• The Flavours of Africa pop-up dinner is an annual fundraiser for the Africultures Festival that focuses on showcasing the continent's diverse cuisines. (Africultures Festival)Source: Africultures Festival
For one night only, this pop-up restaurant will allow Sydneysiders to travel to the Horn of Africa with their tastebuds, as they feast on the unique flavours of Somali and Ethiopian cuisine.
Yasmin Noone

31 Oct 2019 - 2:19 PM  UPDATED 31 Oct 2019 - 2:26 PM

The fragrances of cinnamon, cardamom and cumin will flavour the air as a generous feast of delights from the Horn of Africa – camel bites, vegetarian curries, freshly baked flatbread and sambousa – proposes to tantilise the senses of diners.

Food lovers be aware: a diverse spread of three Somali and Ethiopian courses, finished with a traditional coffee ceremony, will intrigue all who taste the culinary wares of these two East African countries at the upcoming Flavours of Africa pop-up restaurant in Sydney’s west.

According to organisers, the annual fundraiser event for Africultures Festival promises to do more than just entertain Sydneysiders for one night only. The dinner, happening this year at Auburn Centre for Community on Saturday 16 November, aims to provide diners who haven’t yet sampled the unique dishes of Somalia and Ethiopia, an opportunity to travel to the horn of Africa with their tastebuds.

“Although Somalia and Ethiopia are close geographically, the foods that their peoples cook and eat are very different." 

Sahra Tohow, who’s involved with organising the pop-up event for Africultures Festival, tells SBS Food the flavours, aromas and food traditions featured in the dinner will demonstrate just how enticing food from the Horn of Africa, a peninsula located in the continent’s northeast, really is.

“Although Somalia and Ethiopia are close geographically, the foods that their peoples cook and eat are very different,” explains Tohow, a first-generation Australian-Somali.

“For example, Somalia was colonised by Italy [from the 1880s until 1942]. So some of the food has Italian hints to it and includes pasta and tomato-rich sauces.”

Northern Somalia was also part of the spice trail, a historical region between Asia and Northeast Africa and Europe where spices were traded for commercial purposes as far back as the tenth century.

“Our food has cinnamon, cardamom and cumin which would have come to Somalia from India and Asia. So that’s why you also see a lot of spices in Somali cuisine that you don’t see in the culinary traditions of other areas in Africa.”

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On the other hand, Tohow explains, Ethiopian food features a lot of vegetarian, as well as spicy meat dishes. A meal consisting of injera – a fermented flatbread – and a selection of various stews or curries is also central to Ethiopian dining culture.

“A food event like the Flavours of Africa pop-up kitchen will provide a great opportunity for us to raise awareness about the differences in Somali and Ethiopian cuisine, and more broadly, African cuisine.”

It’s a huge continent so the food on offer throughout the whole of Africa – from Moroccan food in the north to Ethiopian food in the east and Nigerian food in the west – is so diverse.”

Tohow also hopes the pop-up dinner will make another strong point: that Africa is a diverse continent spanning 54 countries and hundreds of cultures.

“A lot of people just band all Africans together as one culture,” says Tohow. “But that’s like saying English and Greek people are the same because [they both come from Europe] when in fact the cultures are so different.

“There are 54 countries in Africa. It’s a huge continent so the food on offer throughout the whole of Africa – from Moroccan food in the north to Ethiopian food in the east and Nigerian food in the west – is so diverse.”

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The upcoming event will provide servings of traditional foods from both Somalia and Ethiopia created by three home cooks, who regularly make food for community events.

Although part of the menu will remain under wraps until the event, Tohow confirms that spinach and chickpea bites, lamb and vegetarian sambusa, and camel bites will be laid out as entrée. For main, there’ll be a selection of Ethiopian and Somali dishes served with injera (Ethiopian flat bread) and rice. Timir date cake and vanilla ice-cream will be presented for desert, alongside traditional Ethiopian coffee. 

Tohow expects the food will delight diners and connect non-African diners with members of the vast African community living in Sydney.

“If you’re interested in food, then you may want to educate yourself about the different African cuisines available and test the food. So come to the pop-up event. You’re going to love it. Somali and Ethiopian foods are so beautiful and tasty. After the event, you’ll be asking for all the recipes.”

All funds raised from the event will go towards supporting Africultures Festival, a celebration of African culture that’s held in western Sydney in March every year. For more information about the upcoming dinner, click here. 

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