Thursday, October 30, 2008

Malaysianised Somali Bariis?

I had the wonderful opportunity of watching a Somali make Bariis in her own unique style, which I think will be imprinted in my mind forever. Here in Columbus, OH, Darbo is popular among the Malaysian brothers. Most of them, being single hungry students who most of the time are too lazy/busy/tired to cook, would head out to Darbo and have their lunch and dinner.

I have eaten rice cooked the Yemeni style, Turkish style, Saudi style, Indopak style, Egyptian style, and of course the Somali style. Each style of cooking seems to produce this wonderful fluffed up plump yet long separated rice grains, glistening and individually coated with the mixture of spices. I also realized that the way Basmati rice is cooked by Malaysians for some special rice dishes that I think are originally adapted from international rice dishes is quite different.

I have never managed to master cooking Basmati rice, despite witnessing how these sisters of various ethnicities cook it, that is until, I saw how the Somali Bariis was made. May Allah reward Ruqiya for showing me how to make Somali Bariis, her way (because apparently, other Somalis make their Bariis differently).

After trying to cook Basmati rice in so many different ways before, I truly believe that what makes a big difference in how the rice turns out, is not soaking it first. The Somali Bariis that was demonstrated to me didn't involve any presoaking, and involved intense frying, until all the oil was absorbed by the rice grains, after which hot stock was poured in, producing a whoosh of hot steam that can be dangerous. But I discovered that this makes for really plump and separated rice grains.

I love cooking Basmati rice, and have discovered that it's easier to cook Basmati rice (any style) for a large number of people, and have resorted to doing this whenever we have more than 10 people over. My resulting dilemma then, is, adapting my Malaysian meat or poultry dishes and even vegetables, to marry well with the Basmati rice. In my humble opinion, and I believe maybe most Malaysians would think this too, typical everyday Malaysian meat/poultry/seafood dishes and accompanying vegetables do not pair very well with Basmati rice cooked in oil. They do however, blend in very well with plain white rice cooked with plain water. They are in fact flavored and cooked to be eaten with white rice! So whenever I do cook Basmati rice in oil, I have had to make meat/poultry dishes that are suitable, and it has not been that easy, at least not for me.

Here is my version of (I say mine because I have probably fiddled with it so much that it would not do Ruqi's Bariis much justice) the Somali Bariis:

Juli's version of Ruqi's Somali Bariis

5 cups of Basmati rice
1 medium onion, minced
1 Tbs curry powder
1/2 Tbs ground coriander
1/4 Tbs ground cumin
1/4 Tbs turmeric powder
1 tsp chilli powder/paprika
dash of salt
1 cinnamon stick roughly crushed
2-3 cardamom pods
2-3 cloves
7 1/2 cups hot beef/chicken stock
1/4 - 1/3 cup oil

1. Heat oil and toss in the minced onions until fragrant, then add the whole spices (cardamom, cinnamon stick, cloves)
2. Add rice and stir frequently, coating each grain with oil
3. Add the ground spices
4. Continue stirring until the oil is absorbed by the rice grains

5. Pour in the hot stock, but be prepared to move away very quickly from the pot because it will truly hiss and smoke!
6. Wait until it comes to a boil (since the stock is hot, this will happen pretty quickly)
7. Turn the heat down to low and cover the pot
8. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 Fahrenheit
9. When the rice looks almost done (not submerged in water but if you poke all the way to the bottom of the pot, there will still be water), transfer it to the oven until it's done (it's done when all the water has been absorbed and the rice looks fluffy)

Cook's notes:

  • I use a big Mexican caldero to cook this in. A bigger wider pot is more effective than a taller pot (like a stock pot) because it helps distribute the water evenly among the rice grains

  • Make sure the pot is also oven safe to make for easier transfer from stove top to the oven

  • You can also finish cooking the rice on the stove top, but I believe that finishing the rice off in the oven makes it fluffier

  • Did you know that uncooked rice in Malay is called 'beras' (pronounced buh-russ)? So I understand Bariss. :) Cooked rice is called 'Nasi' in Malay by the way. I can foresee future Malaysian 'Nasi' recipes coming up inshaallah, though maybe not in the near future.

I'm sure my version of Somali Bariss may not be up to par with the true Somali Bariss, but at least, when I no longer have my Somali sistahs around to cook the Bariss for me, I can still whip up my own version and keep that taste of Somali (as how I remember it) with me. And I'm sure the Malaysian brothers who adore Darbo appreciates my version, which is free too.


  1. Lol my bad...I just now saw the title. :p

  2. nice! Everyone always ask me how to make bariis :) (and shaah)

    I'll try your recipe inshaAllah.

    I'm amazed at that darbo restaurant. All the somali restaurants I've been too (way back in the day in Toronto) are like super ghetto lol, this one has such a nice website mashaAllah! Somalis are movin on up.

    Btw, any somalis know what darbo means...I'm wondering if it's a somali word or not.

  3. tayyibaat,

    the somali at Darbo said it means kick or soccer..something to do with soccer though :P (see how frequently the malaysian brothers go there? LOL)

  4. Very interesting...Must be another dialect because I never heard of that word!! i'll have to ask the experts (ie, the parents).

    btw it's Amatullah, I dont know why my name is coming up as my blog ha.

  5. mmmm... and I got the link for Darbo!