Shidni: Somali chilli sauce with tamarind

3 Min Read

This spicy chilli sauce is a favourite of all Somalis. Usually it is made as described below, but some people add dates and others omit the dates and tamarind.  We have it with almost every meal.

You can get tamarind either whole or in a paste in any Indian or Somali grocery store. We recommend the paste as it is easier to use.

The tamarind tree grows in the tropical parts of East Africa, including southern Somalia. The tree produces fleshy pods that are brown or reddish-brown when mature. The pods are soaked in water and squeezed to produce a thick acidic paste. When we were children we loved mixing the juice with water and sugar to make a refreshing drink, but that is a recipe for another day!


3 tablespoons of tamarind paste (xamar or raqay in Somali)

3 diced tomatoes

6 green chillies or red if you like

Two or three cloves of garlic

Salt to taste

I tablespoon of olive oil


Blend all the ingredients (except the oil) thoroughly for a couple of minutes.  Heat up the oil in a pan and cook the blended mixture for about 5 minutes. Make sure you cover the pan as the Shidni does sputter.

Give shidni a go if you want to add a spicy kick to your meal. Incidentally, shidni makes a great dip for French fries or Dorito chips.

Remember to pick the variety of chillies carefully. The colour and size of chillies are not indicative of the intensity of their flavour. The hottest part of the chilli is the membrane and the seeds. You can remove these to reduce the heat. You don’t want it too hot if you can’t bear the heat! And if the shidni is too hot please don’t drink water. Sipping some milk or yoghurt cools you down much faster.

Want to learn getting Somali pronunciation right? In Somali, the letter x is pronounced as an emphatic version of the letter h. If you are not Somali here is a fun way to learn how to make this sound…swallow a good spoonful of really hot shidni sauce. Did you just make an exhaling sound when the hot of the chilli hit your palate? Well, that is a good approximation of the Somali x! Now that you have mastered this unique sound try saying xamar, the Somali word for tamarind.

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Abderazzaq NoorI am of Somali descent and live in Australia. I write a food blog (The Somali Kitchen) together with three friends, generally on Somali food, but this covers influences from neighbouring countries e.g Kenya, Ethiopia, etc.

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