Archive for the Food / drink Category

Watermelon

Posted in Food / drink on April 28, 2011 by Home Strange Home

Juicy goodness.

My childhood is laced with memories of eating watermelon in the summertime… at barbecues, at the beach, at picnics, in the backyard. So it always puts a smile on my face when I eat watermelons here in Somaliland, called xabxab in Somali.

We are entering watermelon season, so you see more and more roadside and street-side stalls with towering piles of massive watermelons. You can buy a whole watermelon for about $3 or $4, or you can buy a slice of watermelon that the seller has chopped up for customers to eat on the spot.

Like most fruits and vegetables, the watermelons aren’t grown locally but are imported from more fertile Ethiopia. They are tremendously juicy– eating a few pieces is like drinking a glass of water! And they are way pinker and tastier than any of the bland, white-ish watermelons you’d buy in a supermarket back home.

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Fresh juice

Posted in Food / drink on April 26, 2011 by Home Strange Home

Guava juice, freshly pressed.

If you are big juice fan, you are in for a treat in Hargeisa. All over town there are places selling juice, from the small corner shop to the nice hotel. And we are not talking about boxed juice from concentrate here – it is juice that has been freshly squeezed that day. The flavours I’ve seen include orange, mango, papaya, guava, prickly pear, and the so-called “cocktail” (meaning a mix of different juices).

Just down the road from our house is a small shop with a comfortable seating area inside that sells juice, tea, drinks, sandwiches, sambosas, and other snacks. We go there often for an afternoon pick-me-up. The juice costs only 2,000 shillings ($0.33). Slurrrppp!

Laxoox

Posted in Food / drink on April 15, 2011 by Home Strange Home

Beats a bowl of cereal.

This traditional Somali breakfast food is a bit weird, although not quite as weird as it looks written down: laxoox. Pronounced “la-hoh” (with the “X” serving as a throaty H in Somali), this pancake-like flat bread makes for a filling breakfast. For 3,500 shillings ($.58), we were each brought 4 pancakes and a cup of super sweet tea.

Laxoox is similar to the Ethiopian bread injera, except that it is smaller and thinner, so that you are served several of them stacked together on a plate like pancakes or crepes. Laxoox is made from wheat flour, yeast, and water; it tastes a tad yeasty and sour like injera, but much less so, especially since it is served sweet, with melted butter or sweet tea poured on top.

Yes, they pour their tea directly on top of the laxoox to sweeten it!  Personally, I preferred to just sprinkle sugar on top.

Laxoox is usually only available at eateries early in the morning, so if you want it, get up in time!  The early bird gets the laxoox.

Butter in a can?

Posted in Food / drink on April 7, 2011 by Home Strange Home

Looking for butter? Check the canned goods section.

It’s funny how some foods – which I would consider to be staples back home – have now become specialty items for me since living here in Somaliland.

Take, for example, butter. I’ve only been able to find one place – a gas station with a mini-market inside – that sells fresh, refrigerated butter (Lurpak brand for $2.50). Really, any shop that even has a refrigerator, less dairy products stocked inside it, is already somewhat fancy.

What is more available (but still hard to come by, and again only for sale at the “nicer” stores) is… canned butter. Yes, you read that correctly. Butter in a can. Butter in a tin. Non-refrigerated, long-life butter. All the way from little old New Zealand.

Surprisingly, it seems to do the trick.

Other items which require a special trip to a nice store include sliced white bread, toilet paper, milk, peanut butter, cereal, jam, and chocolate. So next time you pop round to the corner shop, or swing by the 7-11, keep that in mind. You’re lucky to have butter.

Camel meat

Posted in Food / drink on April 4, 2011 by Home Strange Home

The Somali Master Chef typically emphasises presentation.

Having lived previously in Tunisia, I am no stranger to camel meat. But to the average person, eating camel probably sounds a bit weird, like eating dolphins or kittens or teddy bears.

Well, around here, there is nothing exceptional about it. If you ask a Somalilander what their country exports, the first (and probably only) answer you will get is “Livestock!”

Livestock herded and raised in Somaliland (including camels, goats, and sheep) are exported – through the port of Berbera on the Gulf of Aden – to countries such as Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the Emirates.

The first night I arrived in Somaliland, I was treated by my co-workers to a delicious camel burger barbecue. Camel meat is very tough, so grinding it into a patty makes it more tender. Now I just need to try drinking camel milk…

Somali sambusas

Posted in Food / drink on April 1, 2011 by Home Strange Home

A sambusa served up with class.

In case you haven’t gathered as much already, there are no fast food chains in Somaliland – no McDonald’s, no Starbucks, and no internationally recognised brand of fast food of any sort (even the ubiquitous branding of Coca Cola that is seen in many African countries is totally absent here… the logo has yet to invade Somaliland).

But if you’re feeling nippish, the Somali answer to fast food is the sambusa. These tasty snacks are sold all over the place in corner shops, street stalls, and dilapidated shacks. They are usually 500 Somaliland shilling a pop ($.10) and are unceremoniously served up to you on an old square of newspaper. If you’re lucky, you’ll get them piping hot. Given their small size, you can easily wolf down three or four in a minute or two.

What’s inside? It seems to vary substantially from place to place, but essentially it is a fried triangular pastry filled with some combination of minced meat, vegetables (potatoes, onions, peas, carrots, spinach, and the like), and spices (hot peppers, cumin, garlic, or cilantro).

Cheap Eats

Posted in Food / drink on March 16, 2011 by Home Strange Home

Waiter, what is the soup of the day?

You’ll be hard pressed to find a proper restaurant in Hargeisa, with the exception, perhaps, of several eating establishments within a handful of hotels that approach respectability. What you more commonly see is local, street-style “restaurants” which pretty much amount to a glorified shack with tables. The menu is usually non-existent, as they only serve one or two dishes at a time.

Don’t be fooled into a false pretext of variety by the cheerful paintings on the outside walls of the various dishes (supposedly) served – they are merely for decoration. They oddly remind me of a more primitive version of the sketchy food photographs in the windows of kebab shops and take aways in London (although the paintings here tend to be more appetising, perhaps because the restaurants here can’t base their entire business on only serving drunk people off the night bus).

If you can get over the dinginess and flies present in most of these places, the food is actually quite good. I’ve eaten some very flavourful Ethiopian food for the equivalent of $1 as well as a heaping plate of tasty pasta for $1. As people often eat with their hands, there is usually a sink in the restaurant and you are expected to wash your hands before you sit down to eat. The people working at the restaurant are generally quite friendly to foreigners, and serve you very hospitably.