Salam Café + Restaurant

Jackie McMillan
29th Sep 2023

Ethiopia and Somalia are neighbours. At Salam Cafe & Restaurant in Auburn you can experience their bilateral relationship on a plate with the Ethiopian and Somali combo platter ($50). One side of this shared plate is covered with stretchy fermented injera, Ethiopia’s carb. of choice, and siga wot, a beef stew that gains its flavour from a red and spicy blend of toasted then ground whole spices called berbere. There’s also a mound of vegetables and another vegetarian dish, alicha wot, made from yellow split peas. The other side of the platter teams fragrant basmati rice and hunks of roasted lamb (lahem mandi) you dunk into vinegar-based house-made chill sauce. The spice blend in this dish is hawaji—primarily cumin and black pepper—and it is generally cooked in a tannour, an Arabic clay oven. It comes with a simple clear broth and salad. 

While the platter is plenty of food for two people, on conversing with other diners in the all-male space—we also opt to try Somalia’s favourite dish: suqaar ($18). With the name coming from the Arabic term for ‘little one’, it’s a flavoursome stir-fry of finely diced lamb pieces cooked with cumin, turmeric, capsicum, tomato and onions. It suited the lightly blistered, soft flatbread, jabati—made using plain flour, water and salt like Indian chapati. While it wasn’t the best version of lamb tibs ($22) I have had in Sydney, we gobbled up the extra injera that accompanied this mild Ethiopian dish made with plump pieces of boneless lamb leg. With dishes like Kenyan ugali—a cornmeal bread—yet to try, Salam is a great place to see how food transcends borders.