Quantcast
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Meat Treat

Place

African Spice Restaurant

4348 54th Street, 1, San Diego




“Camel meat,” sighs Mukhtar. “That’s what I miss most. It’s the meat treat in Somalia. Here, I think it’s not even legal.”

He grabs a piece of banana. Of course, if there’s one thing apart from camel meat that says “Somalia,” it’s banana. It goes with everything. “That’s because we have a sweet tooth,” Mukhtar says.

Down the hall, the faithful are gathering for one of the day’s five prayers. I feel a little guilty. Here I am at their restaurant, feeding my face.

This is at the Safari Market, maybe 35 stalls, little shops in an ex-supermarket. It’s an East African bazaar loaded with Somali and other African clothing stores, barber and beauty shops, music stores pumping with African music, stores that sell perfumed oils and, hey, best of all, food.

I’d spotted the Safari Market on my way to the County Health and Human Services offices, almost next door. Had a cuppa Somali tea there once. Hmm...time for a Somali snack? Bet they have goat. I head in, surrounded by Somalis heading to the mosque end of the place.

“Any goat left today?” I ask the cheery guy behind the counter, Ahmed. You get lunch for $7, which covers everything. Rice, spaghetti, goat meat, beef, fried chicken, roast chicken, salad — as much as they can fit into your polystyrene box.

“Just enough goat left,” says Ahmed. He starts shoveling out the last remaining ribs and bits of leg bone, with dark roasted meat on them, from a chafing dish. He adds a big deep-fried chicken drumstick. Then slabs of roasted chicken. Then — heavens — beef, rice, spaghetti, salad, a quartered lime, and some green hot sauce, and on top of everything, a banana. That’s the Somali way.

“Something to drink?” he asks.

“Is that included?”

“Of course. Everything is included in the toddoba dollars.”

That’s “seven” in Somali.

I almost ask for the tea I had last time. It was delicious, creamy and sweet, with cardamom, ginger, and cinnamon. Cost $1. But today I go for a large cup of mango juice and head off toward the television at the end of African Spice’s row of Formica-topped tables. It’s showing news — Al Jazeera — right now. Some kids follow me. Ismail, who’s nine, tries to teach me how to say “tea” — ami shah — and “What is your name?” Mugya al? I think that is.

That’s when Mukhtar turns up and plunks his box of lunch on the table. He looks about 25. We both start in. Me, to the goat. First taste makes me think of venison crossed with lamb. I mix it up a bit with the beef and the chicken. Then I twist some of the fine spaghetti onto my fork. Ahmed’s red-speckled green hot sauce perks up the baasto, as Somalis call spaghetti.

“That’s an urban thing, in Somalia, hot sauce,” Mukhtar says. “Country people have never known it.”

Mukhtar, turns out, is a rising star in the community, a student at SDSU. “I’ve never had a chance like this before,” he says. “Three years ago, I was just surviving in Kenya. It was full of bandits over there. The police were corrupt. They targeted Somalis. It was the worst place I’ve ever been. Now, here I am. You don’t know how good it feels.”

We’re sitting at the first table in African Spice’s row. One or two elderly men in robes sit in the green-and-maroon couches, watching, sipping chai.

I ask Mukhtar what he misses about home.

“First, my wife and two kids. They are in Somalia, waiting for me to succeed.”

The second thing is camel meat. The attraction is as much about texture as flavor. “Good camel meat is so tender,” Mukhtar says dreamily. They say it tastes like lamb, only stronger. Or even horse meat. And meat from the hump of a young camel is the bomb.

“Somali food is all about meat,” Mukhtar says. “We often have liver for breakfast, meat for lunch, though maybe only beans in the evening.”

Meanwhile, my goat is just fine. They say it’s all in the aging. But I don’t taste any gaminess. It’s like…buffalo? Sounds crazy, but it tastes nuttier than, say, beef. Whatever, I can’t eat any more. With the rice, spaghetti, the other meats, and the salad, I’m beat before I get halfway. This baby is two meals.

I close the box and head back out to mainstream America, though not before buying a few of the triangular chicken-stuffed sambusas (75 cents each) for Carla and a square of xalwo, the delicious red, cinnamonish Somali jelly dessert ($1).

Note to self: Call USDA. Tell them to legalize camel.

The Place: African Spice restaurant, in the Safari Market, 4348 54th Street (at El Cajon Boulevard), 619-342-5945
Type of Food: Somali
Prices: Breakfast anjera (spongy fermented Somali bread), $1; lunch/dinner plates, all $7, includes choice of (or combo of) roasted goat, deep-fried chicken, roasted chicken, beef, rice, spaghetti, salad, bananas, and drink; also available (depending on supply), lamb, tilapia ($7); sambusa (deep-fried spring-roll-type triangular pastry pockets with spices, vegetables, beef, or chicken), 75 cents each; Somali cardamom and cinnamon-flavored ginger tea, $1
Hours: 8:00 a.m.–8:30 p.m., seven days
Buses: 1, 1A, 15, 955
Nearest Bus Stop: El Cajon Boulevard and 54th Street

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

San Diego skateboarders – bad boys of the lock-down

Caught at Aquatica and Mount Soledad
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Place

African Spice Restaurant

4348 54th Street, 1, San Diego




“Camel meat,” sighs Mukhtar. “That’s what I miss most. It’s the meat treat in Somalia. Here, I think it’s not even legal.”

He grabs a piece of banana. Of course, if there’s one thing apart from camel meat that says “Somalia,” it’s banana. It goes with everything. “That’s because we have a sweet tooth,” Mukhtar says.

Down the hall, the faithful are gathering for one of the day’s five prayers. I feel a little guilty. Here I am at their restaurant, feeding my face.

This is at the Safari Market, maybe 35 stalls, little shops in an ex-supermarket. It’s an East African bazaar loaded with Somali and other African clothing stores, barber and beauty shops, music stores pumping with African music, stores that sell perfumed oils and, hey, best of all, food.

I’d spotted the Safari Market on my way to the County Health and Human Services offices, almost next door. Had a cuppa Somali tea there once. Hmm...time for a Somali snack? Bet they have goat. I head in, surrounded by Somalis heading to the mosque end of the place.

“Any goat left today?” I ask the cheery guy behind the counter, Ahmed. You get lunch for $7, which covers everything. Rice, spaghetti, goat meat, beef, fried chicken, roast chicken, salad — as much as they can fit into your polystyrene box.

“Just enough goat left,” says Ahmed. He starts shoveling out the last remaining ribs and bits of leg bone, with dark roasted meat on them, from a chafing dish. He adds a big deep-fried chicken drumstick. Then slabs of roasted chicken. Then — heavens — beef, rice, spaghetti, salad, a quartered lime, and some green hot sauce, and on top of everything, a banana. That’s the Somali way.

“Something to drink?” he asks.

“Is that included?”

“Of course. Everything is included in the toddoba dollars.”

That’s “seven” in Somali.

I almost ask for the tea I had last time. It was delicious, creamy and sweet, with cardamom, ginger, and cinnamon. Cost $1. But today I go for a large cup of mango juice and head off toward the television at the end of African Spice’s row of Formica-topped tables. It’s showing news — Al Jazeera — right now. Some kids follow me. Ismail, who’s nine, tries to teach me how to say “tea” — ami shah — and “What is your name?” Mugya al? I think that is.

That’s when Mukhtar turns up and plunks his box of lunch on the table. He looks about 25. We both start in. Me, to the goat. First taste makes me think of venison crossed with lamb. I mix it up a bit with the beef and the chicken. Then I twist some of the fine spaghetti onto my fork. Ahmed’s red-speckled green hot sauce perks up the baasto, as Somalis call spaghetti.

“That’s an urban thing, in Somalia, hot sauce,” Mukhtar says. “Country people have never known it.”

Mukhtar, turns out, is a rising star in the community, a student at SDSU. “I’ve never had a chance like this before,” he says. “Three years ago, I was just surviving in Kenya. It was full of bandits over there. The police were corrupt. They targeted Somalis. It was the worst place I’ve ever been. Now, here I am. You don’t know how good it feels.”

We’re sitting at the first table in African Spice’s row. One or two elderly men in robes sit in the green-and-maroon couches, watching, sipping chai.

I ask Mukhtar what he misses about home.

“First, my wife and two kids. They are in Somalia, waiting for me to succeed.”

The second thing is camel meat. The attraction is as much about texture as flavor. “Good camel meat is so tender,” Mukhtar says dreamily. They say it tastes like lamb, only stronger. Or even horse meat. And meat from the hump of a young camel is the bomb.

“Somali food is all about meat,” Mukhtar says. “We often have liver for breakfast, meat for lunch, though maybe only beans in the evening.”

Meanwhile, my goat is just fine. They say it’s all in the aging. But I don’t taste any gaminess. It’s like…buffalo? Sounds crazy, but it tastes nuttier than, say, beef. Whatever, I can’t eat any more. With the rice, spaghetti, the other meats, and the salad, I’m beat before I get halfway. This baby is two meals.

I close the box and head back out to mainstream America, though not before buying a few of the triangular chicken-stuffed sambusas (75 cents each) for Carla and a square of xalwo, the delicious red, cinnamonish Somali jelly dessert ($1).

Note to self: Call USDA. Tell them to legalize camel.

The Place: African Spice restaurant, in the Safari Market, 4348 54th Street (at El Cajon Boulevard), 619-342-5945
Type of Food: Somali
Prices: Breakfast anjera (spongy fermented Somali bread), $1; lunch/dinner plates, all $7, includes choice of (or combo of) roasted goat, deep-fried chicken, roasted chicken, beef, rice, spaghetti, salad, bananas, and drink; also available (depending on supply), lamb, tilapia ($7); sambusa (deep-fried spring-roll-type triangular pastry pockets with spices, vegetables, beef, or chicken), 75 cents each; Somali cardamom and cinnamon-flavored ginger tea, $1
Hours: 8:00 a.m.–8:30 p.m., seven days
Buses: 1, 1A, 15, 955
Nearest Bus Stop: El Cajon Boulevard and 54th Street

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Will California let home owners save the beach?

Patricia Bates bill will let individuals armor the bluffs
Next Article

Will California let home owners save the beach?

Patricia Bates bill will let individuals armor the bluffs
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer News — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close