A window to Nigerian delicacies in Indian capital (With Images)

August 5th, 2011 - 1:35 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Aug 5 (IANS) If you’re game for some okro soup and jellof rice, step right in. A restaurant in the capital rustles up many non-spicy Nigerian delights, cooked with herbs, that Indian foodies love to come back for.

“Around 8-10 Indian customers come here on a daily basis and they quite like our dishes,” Jeffrey O. Akuma, who opened the A and G Afro Shop in Saket in October last year, told IANS.

The restaurant-cum-shop, with its open air environs and bamboo chair seating, offers egusi soup, ogbono soup and isiewu among other dishes.

“The most popular dish among Indians is okro soup, which is made of ladyfinger, followed by egusi soup made of melon seeds and rice stew,” Akuma adds.

Akuma, a trained chef, came to India three years ago for heart treatment. During his stay at the Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, he was told to consume simple food, but Indian dishes were not to his liking. After many efforts to find Nigerian fare, Akuma made up his mind to open a restaurant.

The decision has opened a window to African food for many Indians.

Ravi Agarwal, a businessman, says, “It was just by chance that I saw this shop and from that time I have been coming here regularly to enjoy the soups. They are different from our soups, much thicker.”

Prachi Gupta, a bank accountant, likes the place for its simplicity. She says, “The open air restaurant with bamboo chairs gives a feeling of home which is rather different from the noisy restaurants present all over these days.”

The restaurant also has space for a small shop where Akuma sells spices, herbs, noodles and dried fish. Nigerians do not use spices in their products and flavour them with herbs instead.

The prices at the restaurant range from Rs.200 to Rs.500 for a single dish.

Though the number of Indians coming to the restaurant is still less compared to the African customers, Akuma’s hopes are high. Keeping in mind the Indian liking for vegetables, the restaurant has a vegetarian substitute for almost all the dishes.

“We have already started a new dish called veg-combo, which is made of broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, bell peppers, carrots and onions. It has a perfect Nigerian taste and an Indian look to cater to both the Indian and African customers,” Akuma said.

Apart from serving Indians, the restaurant caters to many of the 10,000 strong Nigerian population in Delhi.

Bright Akuma, Jeffrey’s brother, says, “Along with the food we also play movies and songs that we have got from Nigeria so that our people feel they are back home.”

On an average 35-40 people visit the place daily. Among the African customers, a majority are from Nigeria, apart from some others from Ghana, South Africa, Congo and Namibia, informs Jeffrey.

For 35-year-old Jonathen from Namibia, the place has eased his daily routine of cooking. He says, “I work in a call centre at night shift and after my hectic schedule I use to feel irritated while cooking. But now not only I get African food but a lot of time for myself.”

Therasia Bellow from South Africa enjoys the afang soup and uha soup and comes here often. She says, “I use to miss my favourite dishes as restaurants in India don’t offer such things.”

The Nigerians in India, the largest group from the 54-nation African continent, have been involved in various businesses ranging from restaurants, hair salons, beauty parlours, herbs and spices shops and a couple of other private businesses as well.

Jeffery says, “Among the customers that come from different parts of Africa and India, it is the student population that hits the restaurant the most.”

Mohd Nazeer, a Nigerian student at Delhi University, said: “Me and my classmates like the place as apart from the prepared dishes the restaurant also provides food material from Nigeria which facilitates things for students like us.”

A chef who has visited 12 countries across Europe and Asia, Jeffrey has immense knowledge of African food and its presentation for global customers.

“I am planning to work in collaboration with Indian hospitals and provide homely African foods to patients who come from Africa,” he says.

With the increasing popularity of the restaurant, Akuma is planning to open branches in the Lajpat Nagar and Vasant Kunj neighbourhoods in the next three months. He also plans to extend the restaurant to Hyderabad and Bangalore.

(Nazia Jafri can be contacted at nazia.jafri11@gmail.com)

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