the one who eats it! Good women, buy it! Give it to your knight to roar like a lion!
There is not one person in Somalia who does not hear these words when they wake up at dawn. The street vendors speak of a lion, but who is this lion? In Somali families, the husband is compared to a lion, the king of animals. This lion is of course the husband who enjoys a privileged status in the house.
What is the origin of lahoh?
Im Somalia, canjeera, canjeero and anjero (the other names of the lahoh) mean “a slap”.
Every night, before the towns and villages of Somaliland fall asleep, you will hear very rhythmic sounds resembling slaps: the characteristic sound of mixing anjero dough. It is slapped! In Somalia, this sound is comforting and reassuring and allows you to rest easy, knowing that the next day’s meal is almost ready. These rhythmic sounds as well as the vendors’ cries that resonate early in the morning really reflect the urban soundscape of Somalia.
Flat breads around the world
Around the world, flatbreads include a huge range of recipes and sizes, shapes and textures.
These breads, traditionally consumed in the Near East and Asia, are also popular in some Mediterranean regions, in the Arabian Peninsula and in the Indian subcontinent.
The flat bread dough is very versatile because it can be prepared from several types of flours, including gluten-free flours, which gives a different consistency.
- ½ cup water
- ⅓ cup white flour
- ⅓ cup whole wheat flour
- 1 teaspoon yeast
- 1 cup cornmeal
- 1 cup white flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon dry yeast (optional)
- ¼ cup white flour
- ¾ cup water
Make a starter by mixing together the white flour, whole wheat flour, yeast and water. Add the water slowly to prevent lumps.
- Let the starter sit covered, but not sealed, on the counter for 3 days.
- The second day the starter should be bubbling and yeasty smelling.
- On the third day all yeast activity should subside and the mixture should smell sour and a brown liquid will be separated on top.
- If you do not want to use the mixture on the third day, simply place it in the fridge and feed it with flour and water periodically.
- To make the dough, mix together the starter, cornmeal, white flour, salt, yeast. Mix well and knead for 5-10 minutes until dough is soft and pliable.
- If the dough is too crumbly, add water a tablespoon at a time. Don’t add too much water, it should be similar to a bread dough.
- Let the dough rise for 30-40 minutes.
Start making the sharaba by mixing together the white flour and water. Add the water very slowly and mix in between to prevent lumps.
- Heat on low-medium heat while mixing constantly. The mixture will suddenly begin to thicken up. When the water has evaporated and you are left with a paste, it is finished.
Mix the sharaba into the dough. Then add ¾ cup (200ml) of warm water. Mix well. The batter should be very thin, similar to crepe batter.
- Cover and let sit for 15-30 minutes, or until tiny bubbles appear.
- Preheat your cooking surface on medium. Use a stone cooking surface, such as a pizza stone, bread stone, or unglazed quarry tiles. Simply place the stone on top of a cast iron griddle so the open flame doesn’t crack the stone.
- Grease the cooking surface slightly with a brush or paper towel. Put some batter into a cup with a spout. Start pouring the batter in a large circle shape, starting from the outside of the pan and make a spiral motion with the batter until you reach the inside.
- Cook only on one side until the batter is dry on top and the edges are easy to peel up. On one side the lahoh should be golden brown and smooth and the other should have many tiny holes.
- Place flat breads out on surface to cool down.
- Repeat until all batter is used.