Rice and Chicken: £4.50
Deep in the heart of Moss Side, further up Claremont Rd than most people ever go, past the Sudan Satellite shop and the cheap mattress places, is a Somali restaurant-cum-takeaway called Dubay Caffe. Gathered outside are collections of Somali men and boys, inside is the owner - a cheerful Manc-Somali who doles out hefty portions and happily explained everything when I told him that I had never eaten Somali food before.
Until I read this review, I had never even thought about Somali cuisine. Somalia, best known for its vicious civil war and lack of functioning government since 1993, does not figure on most people's culinary maps. If Dubay Caffe is representative of Somali food, however, more people should get out of the Indian-Chinese-Italian rut and try some. Somalian is a very accessible cuisine, seemingly drawing elements from Ethiopian (injera-like bread), Indian (pilau rice, rotis and chapattis), and Italian (spaghetti and tomato sauce) cuisines, in addition to using recognisable ingredients like potatoes and carrots and including little more than a tingle of spicy heat. Nothing too scary, here!
I ordered the rice and chicken and the owner threw in a curry for free. Each of these dishes filled its own take-away container, which is exceedingly good value no matter the cuisine. The chicken came with large chunks of potatoes and strips of carrot, all covered in a dry rub of spices and salt. Although a little too salty, the chicken was moist, the potatoes perfectly cooked, and the carrots retained both their crunch and taste. The free curry was fruity and much less salty than the chicken, containing small pieces of lamb (not too fatty) and large golden pieces of potato that had soaked up all the juices. The rice, unusually, was the stand-out dish featuring cinnamon and cardamom spicing, gloriously sweet slivers of caramelised onion, the occasional golden raisin, and a meaty undertone that lent it depth.
With Dubay Caffe now firmly on my list of new favourite places to eat, I hope to find other Somali cafes and restaurants to experience. After I had eaten Ghanaian for the first time, I wondered whether African food could ever become mainstream in the way that Indian has. If Dubay Caffe is anything to go by, African food should have no trouble.