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Nov 12, 2011 07:21 PM

Great new Somali / Middle Eastern restaurant in Portland, Maine

I was glad I came upon Al Huda, a new neighborhood treasure! I recently moved from New York where I had the luxury of great Middle Eastern food everywhere. I was delighted to find a place like this in Portland where a variety of healthy Middle Eastern specialities -- including vegetarian and gluten free options -- can be enjoyed.

We were welcomed with a pleasantly sweet traditional tea with cardomon as well as luscious appetizers, including a generous serving of toasty falafel and rich hummus.

Before tonight, I had never tried Somali food. After tonight, having experienced their fish biryani with a tasty side salad, I'm now sold! Next time I'll also try the lamb or goat biryani.... Other Somali specials include maraq, pronounced MAH-ruhk, a Somali stew rich in vegetables, that's served with anjera -- similar to the bread served in Ethiopian and Eritiean restaurants.

Al Huda also has great shawarma sandwiches -- I presume, by how quickly I saw my husband's disappear -- and another specialty rarely found in Maine, Iraqui lamb kabab...another favorite of mine.

Dessert offerings include baklava, cake, and sweet rice pudding with a topping of berries.

Service was prompt and friendly. The owner, Saadia and her family were all there and a pleasure to meet. We went with our toddler son, who was recieved warmly. Three of us dined for just over $20 and had a delicious meal. We'll certainly go back.

Note: Al Huda is a Muslim restaurant and doesn't serve alcohol, but has great fruit juices, soft drinks, and the cardomom tea I now crave...!

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  1. Welcome to Maine and to Chowhound. Thanks for the rec.

    1. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

      I had heard almost a year ago from a young man that worked at Aroma (great South Indian place in South Portland) that this was coming. Fantastic news!

        1. re: foodquest

          Morrills corner across the street from WOK Inn on Forest Ave.

          1. re: foodquest

            Here's the full address and contact info:

            Al Huda Restaurant
            1192 Forest Ave
            Portland, ME 04103
            (207) 797-3833

          2. Well, this is not the place that I was told about from the waiter at Aroma. He told me a friend of his was going to open Middle Eastern restaurant in downtown Portland and this is not that one.

            So, here's my experience. It's a Somali restaurant run by a very nice family. The food tastes fresh and home cooked. The service is pleasant and very slow.

            We were offered the sweetened black tea with cinnamon and cardamon. Loved it. Had the chicken shawarma. It's wrapped and heated in a flat, unleavened bread similar to Indian parantha, yet made with regular flour. The filling was diced chicken and vegetables in a mildly spiced stew. Very tasty, however, not anything like a Lebanese or Middle Eastern shawarma typically grilled then served in a pita.

            The menu showed a picture of Somali sambusa (small fried pockets) that resemble Indian samosas.

            The rice offered as a side was nicely cooked basmati that was flavored with curry powder.

            Tried the Iraqui kabab which was made with ground beef (NOT lamb), fat and mildly spiced. It was grilled and very similar in appearance to Turkish Adana or Syrian Aleppo Kebab. It did not have any onion or parsley in it however. It was served with grilled onion and grilled tomato wedges. Think of a mildly spiced burger cooked on a skewer.

            I get the impression that Somali food is a hybrid of Persian, Indian and Egyptian cuisine all relating to the Indian Ocean trade routes. I didn't get the impression that this food is influenced by the Arabian peninsula, so I would be hard pressed to call it "Middle Eastern."

            I would go back as the family is nice, the food is honest, tasty and affordable.

            4 Replies
            1. re: bewley

              I hope I'm not confusing the two places. The one by Morrills corner just opened recently - there's a market there and I hadn't really noticed a restaurant - googled Al Huda and it gave the Morrills corner location. stefanieeats: is this the right restaurant?
              For bewley: Could you be talking about Asmara, downtown next to Marcy Diner? I seem to recall having the chicken shawarma there - just as you describe it. Or is it me that's totally screwed up - wouldn't be the first time and if I live another week, it won't be the last.

              1. re: bobbert

                No, it was the address Stefanieeats provided. Just next door to the market on the corner on Forrest Avenue. It's directly across the street from a Sunoco gas station.

                1. re: bewley

                  Sounds like the location of where Chappies used to be, a block up from Samuel's