Following an airport run today, I stopped in at Marwa Restaurant in Tukwila, 15035 Pacific Highway S. I had heard they serve Somali food, which I knew little about except that it is typically quite different from Eithopian or Eritrean, and this tip proved true. Most of the small menu read almost like that a small town diner in the american midwest, with fried steak, chicken cutlets, spaghetti. Apparently, the european colonials imbued the Somali diet with staples like pasta and meat cutlets.
Upon the counterman's rec, I selected "KK Chicken Suqaar", reasoning that the item with the most unfamiliar name would reveal most about the cuisine, and wandered around while waiting. Marwa's immediate surroundings fascinate a newcomer. Many of the shops populating a nearby strip advertised their halal status (including an inviting place selling "afghani shishkebab"), and the lot was flooded with cabs. Adjacent to the restaurant is a market where there convened many female patrons in dresses and head coverings ranging in color from all-black to beautiful, vibrant combinations of shawls and veils, called hijab. It seems the market serves as a social scene as well as a grocery. A counter inside was selling two sorts of pyramid-shaped fried sambuus, a Somali take on S. Asia's samosa, and the shelves were stocked with produce, beef and goat meat, huge sacks of basmatti rice, and middle eastern juices, like the rose and red orange drinks I copped.
I returned to Marwa to watch Al Jazeera on a large flat panel in the sporadic company of all-male cabbies until my order arrived: bits of chicken stir-fried with indian spices, carrots, peas, lima beans, broccoli, and mixed with pieces of chapati, very thin flatbread. It was served with an iceberg salad dressed with ranch, and a lemon wedge, which gave the earthy spices a welcome acidity. The intensity of the flavors was quite subtle compared with ethiopian or indian dishes, but was harmonious and well-prepared, if not capitivating. It was the overall experience, however, that reminds me how much I love exploring seattle and its environs for eats.
Any tips on other Somali spots? I read that as of 2001 there were an estimated 12-15,000 Somalis in the area, so I assume there must be other dining to be had. Comments from any Somali hounds are especially appreciated.