The 5 best dishes I tried at the sprawling NJ’s African Restaurant Week festival
The very first week of African restaurants in New Jersey ended this weekend with a food festival Saturday in Newark.
Music from the DJ roared in the parking lot of Tewahedo Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Bisrate Gebriel as vendors sold clothes, beauty products, health products and more.
And there was food. A lot of food.
African Restaurant Week CEO Akin Akinsanya said he hoped the restaurant week (which included 23 different restaurants) and the closing celebration (with even more food vendors) would help bring African cuisine to life. “on the gourmet menu”. I tried as many dishes as I could on the first day of the event on Saturday – some dishes I had tried before and several that I didn’t. Day 2 was postponed by Hurricane Henri and will now take place next Sunday.
Here are my favorite foods that I have tasted.
I’m a sucker for all the tamarind, and the luscious chicken in the hot sauce was my one favorite thing I ate on Saturday. The marinade was sweet but not too much, reminiscent of barbecue sauce but with more bite. Jollof rice (a West African dish that was recently shouted on Apple TV hit show “Ted Lasso”) was tender and packed with a tomato and pepper flavor that resisted the chicken.
Everything you need to know about sea foam It was when I told the owners of Sweet-T-Creams that I had never eaten it before, they pulled out their cameras to film my reaction. As soon as the Jamaican drink, which is derived from a type of seaweed, hit my lips, I knew why. Wow. One of the most unique textures I have ever experienced. Light and soft but also with the softness of a gel. With coconut and vanilla added to the mix, it was a delicious dairy-free dessert with a myriad of health benefits.
Acarajé is a common street food in the cuisines of West Africa, the Caribbean and Brazil. Black-eyed peas are peeled, mashed and then fried into a ball that is split open and filled with shrimp and cashew sauce and topped with peppers and onions. My favorite part of the dish is the different textures – the batter from the donut, the succulent shrimp then the crispy vegetables give you three very different mouthfeel in just one bite.
The first thing I ate at the festival, and it was the hottest. I guess they weren’t kidding when they said they were spicing things up for me. Suya is a spicy meat kebab popular in West African cuisine. I tried the chicken and the beef and loved both, but the chicken was especially tender and tasty. The red onions on top were a nice addition that cut through the heat.
Pasta. Shrimp. Coconut. Not three foods I had ever eaten together before Saturday, but now I wonder where this has been all my life. The sauce was the right balance of sweet and spicy, while the shrimp were big and juicy. The pasta combined everything well.
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