Traditional African Food in Las Vegas

Taking a trip to Vegas has long been on my bucket list and before I head on vacation, I like to
check out the history of my destination. Las Vegas has a rich and winding history. Once
inhabited mostly by railroad workers and ranchers, the city had a reputation for fast living, and
with this lifestyle, drinking and card games. This reputation saw an enormous rise in speakeasies
and illegal casinos.
After a while casinos became legal once again and with enormous building and regeneration
projects taking place across the city, business boomed. New casinos and cabarets seemed to be
popping up everywhere and by the late 1940s Highway 91 was well on its way to becoming The
Strip that we know today. Las Vegas’ name was sealed as a tourist destination by the 60s, when
fans would visit to see the likes of Elvis and Frank Sinatra perform.
By the 90s Vegas was home to 13 of the biggest 20 hotels on the planet and nowadays receives
around 40 million visitors annually. It’s a must visit for anyone who wants to experience that big
city feel, or even try their luck at the slots. However, here we’re only interested in the food, so if
you wanted a travel guide to Las Vegas for your next casino spree, then there are plenty of other
sites to check out! So without further ado, here’s my guide to the best African food you’re likely
to find in Vegas.

Merkato Ethiopian Restaurant

A reliable favourite of mine is Merkato, one of the few really good chain restaurants around. The
Las Vegas joint was no exception, offering a big (but not disconcertingly big) menu full of
traditional Ethiopian flavours. Honestly, I love a nice piece of meat, but the vegetarian platter
here is so good and so plentiful that I’d struggle to choose anything else!
There are eight or nine different veggie based dishes, some refreshing salads, others fiery curries.
Everything is served as it should be on injera, which you use to eat with instead of knives and
forks. I’d recommend a cup of Tej, an Ethiopian honey wine; it goes beautifully with curry as its
sweet and soothing on the palate. The best news? A truly enormous meal, a glass of wine and a
coffee set me back less than $20. Can’t say fairer than that!

Photo by Merkato restaurant

Nigerian Cuisine by Folaf

If jollof rice is on the menu then I always order it. I find the simplest dishes are usually the best
judge of a restaurant and this place does the perfect Nigerian jollof rice. The food here isn’t super
spicy, so as not to alienate the largely Western clientele, so be sure to ask for it hot. They’re
pretty accommodating for people with dietary requirements – and extra accommodating for those
who just want a really large portion; perfect!

It’s nice to see pounded yam on the menu as it doesn’t get more comfort food than yam. They
serve all of their rice dishes with a meat stew, with the goat being my personal favourite. The
other dishes come with a simple soup with a choice of veggies. Whilst a main course here is
more than enough to fill you up, try to save room for some ‘snacks’; the suya is only a couple of
dollars a stick and is a real taste of home, whilst the meat pies are pretty filling, but again a must
try. Continue reading →

10 Minutes With Enyinna and A Righteous Bowl Of Seafood Okra


I could describe Enyinna Nwigwe as a luxurious slice of chocolate cake, but it would be an understatement. I could describe him as a delicious bowl of seafood okra but the beauty that is Enyinna pass Okra. Enyinna’s face in Nollywood is nothing new, He has acted in different Nollywood movies, but I only noticed him in the movie “The wedding party” where he played Nonso Onwuka the brother to Dozie Onwuka played by Banky W.

Enyinna the beautiful is also an avid foodie, one who isn’t ashamed to cook or ask for seafood okra :p And as he also cooks, he surely deserves some accolades.

see wetin fine boy cook. gotten from Eyinna’s Instagram’s stories

I remember looking through his pictures on Instagram and being swooned, of course it ended with me making a comment and him asking for a bowl of seafood okra. Enyinna, you see, I gat you bro!

  I refer to Enyinna as the only Nigerian, Igbotic cow boy.

Apart from his acting skills, Enyinna has a very clean dress sense. The dude can wear anything and look like a million bucks. His baby face, his acting skills and his overall personality sets him apart from most male actors.

see person pikin as he fine

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Majestic and Ocean Drive….All my life, I prayed for a drink like you

My third day in Florida saw me at the beach. It was beach time people! I went with no beach ready bathing suits but I was going to be at that beach come what may. Visiting South beach on Ocean drive was different from visiting Bahamas fish market which was at an area that reminded me a lot of Lagos :). Ocean drive compared to the other side of town was like night and day.

In a city where hardly anyone speaks English, my friend and I felt like we had won the lottery when our Lyft driver picked us up to go to the beach and he could speak English! “You speak English?” I asked. “yes” he responded. My friend and I screamed like two crazy people. But listen, I will be learning some Spanish make person no sell me next time 🙂

Going to the beach met us with a lot of beautiful scenery. We drove by some cruise ships. I saw a couple of Disney cruise ships and I thought at once of my Ajebutters (children). They love the water for some reason and have always wanted to go on a Disney cruise. I find myself working to give them the best that life has to offer and what I never had. I think it is so with most parents. During the drive, I also saw the largest cruise ship in the world. It has 18 floors and houses 6000 people. People are really out there living their best lives 🙂

On getting to the beach, I knew two things had to happen:

  1. I had to dip my toes in the clear beach water. It was a must. Who goes to Miami without going to South beach and eating beach side?
  2. I had to try a Coronarita. a Coronarita is simply margarita with one or two bottles of Corona turned upside down into a margarita glass filled with margarita and the beer slowly releases into the margarita as you drink from the glass.

After about 30 minutes on the beach, we went looking for the famous Coronarita and while walking the most talked about side walks of Ocean drive, we were stopped by a very “don’t take no for an answer” waitress who talked us into trying the drinks at the tables of Majestic for a two for the price of one deal. She introduced herself as Christina while we sat down and within 10 minutes, she brought our drinks. She was such a tiny lady, I wondered how she held our drinks with her tiny hands. Although the sizes of the drinks and the two corona bottles in each glass seemed a little intimidating, I was too excited to let it kill my joy. I was going to experience this drink whole heartedly and without fuss.

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Bahamas Fish Market and Restaurant….Bring Me The Bahamas


I have never been to the Bahamas, so when I was told that the Bahamas fish market was a great place to get seafood in Florida, I slept counting sheep because I couldn’t wait. After watching an episode of “Parts unknown” with the late Anthony Bourdain eating fried fish in the Bahamas, I knew my experience was going to be kind of close. Besides that, I had always wanted to go to Miami because apart from it being kind of a one stop hub for Cuban food, I wanted to simply experience the beauty of the ocean and eat fried seafood; yes! fried seafood.

Getting to Bahamas fish market, I didn’t know what part of town I was at but it reminded me so much of Nigeria. There were different stores and mechanics around the corner. The whole environment though busy was quite bubbly. It felt like being in Lagos in the day time 🙂

 

Walking into the restaurant felt like being human in an aquarium as the restaurant was painted to look like one or even like the sea. If I wasn’t sane, I would have thought I was Ariel from the little mermaid.

The Bahamas fish market reminded me of a small Nigerian food shack/diner. It was filled with friendly people and really good food. In Nigeria, we have places where one can get the point and kill fish. It’s a place where when you visit, they show you an array of live fish and seafood. You pick the one that interests you and tell them how you want it cooked; according to what they have on the menu.

In Bahamas fish market, the fish/seafood is already harvested and cleaned then placed in an ice box to be preserved for the customers for the day.

Trying to take a seat in the restaurant, I did not know what to expect. I just knew I wanted some Cuban spiced fried fish. On sitting down, a beautiful waitress who introduced herself as Nadia walked to my table with a glass of water, a bowl of lime and a small basket of saltine crackers. I had to stop myself from eating the crackers because I had waited all day for some seafood 🙂

I ordered some fried oysters as my appetizer before realizing they had ceviche. If you have never had ceviche before, you have got to try it. It’s basically a seafood dish made from fresh seafood/fish cured with lemon or lime. It is then seasoned with spices, onions and herbs. Personally, I prefer ceviche to sushi; even if they both serve different purposes and taste differently. After ordering oysters for my appetizer, I decided to order a serving of fried fish for my main course. To make my order of fish, Nadia walked me to the ice box where they were being preserved and I had to make a choice. I was spoiled for choices and though I wanted some cod, I settled for a pound of yellow tail snapper, yellow rice and tostones; (pronounced “tos..to..nes”) which is simply twice fried unripe plantains.

The oysters, fresh and cleaned; then seasoned, battered and fried was served piping hot with fresh lime and tartar sauce. I have to say it was one of the freshest and most delicious oysters I ever had. It didn’t taste like it came from a freezer. I kept munching on each piece forgetting I had ordered some fish for my main course.


 

My fish was brought to me by Nadia and just like the oysters, it was piping hot and you could smell the crispiness of the oil. You know when Nigerians ask “can you hear the smell?” I could hear the crisp smell and I dug right in using my hands. I ate a bit of the rice and some of the tostones, but the fish was the main attraction. The whole dish was served with a tiny ramekin filled with a mixture of chopped sweet peppers and onions drenched in lime. It kind of reminded me of eating fish and attieke. This mixture was what I instinctively poured on my fish and the taste went from 100-100 in a matter of seconds. At this point, I had to order a cold bottle of Coors Light which was served with a chilled glass and a lime wedge.

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Oil Bean Salad And Stories From My Mother’s Kitchen


 

If there’s one dish I appreciate my mother teaching me to make it’s one of my favorite warm salads; Ugba salad.

Ugba also known as Ukpaka by some Igbo dialects is simply Igbo for African oil bean.

Growing up in Nigeria, my mother had a restaurant where she made Isi ewu and sold drinks. She had a lot of customers and her business grew to be famous until she had to go to catering school. Through this Isi ewu dish, I learnt about ugba and how to make it. I also learnt how to make Nkwobi, which is a dish that can be made with both ugba and chopped cow foot.

Another thing in my childhood I am happy about is my mother opening my pallets to different Nigerian foods. Now, I do the same for my Ajebutters and they eat most Nigerian foods without questioning; including Ugba. At a young age, I started enjoying local Nigerian dishes you wouldn’t really expect a child to understand; talk less of enjoying. Eating ugba at home was one of the ultimate treats mommy could ever give us. There was something about noshing on chewy cow skin and soft/melt in your mouth ugba.

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Easy peppered meat (Easy peasy Christmas)

It has been a crazy year but I’m grateful for the little victories. You know how little drops make an ocean? My little victories, I believe will make a big one soon. Sometimes, I place the bar so high that when I cannot reach the goal, I begin to feel bad. Slowly, I’m learning to celebrate and appreciate the little victories.

Christmas is here and it happens to be one of my favorite holidays. Do I believe Jesus was born on Dec 25th? No 🙂 but I know some special people who were and I just enjoy the beauty of being able to eat fried rice and peppered meat 🙂 

There is a joke amongst Nigerians that we cook our meat until it’s dead dead. This is because after seasoning our meat and boiling it, we usually fry or grill it before cooking it again in whatever soup or sauce it was prepared for. It is  believed by Nigerian cooks that this process makes our food savory. I don’t know if it truly makes any dish any savory but with peppered meat, I enjoy my meat cooked, fried/grilled and cooked in the sauce again because coupled with the sweetness and spiciness, I like the chewiness of the meat; especially tripe. The amazing chewy goodness brings ecstasy to my taste buds.  

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Savory Corned Beef Sauce….Because Christmas Mornings :)

I remember being a little girl and sitting in a corner with an almost empty can; munching on salty morsels of corned beef and hearing my mom in the background telling me to be careful and use a spoon.

As a child I had a joyful experience with corned beef. I say joyful because I really don’t have words to describe my childhood experience with food generally. I think my joyful experience stems from my mother being adventurous with food. She made corned beef sandwiches, she added it as a protein to salads and used it as a substitute for Nigerian meat pies and sausage rolls.

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Juka’s Organic

When I first heard of Juka’s Organic, I wasn’t sure what it was. I was like “which one is Juka again?” Notwithstanding, I gave them the audience and I have to tell you it was one of the most pleasant audience I had ever granted. Juka’s Organic is a company that sells African products and one of my favorite things, the African organic Palm oil.
Receiving the palm oil in the mail, the box smelled like sweet plantain chips. On opening it, it was a box of palm oil, coconut oil and palm oil sauce. Although the oils smelled so sweet on opening them, I didn’t rush to taste them as I wanted to take my time to relish in each bottle.

Tasting
The first of the oils I tried was the palm oil sauce. It was not salty and it tasted freshly made. I had it with some boiled white yam and some corned beef sauce. It was so good I had to start adding it in everything we ate. Even with beans and African bread it was tickety boo!


The coconut oil wasn’t any different. It tasted coconutty and wholesome. I used it for my oil pulling and I made some noodle stir fry. Freshness guaranteed!
My favorite was the Red Palm oil. Juka’s Organic palm oil is the truth! The whole truth and nothing less. I’m a cook/chef and I am someone who cooks for people so I use a lot of palm oil in my soups and sauces. I know people who do not like palm oil. They would eat anything but palm oil until Dr. Oz and even Oprah endorsed it as a superfood.

I think as Africans, we don’t understand the value and wholeness of our foods. And I digress.
In my first attempt using Juka’s Organic red palm oil, I made some yam pottage with it. The oil smelled sweet and the color was the most brilliant shade of red I had ever seen. The yam pottage tasted differently from the others I had ever made. The taste was deliciously inexplicable. Sweet spot confirmed! I thought I was enjoying palm oil until I tasted Juka’s Organic palm oil. Now I hide my Juka’s oils in my pantry make story no enter abeg. Continue reading →

Ghanaian Okra Stew

I am a huge fan of Okra thanks to my ajebutter and my dad. There’s no telling how many times I make it in one week. Even my son the gluten free ajebutter loves and prefers a meal of okra over anything else. Infact he calls the Nigerian stew and okra the red and green soup.

Today we will take a trip to Ghana. Ghanaians and Nigerians do have a lot in common; especially when it comes to food. Apart from Egusi, Jollof rice and suya, we do share similarities in how we make our okra and to them it’s called Okra stew. Maybe because of how it’s made with a tomato base. Not forgetting that the Yoruba’s do call theirs Okra stew too.

My ajebutter had to get some allergy shots and with him crying “mommy mommy” I had to make something quick. And what better recipe to make than one with okra. It’s quick it’s easy and it’s damn delicious! 

I have seen some of my Ghanaian neighbors eat this soup with banku. A fufu mix of corn and cassava. Although I didn’t make mine with banku, we enjoyed it with yellow garri. As in the garri dey draw like pounded yam kaiiii!

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Egg Plant Sauce (Garden Egg Sauce). My pot of deliciousness


Growing up Nigerian, we ate a lot of home grown vegetables. We had our own garden of fresh fruits, vegetables, yam and herbs. On the weekends, mommy made anything from bean fritters to yam and eggs or yam and vegetables. My favorite weekend breakfast was yam and egg plant sauce. Although eating egg plants did take some getting used to, I fell in love with it. It was usually fried in oil, seasoned lightly, cooked slowly and loaded with mackerel.

I have tried egg plants a lot of ways, but this recipe right here is my absolute favorite.

Eating egg plant sauce is a great way to get your healthy vegetables in; especially if you’re one of the fit fam folks who do meatless Mondays.

One reason I love this recipe is because apart from it being easy, it had a certain sweetness. I have tried some egg plants that were bitter to taste after cooking. But I found the hack and it’s boiling the egg plants until a little soft and peeling off the skin.

In finding a pocket of time, I made some egg plant sauce and viola! Yam and fried plantain toh bad!

My sauce had a lot of seeds because of the breed of egg plants I used, but regardless of the seeds, the sauce was delicious. It was a pot of sauce not to be forgotten.

For a foot note, how your egg plant sauce turns out depends on what breed of egg plants used and how you cook it.

Another reason to love this sauce is the umami; and that is the addition of locust beans. Thank you Funmi 🙂

I used Thai egg plants which are the same shape as the image below, but green in color.

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