About the Food of Djibouti

Djibouti: if you’re pronouncing the name of this African country right, English-speaking people will raise their eyebrows.

Try it out – “dja booty.”

The word has had endless inappropriate puns associated with it.

But let’s move past the unusual name… to the unusual food situation. According to doctor’s without borders, less than 1/2 of 1 percent of the small, arid landscape can be farmed. As a result, most food is imported and expensive. I’ve read accounts of eggs costing seven dollars a dozen. Seven dollars!

Meals are a blend of Middle Eastern, Somali, French, and other regional influences.

Imagine slaughtering your own meat. Would you have the stomach for it?

In Djibouti, the practice is fairly common – meat is purchased “living” and then, when feast day arrives, the animal is slaughtered and prepared. Lamb is particularly popular and is served in association with special holidays such as the Islamic one, Eid al-Adha. The national dish, called Skoudekharis, is a one pot dish of rice and includes generous portions of lamb [Recipe].

I found an incredible blog by the mom of an American family living in Djibouti; her accounts of the food are worth repeating. Here is her account of a typical meal for Eid al-Adha:

Our neighbors downstairs brought us a plate of ambabuur, a sugary, fried sour pancake dipped in runny yogurt. For fourteen Eids now, they have brought us this breakfast and I am always thankful they do, though we can never eat all of it. But I’m grateful for how they include us and welcome us into their holiday. Whenever they slaughter a sheep they also bring us platters of brightly dyed rice, boiled sheep, spicy sauce and salad.
Djibouti Jones

The brightly dyed rice is fairly common for festivals and lots of fun to make [Recipe]

Here’s another special meal – both the garoobey and the subag sounds fascinating:

On my right was the food table, cambaboor (a sort of sweet, fried, rancid pancake and sour yogurt), garoobey (like oats soaked in milk with cumin) and subag (runny butter cooked over charcoal and left buried in the ground to ferment).
-Djibouti Jones

Here are a few other day-to-day meals – love the term “grease-bomb” – Mr Picky would be all over that! The laxoox, however, is dear to my heart [Recipe]:

Shaah iyo furin or beer or laxoox for breakfast (tea and bread or liver or an injera-like flat bread), sugo or hilib iyo bariis for lunch (grease-bomb spaghetti or beef and rice), misir for dinner (beans), kalluun on Friday (fish). During holidays or in a particularly wealthy family, the menu may vary a bit more.
-Djibouti Jones

I get giddy inside when I come across these kinds of first hand accounts. They make me feel like I am sitting down for dinner in each of these countries. The bonus? Mrs. Jones is putting together a cookbook with her community in Djibouti. I, for one, am keeping my eyes on her blogspot!

Opt In Image
Hungry for more?
Be notified when National Geographic releases my memoir.

Simply fill in your details below.

Comments

  1. Sooo… does that mean you and Mr. Picky will be slaughtering a lamb on the front lawn??? :)

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Ha – no, I don’t think our urban setting would allow something like that… the neighbors might never recover.

  2. Collette Lemons says:

    I was raised to slaughter our own meat so it don’t bother me at all. I miss having fresh rabbit. When you grow up on a farm butchering is just all in a days work.

    Grandma raised chickens and we would get up at 4am and start butchering and would butcher around 100 at a time. Made for a long day sometimes but home grown free range chickens were a lot better than what you buy in a store.

  3. I can’t wait to see more about Djibouti. I know so very little about the country and the food.

  4. Looking at the map, Djibouti has miles of shoreline. I’m surprised seafood isn’t their main staple.

    • Sasha Martin says:

      While seafood is certainly available, most of the food I researched was focused on rice, grains, and meat for special occasions.

  5. We watched a very good TV show about Djibouti (a few months ago on French TV) and I learned a lot about the place. It used to be some sort of French “protectorat” in the old days… I’m from a military family and we had a classmate who came in the middle of the year, from Djibouti – there is no pun in French but we made it rhyme in the same style… now I wish I had asked this boy questions about the place !!
    I’ll keep an eye open as to the recipes and will check out the Djibouti Jones’s blog.

    • Sasha Martin says:

      I find it amazing how we can run into people from all over the world in school, at the store,… anywhere… it really is a small world.

  6. “Imagine slaughtering your own meat. Would you have the stomach for it?”
    Oh my! Before we started traveling, we kept chickens (for eggs), rabbits, goats and sheep (for fiber: angora, mohair and wool). And to keep numbers in check, we would butcher what we needed for dinner, and also raise the occasional pig and turkey for the same purpose.
    Like Collette says – homegrown is a lot better than store-bought, both for health and for taste.
    I do remember though, the first two baby goats we butchered (I shouldn’t say “we”): I delivered the goats, on leashes, to my husband who expected me to help do the job. When he pulled out the knife, I ran crying into the house and locked myself in the bedroom in tears! He had to do it all by himself!
    With time, though, I became quite proficient, myself. It might be a case of “food over mind”!

    • Sasha Martin says:

      I would have been right there with you, sobbing in the bedroom. I’m impressed with the fiber collecting, though… wow! What an amazing group of readers we have on this blog :)

Speak Your Mind

*