How Sambusas & Somali Tea Came To Taste Like Home

I lived in Fargo when sambusas started to taste like home.

During our first year living away from home, I was homesick. By the second year, Fargo felt like home.

One experience that helped bridge the transition was finding Somali Tea & spicy sambusas at the Somali Business Center. The familiar taste of this sweet and spicy snack along with the community’s warm hospitality soothed my aching heart. I was reminded of visiting Afro Deli & Safari Express in Minneapolis and suddenly I didn’t feel so far away from home.

Last week, I felt caught off-gaurd when that familiar pang of homesickness hit during a brief, one-day work conference in the Twin Cities. It felt strange to return only for work purposes without lingering over coffee with friends or bantering with family. People asked, “Where are you from?” and I tripped over my words as I tried to explain I was currently from North Iowa, but (not quite) born and raised in the Twin Cities, having made a detour in Fargo-Moorhead.

I returned to the Twin Cities shortly after for an eventful weekend attending the Minnesota Bloggers Conference & connecting with family and friends. The heart pangs started knocking again I began my drive back home, so I stopped for some familiar comfort food. There was no Somali Tea this time, but I did find crispy beef sambusas at Shega Foods, an East African grocery store and bakery in the Seward Neighborhood.

These tiny triangle pastries are located in a little warmer near the cash register. They’re $.75 each and I wish I’d bought them all. I pulled a samosa from the crinkly paper bag as I drove, delighting in its spicy burn and lingering oily sheen left on my fingertips.

I dusted off my small mortar and pestle at home, determined to try my hand at making Somali Tea. I crushed the spices and steeped my tea while pondering what Dorothy actually meant when she said, “There’s no place like home.” It’s true. There is no place like home, but home is also like my ever-changing definition of comfort food; while the core may remain the same, its boundaries are constantly shifting to include new flavors and new places.

Home is my mom cooking Byerly’s chicken and wild rice soup. It’s my first bowl of knoephla soup and it’s Somali Tea and sambusas.

Sambusa and Tea

My North Iowan Take On Somali Tea

Adapted from recipes by Shaah Aday (My Somali Food), Suad (MN Council of Churches Refugee Services) & Adela Jung (Chow). 

The measurements for the spices and sweetener are approximate. There is a lot of room for variation according to your tastes. I have limited availability to whole spices in North Iowa, so I used ground spices. You can always use more whole spices, such as freshly grated nutmeg and cardamom pods. If you don’t have loose leaf tea, substitute tea bags. The versions of Somali Tea I have tried from cafes have tasted quite sweet. I chose to make mine less sweet.  

Ingredients:
2 cups water
1 small piece of fresh ginger
4 black peppercorns
3 cloves
2 Tablespoons black tea
1/2 stick cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
Pinch ground nutmeg
1/8 cup brown sugar
Steamed milk

Spices

Instructions:

  1. In a mortar and pestle, crush together the ginger, peppercorns & cloves. If you have a fresh cardamom pod, crush this too.

    Morter & Pestle
  2. Heat the water until boiling.
  3. Add the crushed spices, black tea, cinnamon stick, cardamom, nutmeg & brown sugar. Stir briefly until the sugar dissolves.
  4. Cover and steep for a few minutes.
  5. When the tea is as flavorful and sweet as you desire, strain into a jar or teapot.
  6. To serve, add tea to a cup and splash in steamed milk.

Tea watermarked

Tell me about what tastes like home. Has your definition of comfort food shifted or remained mostly the same?

2 Comments

  1. Oh my. Jeni–this just looks and sounds heavenly and I am definitely coming over for a cup. And to watch the whole process.
    Home tastes like Christmas cookies to me. All the neat varieties that my mom and my sister (and brothers sometimes) made together to give as gifts to people and to serve at Open House at the Parsonage. The smell of them baking—oh—what memories.

  2. Yum Sambosas are de-freakin-lish!

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