>> Banadir Somali Restaurant | Eat the World LA

Sunday, 17 February 2019

Banadir Somali Restaurant

SOMALIA 🇸🇴

With the passing of Madinah Restaurant, which was not too far away in Inglewood, Banadir seems to be left holding the torch for Somali food in Los Angeles. Named for the administrative region of Mogadishu, thankfully the lone outpost on Arbor Vitae always seems to be active and loved, full of patrons settling into oversized plates of meat and rice, talking over tea, and laughing.

The walls here are always painted in bold colors, I seem to remember a bright orange at one time but currently they are shades of purple. The small awning outside and the background for the menu in the entrance room use the blue from Somalia's flag, which also features a simple white star in the center.


This menu serves in place of anything on paper, broken up into concise options for breakfast and lunch/dinner. If you happen to come during breakfast hours, meals like chicken suqaar, a dish of cubed chicken seasoned with Somali spices (xawaash) and stir-fried with vegetables are served with a choice between anjera and malawah, the breads eaten in Somalia.

For lunch and dinner the starch switches primarily to a wonderfully simple yet flavorful basmati rice. You can again order chicken suqaar or change to beef, goat, lamb, or fish. The plate of rice & goat meat ($11.99, below) shown here was a portion for one person but can easily feed more. If you order more than one, they will combine them on a larger plate as the experience of eating should be communal as per Somali custom. Silverware shows up without asking for non-Somali patrons, but really you should be eating with your hands.


A small vessel of green basbaas cagaar arrives with the meal, a green pepper sauce that can add a little heat to any dish and always mixes perfectly with the rice. In Somalia, diners prefer their hot sauces served this way, allowing each person to tune their meal as desired. Dishes like this goat and almost everything in the country are bursting with flavors but mild in heat.

I did not ask about the availability, but I do not think Banadir advertises the quirky combination of spaghetti and rice known as "federation" that is also eaten with their stews and meats. Since they do offer the pasta (baasto), it should be possible. Somali food works like this in multiple realms, pasta first arrived under Italian rule in the 1880's and the same goes for bits under British rule. Trade ships to and from India always made calls into Somali ports, whose cuisine is full of Indian influence these days.


Cups of shaah bigay (above), a Somali spiced tea are available in the front, feel free to help yourself. The tea is sweet as well, with the most forward spice being cardamon. You can take it while eating, but typically you would enjoy this after your meal.

One thing that went missing from this last dinner was the ubiquitous banana, a part of every Somali meal I had ever eaten to this point. Maybe there were too many instances of non-Somalis not knowing what to do with it like that reporter dining in Minneapolis? I blame it on him, for I sorely missed the fruit.

🇸🇴🇸🇴🇸🇴

Z

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