Cook with Chef Yahya!
My name is Yahya Noor, I am originally from Somalia. My family and I migrated to a refugee camp in Mombasa, Kenya the civil war. We had lived in the camp for many years and became accustomed to the daily living of survival.
In 1997, we were granted the status of refugees to the U.S. We have always dreamed to come to “the country where dreams become reality” when we landed in Michigan with my family. It was up to us to live the American dream.
It wasn’t easy to see those dreams to unravel, not like what we had seen in the movies that we watched in the “theater” in the camp, 10 inch black and white televisions stacked on top of each other. We had to become accustomed to a new culture which meant we had to learn a new language to gain the benefits and let some other things go. But one thing we have not let go of is the rich food we came with.
We come from a big family where cooking happens all day and every day. One of our dreams has always been able, to share the dishes that my siblings and I enjoyed every day to the world especially in the US where its a melting pot.
Somali food is a rich and spicy mix of flavors from the Horn of Africa, East Africa, the Middle East, India, and as far as Italy! Arab and Persian traders introduced their exotic spices, while Indian introduced paratha and samosa. The British, French and Italian colonialists influenced Somali cuisine with the addition of pasta, English pudding and pastries.
The nomadic nature of Somalis facilitated the transfer of new foods across the world, from Kenya, Yemen, to the UK. The civil unrest caused even more dispersion. Wherever they settled, Somalis morphed local cuisines into their food, creating a wonderful fusion of flavors.
In Somalia, plant-based food is considered “poor people’s plant”. Being however the most important pillar of our cuisine, I am going to share with you one of my favorite vegetarian staple food: the Somalian Qudar Maraq – our healthy and tasty Spinach and Garbanzo stew.
This stew has all the richness and abundance of flavors from the Horn of Africa, East Africa, the Middle East, India, and as far as Italy! It’s a combination of all these cultures that became a household of Somali cuisine. It comes from our family’s kitchen to your kitchen, it’s a very simple dish where it doesn’t require much skills in the kitchen if you know how to turn the stove on and off !