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Somalia: Halwa & Sisin with Spiced Black Tea

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Adjust Servings:
8 cups water
2 cinnamon stick
5 pods cardamom
6 bags black tea bags
to taste sugar
to taste milk

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Somalia: Halwa & Sisin with Spiced Black Tea

  • Serves 4
  • Easy




Let me tell you right now: candy making is not in my future.  In fact, two hours in I had a total textural fail on candy #1 and two pots with sugar hardened and burnt to them and no pots to spare for a third attempt at candy #2.  I was jetlagged, way behind schedule, and starting to wonder whether I’d be googling African takeout restaurants for supper club.  Luckily, between my dad and Google we discovered baking soda and boiling water would get the burnt sugar off the pan and I set out to try one more time.

In Somalia, halwa is synonymous with hospitality and often served during weddings and on major Islamic festivals such as Eid. The halwa is on the right.  It’s supposed to be a glutinous sweet similar to Turkish delight.  As you can see, mine is more like a maple sugar candy.  Warm, it reminded me of pecan praline.  I used this recipe combined with ideas from a few others, and I’m not sure exactly where I went wrong: it might have been that I used all butter instead of oil (I swear I saw this somewhere) or that I was a bit short on the corn starch.  The one thing I did really right was replacing the food coloring with saffron.  The texture wasn’t as intended, but luckily no one was the wiser and this was delicious with the spiced black tea.

The sisin, another popular Somali treat, is on the left.  Sisin means “sesame” and this candy is essentially just that and sugar. Thing is, that one didn’t really work out for me either.  Unwilling to risk burning a third batch of sugar, I decided to replace it with honey, and about 1/2 cup of sugar.  The result was a deliciously satisfying treat. The desserts were served with spiced black tea, simple but a big hit!

Recipe Source: Xawaash Somali Food Blog for the candy (see links above); the spiced tea recipe was from one of my library picture books on Somalia



Bring water to a boil. Add tea bags, cinnamon and cardamom and simmer. Remove from heat and let steep. Heat again right before serving. Serve with milk and sugar, to taste.


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