EazyLife Restaurant & Lounge

Instagram Post 11/18/2019

If you like West African cuisine but can’t decide between Nigerian and Ghanaian food, you might consider EazyLife Restaurant & Lounge, 1300 East 222nd St. in Eastchester, Bronx, where two chefs are in residence, one from each nation. (Incidentally, the dual arrangement insinuates a round of dueling jollofs since the two rice recipes are markedly distinctive.)

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Our appetizer was Nigerian Isi Ewu, goat head sautéed in “native sauce” as the menu described it. Of course, the texture and flavor of goat head are unlike goat meat from further down the carcass; more like goat skin, these nubs are chewy and benefit from the spicy sauce and spears of red onion that accompany them.


Keeping with the Nigerian theme, this entrée is Bitter Leaf Black Soup. Bitter, yes, but in a good way, with a satisfying spicy kick. Croaker was the fish of choice in the starring role.


Afang Soup was less a soup or sauce and more along the dry stew <-> chopped leafy vegetable continuum. Made from afang (aka okazi) leaves, sometimes with the addition of spinach, cooked down with palm oil and dried fish, it had a medium spice level. More croaker alongside. Our starchy fufus (aka swallows) that day, not pictured, were amala and the more neutral pounded yam.
 
 

Brooklyn Suya

Instagram Post 6/6/2019

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[1] Suya is a popular street food in Nigeria (and elsewhere in West Africa) and there’s little doubt as to why. Sliced beef and other meats are marinated, skewered, grilled, liberally peppered with a spicy, peanutty, powdery seasoning blend and generally accompanied by slices of raw onion. Brooklyn Suya maintains the tradition at 717 Franklin Ave in Crown Heights with its Suya Bowls: choose steak, chicken, or shrimp and two of kale, plantain, egg, or avocado, all over rice. Or, you can order suya solo, sans all those healthy accoutrements; that’s what you see here.

[2] Extreme close-up of chicken, steak, and shrimp – just to get the juices flowing. It’s a tiny space, with a few window perches and a counter, so you might consider take-out, but that didn’t deter us. Incidentally, they sell their custom blends of seasoning/marinade if you want to try your hand at making suya – but if you enjoy cooking, I suspect you’ll find dozens of other uses in the kitchen for their piquant spice blends.
 
 

Hills Kitchen

Instagram Post 5/13/2019

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Given what I do, people often ask me what my favorite restaurant is; the answer is “any place where the food was so good that I need to go back and try everything else on the menu.” That was the case with Hills Kitchen in Bushwick. My dining buddy contacted me a few days ago and we met at their location, 252 Knickerbocker Ave in Brooklyn. We shared only two dishes that day but I can recommend both enthusiastically.

Keep in mind that in West African cuisine, the words soup, stew, and sauce are often used interchangeably. This one is Banga, also known as Ofe Akwu, based on the palm nut/palm fruit, a tasty ingredient that figures into a number of Nigerian sauces. We ordered ours with fish, specifically croaker, which was excellent. West African stews are incomplete without some kind of starch, sometimes called a “swallow”; that’s what turns these sauces, soups and stews into a meal. You pinch off a bit, dip it into the delectable soup, and enjoy – really hands-on cuisine! Our choice for this dish was identified only as “wheat” and it was a perfect complement.

Next up was White Soup, also known as Nsala, which was tender, flavorful goat meat in an accessible, lightly seasoned, thin sauce. My understanding is that this is one of the few Nigerian soups made without palm oil so it was distinct from our Banga; we chose pounded yam for our swallow, itself a gentle, comforting accompaniment, hence another good match.

Hills Kitchen has been open for a little over two months. I intend to go back soon – hope to see you there!
 
 

Honey Bee’s Kitchen

Instagram Post 5/10/2019

Since I enjoy the cuisine, I make it a point to visit as many Nigerian restaurants as I can locate, and it’s not all that difficult here in NYC. Many have similar menus with similar preparations of the “greatest hits” but I was surprised and delighted by the unique spin on our choices at Honey Bee’s Kitchen, 9322 Avenue L in Canarsie, Brooklyn. My dining buddy and I grabbed only a handful of items but that just guarantees a return trip! Three from the appetizers section where most of the dishes were tagged “in spicy pepper sauce”; each was unique and delicious.

(Click on any image to view it in high resolution.)Suya. Grilled beef often served on a stick but always served with spicy peanut powder and raw onion, a favorite Nigerian street food.

Peppered Snail. I’ve had these elsewhere but the snails were tough. Not the case here: they were sautéed to perfection and the sauce was so good that we reserved what was left to adorn some rice.

Gizdodo. Chicken gizzards (the “giz”) and fried plantains (called “dodo” in Nigeria) cooked together and infused with herbs in a tomato based sauce. Hard to stop eating this.

From the entrées section: Rice with Ayamatse sauce with assorted meat, stockfish (dried unsalted fish) and a hardboiled egg. Ayamatse (you might see ayamase) sauce is made from hot peppers, bell peppers, and palm oil and although ours wasn’t all that hot, it was tasty nonetheless. The menu refers to “HBK sauce”; after some reflection, I realized it stands for Honey Bee’s Kitchen!

Gbegiri (bean soup) and Ewedu (jute leaves blended with egusi, melon seeds) counterpoised in a jaunty triangle, served with amala (pounded dried yam) and croaker (the fish, of course!).
 
 

Asmau Restaurant

Instagram Post 3/2/2019

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Another stop along our Bronx West African food crawl captained by Dave Cook from eatingintranslation.com some months ago was Asmau Restaurant at 1460A Boston Rd in Foxhurst. They serve up some fine Ghanaian food and we were keen to sample whatever they had to offer that day. In no particular order, that afternoon’s indulgences included:

[1] Egusi soup, always tasty, thickened with crushed melon seeds and served here with chicken.

[2] Peanut butter sauce (or peanut soup) with beef.

[3] Tomato sauce with chicken and beef.

[4] All of the above are incomplete without some kind of fufu; that’s what turns these sauces, soups and stews into a meal. As with all West African doughy starches, you pinch off a bit, dip it into the delectable soup or sauce, and enjoy – really hands-on cuisine! From the bottom moving clockwise, here are omo tuo, banku and corn fufu. Omo tuo is made from rice cooked with more than the usual amount of water; that technique produces softer grains which are then pounded and shaped into a ball. It works particularly well with peanut stew or soup. Banku is a fermented variety made from cassava sometimes blended with corn; we paired it with the egusi soup. The corn fufu worked well coupled with the tomato sauce with chicken and beef.

[5] Black eyed peas and plantains, no explanation needed, but so good!

[6] Chicken soup with vegetables.

I admit to being a major fan of West African food; it differs from nation to nation so if you haven’t tried any yet, there’s plenty to keep you busy in every borough of New York City. Keep following my posts to see more!
 
 

UNAMA

Instagram Post 12/7/2018

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The United Nations African Mothers Association (UNAMA) holds an annual fundraising event that takes the form of a buffet luncheon featuring home cooked food representing numerous African nations. Their mission includes improving the socio-economic conditions of women and children in Africa as well as promoting its diverse, rich culture. Held this year at the Consulate of Nigeria, we enjoyed dishes from Burkina Faso 🇧🇫, the Republic of Cameroon 🇨🇲, Côte d’Ivoire 🇨🇮, Kenya 🇰🇪, Tanzania 🇹🇿, Nigeria 🇳🇬 and many more.

This sunbathed plate held a few examples of chicken, salmon, shrimp, couscous, rice, and potato preparations; the second photo provides a closer inspection of an artfully garnished couscous from Libya; the third shows Seswaa (shredded beef) from Botswana, Lamb Basquaise (stew) from Cameroon, and more of that sensually scented couscous.
 
 

Accra Restaurant – Part 6

Instagram Post 10/16/2018

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One more photo from another amazing dinner at Accra Restaurant, 2065 Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd in Harlem. The last time we went, Ayesha, the owner, told me that this dish was new on the menu and recommended that we try it. I am so glad we did!

Yam Porridge (aka asaro). Not what some customarily think of as porridge, and not the kind of yams some think of as Thanksgiving fare (those are actually sweet potatoes), these yams are seasoned and cooked down so there is a little mashed yam “soup” and some larger tender chunks. Topped with a sauce made from smoked turkey, onion, and tomato in red palm oil, it was another winner. If this isn’t comfort food, I don’t know what is!

PS: Get some of their amazing homemade ginger beer when you go! Non-carbonated, non-alcoholic, unique and delicious.
 
 

Accra Restaurant – Part 5

Instagram Post 9/12/2018

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The last photoset from our recent amazing dinner at Accra Restaurant, 2065 Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd in Harlem – until I go back for more, that is!

[1] Jollof Rice with Chicken. And a hard-boiled egg. Accra’s jollof rice, the widely celebrated and beloved tomato-based West African triumph and a source of both pride and dispute among African nations as to whose version is best, was delicious as was the chicken.
[2] Pounded Yam Fufu and Okra. This time, the fufu is yam rather than cassava; different but equally tasty. The okra soup is delicious although mucilaginous – an acquired taste, or perhaps an acquired texture. Generally my advice to those who are new to okra soup is to try to think past the consistency and just focus on the wonderful flavor!
[3] Wakey (you might see waakye) with Fried Whiting and Gari. Waakye is Ghana’s culinary claim to fame; similar to West Indian rice and peas, it’s made with rice and black eyed peas or cowpeas. Gari is dried, ground cassava, a little like Brazilian manioc, but unique. And tasty fried whiting – what’s not to like?!

I’ll post the detailed story about our incredible experience as well as a roundup of everything we ate soon.
 
 

Accra Restaurant – Part 4

Instagram Post 9/10/2018

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But wait! There’s more! More photos from our recent incredible dinner at Accra Restaurant, 2065 Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd in Harlem, that is. Continuing the cavalcade of food we loved….

[1] Eba with Egushi. So many fufus, so little time, and I admit to liking them all. In contrast to smooth, pounded cassava fufu, firmer eba has tiny flecks of gari (dried grated cassava) in it and is a little tart or sour tasting. Perfect with egushi (you might see egusi), a delicious soup made from ground melon/pumpkin/squash/gourd seeds.
[2] Banku with Baked Tilapia. Banku is fermented corn or corn + cassava dough, a little sticky, and is a typical partner for baked tilapia and other fish dishes.

More to come from Accra Restaurant….
 
 

Accra Restaurant – Part 3

Instagram Post 9/8/2018

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Our recent off the charts dinner at Accra Restaurant, 2065 Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd in Harlem featured so many delicious dishes that I don’t have a favorite, other to say how much I love the cuisine of Ghana and the way Accra does it. I’ll do a comprehensive post soon, but meanwhile here are few more photos of what we enjoyed.

[1] Dibi and Acheke with remarkable mustard onions. Dibi is roasted meat, in this case lamb, sliced into chunks, and often part of the street food scene; the mustard component is a significant ingredient in the recipe. Acheke (you might see it as attiéké) is grated cassava with a texture similar to couscous.
[2] Guinea Fowl (Akonfem). The meat is a little leaner than chicken and the flavor is more pronounced. It was topped with peanut powder, traditionally a blend of peanuts and chili powder along with spices like ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon.

More to come from Accra….