Today, we are headed for Djibouti for its famous skoudehkaris! This is the neighbour to yesterdays meal Zigni from Eritrea. Djibouti is located between Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia, Djibouti declared its independence from France in 1977. Located in the Horn of Africa, Djibouti was a French colony from 1842 until its independence in 1977, which explains the broad French influence in the cuisine from Djibouti.
Djiboutian cuisine also consists of a blend of Ethiopian, Somali, and Yemeni cuisine, with some South Asian influences. Popular Djiboutian dishes include sambusas (samosas), hah-fah (vegetable spiced soup with goat meat), yetakelt w’et (spicy vegetable stew), lahoh (flat bread), garoobey (oatmeal porridge), xalwo (Djiboutian halva), fatira (omelette made from bread and meat), banana fritters and skoudehkaris that we are featuring today and which is considered by most people as national dish. It is often eaten with injera, a teff flour bread, also famous in Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisines.
Just know that all Djiboutian dishes are accompanied by colorful spicy sauces… sometimes very spicy. Wine or alcoholic beverages are very rare in Djibouti because it is a country of Muslim tradition.
Skoudehkaris is a dish from Djibouti prepared with lamb, rice and the delicious flavors of cilantro, cumin and cardamom. A close cousin of Indian biryani, this dish is traditionally cooked with lamb but it is not uncommon in Djibouti to use beef, chicken or even seafood instead. For our skoudehkaris, a Thai rice will be perfect!
Djibouti is an important link and trade hub especially for landlocked Ethiopia. Aside from the international port facilities, another important source of revenue is the Addis-Ababa Railway. The railway was recently upgraded and is jointly owned by Ethiopia and Djibouti. This railway system is what delivers the daily supply of the mild stimulant called khat (or qat). Although many countries have banned khat as an illegal drug, Djibouti’s government continues to support the trade. The khat trade employs a tenth of the population and contributes a windfall to the government in taxes. Nearly all the men in Djibouti chew khat on a daily basis and it is considered an important part of the culture there. It creates a slight euphoria, suppresses appetite and increases concentration. Despite all this their unemployment rate is over fifty percent, which is often times blamed on this widespread khat use. Djiboutians love soccer and also a game called Pétanque, which is somewhat similar to bocce ball. At night you will find them playing under the street lights, all over the city. Running is also a popular trend and some great marathoners have come from the region.
The cuisine of Djibouti is influenced by her neighbors and of course France. Middle Eastern spices ranging from saffron to cinnamon are commonly used and they like their dishes spicy. Djiboutians often eat three meals a day with the midday meal, called qado, being the largest. Schools and work places are often closed for a couple of hours in the afternoon when the sun is the most intense. Stews with meats from camel, goat and sheep are served with a flat spongy-like bread, called canjeero. Rice, lentils and pastas are also common dishes, served with a hot berbere sauce or a buttery one, called niter kibbeh. The main celebrations are centered on religious holidays of the Muslim faith. Often whole animals are slaughtered for these special occasions. The feasts are typically “halal”, basically meaning that pork is forbidden and animals must be slaughtered by a Muslim in a certain way, while giving thanks to Allah. So let’s eat Djibouti cuisine:Skoudehkaris is delicious Djibouti food with captivating aromas, with the lamb version.
Ingredients - Serves 4
1 lb lamb shoulder (shank), cut into pieces
2½ cups rice
5 tomatoes , peeled, seeded and diced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 red onion , sliced
2 onions , finely chopped
4 cloves garlic , crushed
½ teaspoon chili powder
4 tablespoons ghee
1 teaspoon cumin
6 cardamom pods
2 pinches cinnamon
Salt and pepper
A few cilantro leaves , chopped