In my estimation, fadiirad is, ethnocentrically speaking, the local equivalent of a Tex-Mex burrito bowl, eaten from an aluminum take-away box on the street. The base of it, literally and figuratively, is a grilled bread called sabaayad, according to The Googles it’s similar to India’s paratha – a flat, flaky, oily, simple combination of flour, water, salt.
I’ve lived in Hargeisa for nearly three years, and learned a lot through trial and error and… more error. I can get around pretty well on my own, including at the market, diving in, finding what I need, negotiating a bit, and jumping back out. But there’s one section of the market I haven’t been able to wrap my mind around: Grain Alley. (This is a totally fabricated name that I established to reflect how intimidated I am by this place. It works, yes?). Grain Alley is lined on either side with giant sacks of legumes, cereals, and other dried goods. Vendors, all women dressed in colorful jilbab or wrapped in patterned scarves, sit perched atop their mountainous spreads , each sack not much farther than arms length… So, I’m reaching out, friends. Anybody out there a cereals/grains aficionado? Anyone cook regularly with these? What am I working with here?
If it’s camel milk you’re after, you’re in luck; head to the market at dawn or dusk and you’ll find the absolute freshest available, just after it’s milked, to cure whatever ails you. When my partner’s mother visited us earlier this year and fell ill, his father brought her fresh camel milk, with fervor of devotion, just after milking time morning and night, as she insisted it was the most effective tonic and quickest route to health. What you can hardly find unless you have the right connections, is fresh cow’s milk. Local stores carry massive canisters of the powdered variety, most often mixed into Somali tea or instant coffee. Some groceries have shelf-stable liquid milk, but this has simply been dehydrated into powder and then rehydrated again – a far cry from fresh. If you’re lucky, you’ll find non-dehydrated liquid cow’s milk in cardboard cartons in the refrigerated section of the most expensive groceries, but even that comes from abroad and, given the limitations of cold chain shipping in the region, I question its integrity. …
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 !!