The Baasto Experience
A while ago, I’d gone out with my foodie friends Ashis Nayak and Neidhi Kumar of the Food Drifter fame, to an Arab place which’d recently opened in Tolichowki, Hyderabad. On the way to this place called Al-Marjaan, I spotted a fairly large poster which said 100% camel milk available here. Well! You know me!! After the food at Al-Marjan, I dragged everyone to have 100% Camel Milk. This turned out to be a Somalian restaurant called Jubba and I thought to myself. Woah!! That’s unusual food in Hyderabad. One doesn’t get to see or experience anything Somalian in this part of the world except for news on pirates and Black Hawk Down 😊
As the history books explain it, Somalia was part ruled by the British and the Italians and some parts by local warlords. Hence the cuisine varies from region to region. The main influences on the cuisine are Arab, Persian and other parts of the Horn of Africa. And possibly some British and French influences. But it seems to be quite heavily influenced by the Italians. Pasta seems to be some sort of a national obsession in Somalia. It’s an exciting mix and one hopes to discover more about this culture someday
The first time I saw Baasto, I was very very surprised to see how it was eaten – by hand. There was a table of Somalians next to us and they were eating pasta with their hands. Making small bunches with their fingers and eating this. The Baasto was made from Capellini and was clearly not over cooked, unlike how Pasta’s murdered in India. Clearly a huge Italian influence on the country and the cuisine. Somali language doesn’t have any P, hence Baasto instead of Pasta or Pasto. The dish came with a buff mince in some sort of thin gravy / sauce that had to be mixed into the Baasto. It was tasty. I thought Somali food would be basic and bland, but found it to be surprisingly tasty. Like Arab cuisine, Somali cuisine also uses some spices, but in a very basic-subtle way. There’s now a demand for authentic cuisine like Arab and Somalian, thanks to the student population from these areas who come to study in Hyderabad. Plus, there’s a fair bit of medical tourism happening. Indian food, especially Hyderabadi is far too spicy for them
We also had Camel meat, which was chopped into bits and stir fried. They put extra chilly (the Mirchi Bhajji kinds) and made it more for our palate. It was tasty. But I think it would’ve tasted nice without the extra chilly too. Overall, I’d say this was an excellent meal. It was definitely a unique experience but also good, tasty food. Next time I shall try Federation, a famous Somalian dish made by combining pasta and rice
Ha Kuu Macaanaato and Chowder on!!