I have never tried Somalian food before. In fact, I didn’t even really know what it was until I came across a restaurant in Toronto with dozens of positive reviews. Naturally, being the curious cat that I am, I went to check it out with some friends.
Perusing over the menu, it seemed like a fusion of different items. It seemed like typical Middle Eastern fare at first, but it also had some items that I’ve never seen mixed together before like pasta with kebobs. Needless to say, I was intrigued.
First, we ordered a beef samosa which they call sambuus.
It has the shape of a regular samosa you can find in many Indian stores or restaurants, but it had a completely different taste. The crust seemed like a spring roll pastry instead of the usual flaky, crusty type. Most samosas I’ve eaten have a curry flavour to it (whether it be the regular potato or meat samosa), but this one had an aromatic taste to it. It was filled with loads of onions, ground beef and various spices. It came out hot and fresh and wasn’t that spicy until I dipped it into some of the green sauce (shown above), which the server called basbaas. He said it is made of green chilis, which would explain the sudden flash of heat in my mouth when I bit into it.
For my entrée, I ordered a chicken kebob and beef kofte platter with rice and salad. It came with a small container of the basbaas (hidden behind the plate) and a sweet, slightly spicy red sauce (perhaps tamarind?).
A kebob is a skewer of meat chunks and is usually marinated prior to being cooked. Kofte is the long log of spiced ground meat. Every time I order chicken or beef, I’m always afraid of getting dry, tasteless meat. However, it was quite the contrast. Both types were moist and super flavourful. It was refreshing to have a side of lettuce, tomatoes and onions with some ranch-like sauce. The basmati rice was well seasoned too.
Going with a group, one ordered a chicken shawarma wrap (not pictured) and I was able to try a piece. The meat was so succulent it just melted in my mouth. Another friend ordered a chicken kebob platter that came with hummus, babaganoush (mutabbal) and an interesting looking traditional Somali bread (muufo). It looked pretty good, considering it seemd quite healthy. The last friend got the lamb platter and it was so good that she had to apologize because she wanted to use her hands to get into the meat (which I think is a good sign). We would have ordered dessert, but the platters were such generous portions that even sharing was more than enough.
What types of desserts did they have? The menu surprisingly had things that I didn’t expect to find, like upside-down pineapple cake (doolsho cananass) and donuts (graffe). They looked so tempting, but it was just too much food for one sitting. It didn’t help that the restaurant (strategically) placed small televisions by every table with all their dishes flashing right before our eyes as we ate. It was like brainwashing, but I thought it was also a smart way to advertise their menu.
Overall, my impression of Somalian food is that it is a fusion of Middle Eastern food with various cultural influences. It makes sense, seeing as Somalia is located on the eastern coast of Africa. The cuisine we had was very enjoyable, so I will definitely go back to try some more. Perhaps next time I’ll work backwards and start with dessert!
130 Queens Plate Dr #1
Etobicoke, Ontario M9W 0B4