Kick start your day with a traditional Somali breakfast at Salam Café, tucked away in the back streets of Auburn. That means spiced lamb liver or chopped lamb with capsicum, tomato and onion eaten with malawax sweet pancakes. Prefer to breakfast Sudanese-style? You’ll be served Sudanese foul, tender fava beans cooked with garlic and cumin garnished with jibna, the Sudanese version of fetta cheese.
The Arab influence on East African food can be spotted throughout the menu. The bariis mansaf is the Somali take on this traditional Arab dish, hunks of tender lamb served alongside basmati rice and salad. The lamb is seriously good, slow roasted so the bones only need a wiggle before they slide out clean. Dunk each piece in chilli sauce – a zingy housemade recipe of green and red chillies with vinegar – and savour between mouthfuls of the fragrant rice, which has been cooked in an aromatic stock and jewelled with raisins. Follow this up with sips of the side soup, clear but hearty, and bulked up with chunks of carrot and potato.
If you’re the kind of person who wants to try a bit of everything, get the Ethiopian and Somali cuisine combo. On one side of the plate you’ll score the Somali bariis mansaf lamb with rice; on the other you’ll travel to Ethiopia with doro wat chicken stew or qay wat beef curry strewn across enjera, that spongy and slightly sour crepe made from teff flour.
Vegetarians don’t miss out with a choice of two Ethiopian stews: the shiro wat made from ground chickpeas and peas, and the misir wat made from red split lentils. Both are served on enjera with simmered vegetables and salad.
There’s not much in the way of ambience in the large and sparse dining room but that doesn’t seem to bother the all-male crowd of happy, homesick ex-pats dining in on our visit.
And before you scratch your head over the appearance of spaghetti on the menu, know that pasta or baasto, is a huge part of Somali cuisine as a result of Italian colonisers. Here it’s spiced lamb served on either plain or fried spaghetti