Somali women taste freedom with catering group

Somali women taste freedom with catering group

MACQUUL is already winning the hearts of food lovers in the city


When Farzana* and Jamila** were forced to leave their home in Somalia for India, they had to start their lives from nothing. Still recovering from the trauma of having lost their partners and children and other family members to the conflict in Somalia, they were waking up to the harsh realities of surviving in Delhi. As single mothers with limited local language and vocational skills, the women began to do odd jobs as domestic help and cooks in small eateries. 


Back in Somalia, both women pursued their passion for food. Farzana ran a juice stall and Jamila cooked in people’s homes. Inspired by the Afghan refugee women’s catering group ILHAM, these women decided to channelize their culinary and entrepreneurial spirit towards creating a Somali catering group. Supported by UNHCR Livelihoods and Self Reliance Project, the group is already winning the hearts of food lovers in the city and is a regular feature of many cultural/food festivals of the city.


“We wish to represent Somalia in the best possible manner through our cuisine” says Farzana, a mother of two teenagers. “I feel that people are already are accepting our food and want to know where Somalia is,” she says.


On the menu is Vimto, a popular drink made of grapes, raspberries and black currants. The most popular dishes are Canjeera Dalakh Bilash, which is closer to the Indian Dosa and looks similar to the Ethiopian Injera; Somali coffee, which has a dash of cardamom and Hillibari, the famous mutton biriyani. For desserts there is Qumbo Laddoo, made of coconut and Halwo with Peanuts, made from sugar, corn flour, cardamom and butter, with peanuts adding a crunchy element.   


UNHCR India is supporting this new catering group by providing much needed business support training. Recently, they received training by the Envisions Institute of Development, which helped in better management and coordination of the group. “Working in a group has taught us to be patient. We learn from each other every day,” says Farzana. “The women are gradually understanding the market and are willing to learn and grow,” says Aditi Sabbarwal, Senior Livelihoods Assistant, UNHCR, India.


                                        Canjeera Dalakh Bilash


                    Qumbo Laddoo


“My dream is to do very well and be a totally independent entrepreneur,” says Jamila,a single mother with three young children.For Jamila, cooking for MACQUUL evokes fond memories of Somalia. Cooking fish marinated in coriander powder and grilling them on charcoal is one of the  beloved dishes of Somalia.“We have fish for breakfast, lunch and dinner,” she says. Semolina is a vital ingredient in Somalian cuisine, a well-known semolina delicacy being the Basbousa,  a Somali  cake.“The semolina we get here is very different from the one available in Somalia,”  says  Farzana.Despite many challenges, these strong and resilient Somali refuge women are determined to bring the taste of Somalia to the Indian platter and build bridges through the medium of food.


*/** Names changed to protect identity

Written by Elsa Mathews

Photos: Erico Sugimoto & Elsa Mathews/ UNHCR


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