Like most cross-cultural foods, there are a zillion and one recipes for loxoox, from Somalia and Somaliland to Djibouti, Yemen, and even as far as Israel. Locally, loxoox is eaten for breakfast with Somali tea, or honey and goat ghee, or olive oil. Oftentimes , Somali breakfasters plop a small stack of loxoox on a plate and pour tea right on top of it. Usually cooked on a cast iron skillet with a thin veneer of vegetable oil rubbed across it using a folded piece of loxoox, the batter is drizzled onto the center of the pan and then pushed outwards in a circular motion with a spoon, spatula, or the bottom of a cup, creating a beautiful swirl.
I used this method instead of a recipe for biscuits, which is beginning to feel strikingly apt as a metaphor for life right now. No recipe. Barely following the rules. Outcome unknown. Fingers crossed for something edible.
After I climbed atop a chair to snap a few images, they generously offered to share, and we squeezed fresh lime juice over the dish and dipped torn pieces of baguette into the thick mixture, interspersing spicy bites with steaming sips of sweet Somali tea.
For millions (billions?) around the world, there’s nothing especially thrilling about this bread. But I cherish those foods that reach across continents, and infiltrate entire hemispheres, because of their practicality and facility as a template for local iterations.
A squadron of chefs from China pitched a restaurant concept to the Somali owners of a Hargeisa cafe. Their mission was to impress; ours was to stuff ourselves.
With contributions from staff, chef supreme Xukun prepares a daily office lunch. Our mid-day fare ranges from Somali standards like spiced rice and camel meat, to lentil stews, to my personal favorite, fried fish with chapati. Chapati is a bit time consuming, as it’s prepared piece by piece on the stove. But today we lucked out–Xukun turned out round after round of flaky bread. Around 1pm, we tucked into a goat stew, a creamy mix of chard, onions, and peas, along with chapati hot off the skillet, and salad. As they say around here, Qado wanaagsan – Bon appetit !!