Horn of Africa (Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia): Sambusa & Bajiya

Vendor: Horn of Africa null
City: Portland, Oregon

I’m in Portland for a couple days, visiting Beeta!

Beeta and I went to the Portland Saturday Market. There were tons of arts and crafts vendors sprawled around for several blocks, and a row of various food stands parallel to Willamette River.

Horn of Africa was a food stand that stood out most to me, as I had yet to try African food! Horn of Africa refers to the peninsula in Northeast Africa that includes the countries Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia.

I picked a small appetizer combo for brunch to share with Beeta. The combo allowed for two sambusas and a bajiya. Sambusa is a triangular pastry filled with beef, chicken, or organic green lentils, with fresh East African herbs and spices. Bajiya is a fried seasoned patty of ground garbanzos and split peas.

sambusa - 1 sambusa - 2

We had the chicken and lentil sambusas, as they had run out of beef. Horn of Africa also provided condiments; we got green chutney (not sure if it was coriander or cilantro..) and cucumber yogurt. Horn of Africa’s cucumber yogurt was different than the ones I’ve had at Indian and Middle Eastern restaurants. The cucumber was minced and not in chunks, so the yogurt had a hint of cucumber water in it.

Horn of Africa is next to the Middle East, which explains the many similarities in their cuisine with the neighboring regions (Middle East and Indian).

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Here’s some info on the triangular pastry, from Wikipedia:

A samosa /səˈmoʊsə/ or samoosa is a fried or baked pastry with savory filling, such as spiced potatoes, onions, peas, lentils and sometimes ground lamb, ground beef or ground chicken. They may or may not also contain pine nuts. The samosa originated in the Middle East where it is known as sambosa prior to the 10th century. They were introduced to South Asia (India, Pakistan) during the Muslim Delhi Sultanate when cooks from Middle East and Central Asia migrated to work in the kitchens of the Sultan and the nobility. Its size and consistency may vary, but typically it is distinctly triangular or tetrahedral in shape. Indian samosas are usually vegetarian, and often accompanied by a mint sauce or chutney. With its origins in Uttar Pradesh, they are a popular entree appetizer or snack in the local cuisines of South Asia, Southeast Asia, Central Asia and Southwest Asia, the Arabian Peninsula, the Mediterranean, the Horn of Africa and North Africa. Due to cultural diffusion and emigration from these areas, samosas are today also prepared in other global regions.

History

The samosa originated in the Middle East (where it is known as sambosa prior to the 10th century. Abolfazl Beyhaqi (995-1077), an Iranian historian mentioned it in his history, Tarikh-e Beyhaghi. It was introduced to the Indian subcontinent in the 13th or 14th century by traders from the Middle East. Amir Khusro (1253–1325), a scholar and the royal poet of the Delhi Sultanate, wrote in around 1300 that the princes and nobles enjoyed the “samosa prepared from meat, ghee, onion and so on”. Ibn Battuta, the 14th-century traveller and explorer, describes a meal at the court of Muhammad bin Tughluq, where the samushak or sambusak, a small pie stuffed with minced meat, almonds, pistachio, walnuts and spices, was served before the third course, of pulao. The Ain-i-Akbari, a 16th-century Mughal document, mentions the recipe for qutab, which it says, “the people of Hindustan call sanbúsah”.

Horn of Africa

Somali sambusas being deep fried Samosas are a staple of local cuisine in the Horn of Africa (Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia), where they are known as sambusa. While they can be eaten any time of the year, they are usually reserved for special occasions, such as Ramadan, Christmas and Meskel.

And more info on bajiya (or baijyo), from Xawash:

Bajiyas, are a regular fixture on iftar tables (breaking the fast in Ramadan), they are part of the Asariyo Quartet (one of the four essential elements of the Somali Afternoon Tea), and they are the ultimate street food. Whether you are in Mogadishu, Brava, Merca, Kismayu, and countless other cities in Somalia, you will find street peddlers selling bajiyas in the market. They are cheap and they don’t spoil easily.

Bajiyas also known as vadas in the Indian subcontinent, are made from black-eyed peas. In Brava, they were also made from azuki beans. Since it is important that bajiyas have some texture, the skins are removed from the peas after soaking them. If the peas were to be ground into a smooth paste, removing the skins would not have been necessary. Bajiyas, however, benefit from having a little coarse texture which makes them more crunchy.

It is a good idea to prepare a large batch of the crushed and skinned black-eyed peas (without the onions, tomatoes, garlic, etc). You can store them in small freezer bags for a couple of months. This way you can make tasty bajiyas at a moment’s notice.

Bajiyas are usually served with a spicy sauce, even though they are great just on their own. You can adjust the heat by using milder peppers and by reducing the quantity of seeds.

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