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Skoudekharis – Djibouti National Dish – Day 86/Dish 50

April 12, 2010

Hello Adventurers!  With a full belly and memories of our journey by train, it is time once again to leave the European continent and explore warmer shores.  Unfortunately our next destination cannot be reached by train, so we need to link back up with our ship.  A quick train ride back to the head of the Adriatic Sea and we are ready to sail.  This journey is shortened considerably by the Suez Canal, without which we would need to circumnavigate the massive continent of Africa.  Instead, we can pass through the canal and sail to the mouth of the Red Sea where it enters the Gulf of Aden and land at the port city of Djibouti City.  Djibouti is our next destination and for sheer sophomoric delight ranks as my favorite name on earth.   Let’s say it again one time…Djibouti!

Although Djibouti spent more than one hundred years under French rule, it feels like a place with thousands of years of history and culture that merely shrugged on the robe of colonial rule and then in 1967 shrugged it off just as easily.  Life goes on and some places change slowly or not at all.

Located on Africa’s horn, Djibouti plays an important strategic role in affairs of the region.  Just to the west is Ethiopia, a landlocked nation that is involved in a war with Eritrea another small African nation that borders Djibouti.  Since Ethiopia has no seaport, Djibouti has served in that capacity and has benefited financially from the arrangement.

To the east, a scant 18 miles across the Red Sea is the Arabian Peninsula.  Mutual interests have brought foreign investment to Djibouti and have helped it develop economically.  Arab investors from Saudi Arabia and Dubai have discussed linking the Arabian Peninsula with Djibouti via a large bridge.  The location of Djibouti being so close to the Arabian Peninsula caused them to become one of the first African nations to adopt Islam.  Today most of the population is Muslim.

To the south is Somalia who shares ethnic identity with the ruling class of Djibouti.  Somalia is the home of the pirates we hear so much about in the news these days.  Fortunately, we are an exploratory party and have nothing of value to the Pirates (unless they could use a good meal).  Otherwise this journey could be treacherous for us.

Djibouti is a democracy in name, but in practicality it is ruled by a one party system.  After a decade long civil war in the 1990’s, Djibouti leaders have signed peace treaties with rebels and have incorporated them into the government.  This has resulted in relative stability although power still lies firmly in the hands of the Somali Issa Dir clan, the Somali tribe that plays most strongly in Djiboutian politics.

The country is a developing nation that has some geographic and political advantages but still suffers from issues such as very high unemployment, similar to Somalia itself, and minimal education.  Only 21% of women enroll in school while the number for men is only slightly higher at 29%.

Djibouti has preserved its culture for thousands of years in the nomadic way with oral history being passed on in songs, and poetry.  Although today, most Djiboutians live in the city, the culture itself maintains ties with its past and the history of this region stretches back in time for eons.

Djibouti’s national dish is called Skoudehkaris and is consistent with a nomadic history.  It is a simple one pot stew of meat and rice simmered in a spiced tomato broth.  This type of dish is made easily, is filling and warm in the cold desert nights and provides much nourishment for a harsh climate and lifestyle.

I give this dish a 2 for difficulty.  It is the type of dish that can be managed easily with minimum equipment and effort. I can almost imagine gently stirring a small fire with a pot hanging over it while staring at the countless stars of the desert at night.   Sitting and listening to the sounds of the camels settling in and then savoring a warm pot of stew while singing songs of the past has been the tradition here for millennia.  It is no surprise that Djibouti maintains its history while embracing its present circumstances.

(Although many Skoudekharis recipes call for lamb, if you know me, you know I have a personal and familial aversion to lamb.  We simply don’t care for it.  I will make and eat it if no other option is recommended but in this case, chicken is occasionally used to make Skoudekharis.  If you like lamb, simply replace the chicken with lamb and do everything else the same.

It is a delicious dish!  It is the type of dish where gentle seasonings don’t scream at you while you eat, but tend to hang around for hours afterwards reminding you of how nice your dinner tasted.)

CLICK HERE FOR A PRINTER FRIENDLY VERSION

Rating:

Appearance:  3 out of 5

Aroma: 5 out of 5

Flavor:  5 out of 5

Total: 13 out of 15

Ingredients:

500g Chicken, diced or cubed (substitute lamb if desired)

500g rice

3 tbsp oil

500g fresh tomatoes, blanched, peeled and chopped

2 large onions, chopped

Salt and black pepper to taste

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1 tsp minced garlic

1/2 tsp ground cardamom seeds

1 tsp chopped red chili

Preparation:

Fry the chopped onions in the oil until softened. Add the meat and cook until browned then add the tomatoes and allow to cook for a few minutes. Add all the spices, cover with water and allow to simmer gently for 45 minutes. When the meat is tender add the rice and 500ml water, bring to the boil reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes, or until the rice is done. Cook for a few more minutes to dry the mixture immediately and serve immediately.

Original recipe which called for lamb.  I modified that part, but the recipe is the same: http://www.celtnet.org.uk/recipes/miscellaneous/fetch-recipe.php?rid=misc-skoudehkaris

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Jihad permalink
    April 12, 2010 9:56 am

    Very Tasty….

  2. April 12, 2010 7:46 pm

    Mmmmm… there can NEVER be too many variations of chicken and rice soup!

  3. April 13, 2010 8:23 am

    Congrats on hitting 50! 🙂

  4. May 18, 2010 8:28 pm

    I bet that tastes very good! Never had it with lamb before – good idea. Cheer!

    • May 19, 2010 7:23 am

      Hi there! Thanks for stopping in and leaving nice feedback. I am taking a short break right now but expect to be back at work in a week or two.

      Cheers,
      Eric

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