African Caribbean Cuisines
By Rayna weddington and Joseph T-Toe
The art of food cooking is nothing unique to any particular group or ethnicity. What is unique are the various ingredients and how they are blended together to create a sensation that pleases the taste buds. Today, as we increasingly live in a multicultural society, cross-cultural eating is gaining wider acceptability and popularity even in Philadelphia.
Fun Times Magazine invites you on a culinary journey featuring cuisines from the Diaspora. Our photographer David Barnes took his camera to some of the local African and Caribbean restaurants and captured some exquisite cuisines that will visually ignite your appetite.
Kenkey and Fish
Made from corn meal is served with sardines or red snapper fish sautéed vegetables (green peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, red pepper) with black sauce and tomato sauce.
Ackee and Fish
– Jamaica and West Africa
A yellowish mild ‘fruit’ when prepared has a texture and look of scrambled eggs. Served with ripe plantain, tilapia, a homemade spe- cial sauce (pepper, salt and lemon), and sautéed vegetables.
White rice blended with vegetable gravy (mixed vegetable, onion, tomato paste in some cooking oil) and served with fried chicken.
Shredded sweet potato leaves cooked in oil (sometimes palm oil) with smoked fish, smoked turkey, beef, chicken, shrimp or any combination of these, served with white rice.
Check Rice and Gravy
Cooked white rice blended in cooked palava sauce leaves or jute leaves served with chicken gravy, beef or fish gravy.
– Nigeria, Liberia
Flour made from plantain or cassava mixed with some water and heated, blended until it thickens and properly cooked then served with pepper soup (meat, fish, chicken, smoked turkey cooked together or any combination with tomato and peppers in some water with spices.) Cooked okra mashed with roasted sesame seeds in mild or hot pepper sauce and a slice of lemon is usually served as side dish.
Thieboudienne- Ceebu jën
Rice served with fresh vegetable with or without tomato together with stewed fish.
– Senegal and other parts of West Africa
Chicken, fish, or shrimp sautéed with onions, garlic, lemon green, red and habanera pepper, with vegetables and Dijon mustard.
Poisson a La Braise
Coconut Fried Chicken
– Jamaica (The coconut tree is the tree of life in Jamaica)
Chicken breast dipped in a coconut breading batter and fried, accompanied by a side of ranch sauce.
Chicken marinated in jerk sauce (allspice, brown sugar, ground cumin, cloves, and peppers) served with brown rice and peas (red beans) and steamed cabbage. (Note: The word “Charqui” was used to describe dried meat but since then has been pronounced Jerky; from the Maroon.)
– Caribbean and some parts of Africa
Chicken cooked in curry gravy with peppers, onions, various spices served with brown or white rice mixed with peas (red beans) and steamed cabbage. (Jamaican curry has a bright yellow color and contains other spices such as allspice and pimento.)
– Middle East and some parts of Africa
Middle Eastern-style bean salad, made with garbanzo and black beans, plus lots of sweet grape tomatoes.
– Egypt and some parts of East Africa
Grape vine leaves filled with vegetables or meat and rolled-up to serve.
– Ancient Egypt
Mushroom sautéed in blend of select herbs and spices.
FunTimes Magazine thanks all the restaurants that allowed us to spotlight some of the best cuisines in the African and Caribbean community.
Hibiscus Vegetarian, 4907 Catharine St Philadelphia, PA 19143; (215) 307-3749
Jamaican Jerk Hut Jamaican, http://jajerkhut.com/ 1436 South St,Philadelphia PA; (215) 545-8644
Kilimandjaro Restaurant African, 4317 Chestnut St Philadelphia PA (215)387-1970 or (215) 387-1971
Kings and Queens Restaurant African, 4830 Woodland Avenue,Philadelphia, PA; 267-388-2887
MY THOUGHTS ABOUT
By: Adedoyin Otolorin
As an African living in Philadelphia, I have had moments when I craved certain food such as Suya (spicy skewered meat). Other times it is pepper soup or just jollof rice, plantain and chicken which are my favorites. Sometimes on weekends, instead of making the dish at home, I would rather go out with friends to eat. I make sure to patronize African and Caribbean restaurants because I am familiar with their cuisine and the food is delicious.
What I have noticed throughout my experience though is that although the food is great, the ambiencemood, feeling and the décor are often secondary at most African/Caribbean restaurants. More so, there is often the lack of quality service. From what it seems, the mind set is that as long as the establishment is making enough to keep the doors open from day to day, there was no appetite for improvement in term of service or physical appearance.
As an African, occasionally, I would visit an Italian, American or French restaurant. Beside the splendid appearance that often keeps me in awe, I am overwhelmed by the extent to which the staff will go to make my afternoon or evening of dinning not only a pleasant experience but also a memorable one. From the time I enter the restaurant to the time I leave, every effort is made for me to have an enjoyable time – that’s service!
But then again whatever happens to a warm welcome or a smile on the face of one of the staff when I enter an African/Caribbean restaurant?
Or a “Thank you for coming and come again” when I am leaving an establishment? In other words, are our restaurants lacking in business etiquette? Have the owners not realized that it is important that these restaurants exhibit at best common courtesy? Certainly, a warm welcome is everything that a patron like myself needs – it is like going to someone’s house and not being greeted at the door.
Perhaps it is prudent that if African/Caribbean proprietors must continue to survive in the food industry, they have to not only invest in making their establishments physically attractive and pleasant to the eyes, they have to also make it a place that is capable of providing first grade dining experience by embracing the following:
- 1. Always keep the physical appearance of the establishment neat and clean
- 2. Strive for improvement in quality of food and service.
- 3. Patrons should always be greeted and escorted to their tables.
- 4. Patrons should not wait too long to be served.
- 5. Employees should keep personal matters (conservations and phone calls) out of eyesight and earshot of patrons.
- 6. Always be polite and courteous to your patrons; this is the cardinal rule!
Please understand that my intent here is to spark a conversation on how to improve the dining environment and the quality of service in African/Caribbean restaurants. I strongly believe that unless we find this conservation necessary and imperative, the possibility of African/Caribbean restaurants becoming a significant part of the American food industry remains questionable.
Let us not forget that the restaurant business is part of the service industry in the United States which contributes billions of dollars to the economy each year. However, African/Caribbean restaurants must realize that in order to attract a constant stream of patrons and claim their share of this American pie, they must provide quality service and create a pleasant atmosphere for a memorable dining experience.