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At Kalustyan’s: Nigerian / African Ingredients in New York

by on April 4, 2015
 

My intention wasn’t to go shopping for Nigerian/ African food in Manhattan. I stopped at Kalustyan’s because it is one of my favourite places ever in New York.

It reminds me of Ozan, the Turkish Shop in The Hague – every square inch is maximised with lots of flavour and options and opportunities to learn.

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I love to wander the aisles, looking, reading, just taking it all in.

What I find often leaves me thinking about Nigeria, and Africa. About agriculture and commerce. About extending our produce uses into products that stretch our thinking.

So much to take it and ponder. I see lots of products on Kalustyan’s shelves and I wonder why we don’t make some of these products ourselves in Nigeria and Africa. Yes some of them aren’t required since we can eat them fresh but others add such diversity to our products, our marketable products.

I find we, Nigerians are generally uninterested about preservation. It doesn’t even occur to us that we can extend the lives of some produce, or use certain uncommon parts in new ways.

Our attitudes amongst other things must change. This is why I want to pioneer a Nigerian Culinary Institute where we can address some of these challenges. Where we can come together to establish and document food and a cuisine that’s Nigerian and embracing of new ideas.

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A few years ago, I was thrilled to see Tsire, yaji, suya spice. Tsire is still here and there’s more.

There are the ‘staples’, Garri,

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Plantain Flour,

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And there is the interesting. Sorghum syrup, from guinea corn canes. Yes, guinea corn – the familiar addition to corn pap.

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You’ll find dehydrated coconut water – I wonder who uses it. I would have said why but I realise that having access to fresh coconuts might be a gift.

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There’s Baobab powder too,

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And refined shea butter, sitting next to Dutch Processed cocoa powder.

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Did I mention Taro? Aka Cocoyam to Nigerians. Reading the labels takes me places I hadn’t conceived. Cocoyam in a smoothie? Okay. Good stuff.

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If you want to make your own chocolate from scratch, you’ll find whole seeds 🙂 and nibs (nutty, bitter bits of the cocoa seed).

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Kalustyan’s opens my eyes to the possibility, if only we would stretch our minds a bit.

So much hope, so much opportunity.

Anyhoo, if you’re looking for Nigerian and African ingredients in Manhattan – this is one place to go. I can’t compare their prices with other places as it is the only one I know.

And you can feed your bellies in their cafe upstairs for not much.

I had the Mujadarra pita again – I could only finish half of it there. The other half was wrapped up.

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While eating, I got a delicious samosa for a gift. Beautifully flavoured and choc full of peas and potatoes. The crust on it was legendary – full-flavoured, perfectly salted, not thin and perfectly crumbly.

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These reasons are why Kalustyan’s remains a New York must-visit for me.

Kalustyan’s

123 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10016 (map)
212-685-3451
kalustyans.com