A kipe (Key-pay, $1.25) — Juana's also employs the more common spelling quipe — is a street-friendly Dominican version of Levantine kibbeh. In this rendition the casing of deep-fried bulgur, which surrounds a core of seasoned minced meat, was exceptionally nutty and chewy.
Juana Pastelitos West 142nd St. at Frederick Douglass Blvd., Manhattan Closed Sunday
Previously: Crystal-clear Limonade La Gazelle (the photo is of a full bottle, $2) would be welcome alternative to Vimto, and housemade sorrel and ginger drinks, served in many West African restaurants. For widest Stateside distribution, however, this Senegalese soft drink would need to offer a list of ingredients more complete than "pur sucre."
Adja Khady Food Distributor 243 West 116th St. (Adam Clayton Powell Junior-Frederick Douglass Blvds.), Manhattan 646-645-7505
At your local diner, "two eggs any style" will get you eggs from a chicken, not a quail or an ostrich; there's no need to ask for clarification. At a Chinese noodle shop (unless the business expressly keeps halal), "meat sauce" implies pork meat. So it is, at a Senegalese restaurant like Chez Alain, when you order "dibi" — by default, you'll be served chopped, seasoned grilled lamb.
Only with the addition of a qualifying word, as in the case of my "dibi poulet," or grilled chicken, does the menu depart from that basic understanding. (Compare Puerto Rican chicharrones de pollo.) This broad plate ($14) included sides of buttery vermicelli and just-ripe plantain, half a hardboiled egg and a hodgepodge of vegetables, plus that essential accompaniment to the West African grill, onions in mustard sauce. Your principal conundrum: spear onions and chicken together, with a fork, or just dig in with your fingers.
Chez Alain Restaurant 2046 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. (122nd-123rd Sts.), Manhattan 212-678-7600
Hay and feed would have been intended for working animals and livestock, a century or more ago; flour, for their owners; and grain perhaps for both man and beast. The current business at this location also sells grain for human consumption, though only in the form of potent potables.
That business — yes, the liquor store — moved to its current mid-block location several years ago. Its old digs, now the site of a deli, still display faded signage (shown below) for a grocer that also may be of century-old vintage. The word at the bottom, partly obscured by the awning, might be "feed"; at the top, partially cut away by a punched-through window, could be the word "hostler" — a stableman.
Flour, hay, grain & feed Surviving signage, 303 West 128th St. (Frederick Douglass Blvd.-St. Nicholas Ave.), Manhattan
My fish and chicken leg combo ($15) sported two whiting filets; two pieces of chicken; cornbread; two sides, cabbage and mac 'n' cheese; and a fiendish choice of hot sauce for a church-basement kitchen. Chocolate cake, too. If your appetite is less ambitious, go with the fish, which on a given day might instead be porgy, tilapia, or croaker. The reverend — he'll be the fellow holding the frypan — can give you the good word.
New Hope Community Kitchen 63 West 126th St. (Fifth Ave.-Malcolm X Blvd.), Manhattan 212-996-0976 Friday only, noon till ???
From the vendor's place of business, I imagined that she's from Mali but didn't press; my focus was on identifying the porridges within several pint-sized tubs. A fellow customer, fluent in English and less shy, confirmed that this one was millet, its closest companion, corn, and both, sweet. Millet-and-yogurt thiakry was available, too. That customer also offered the name "moni" (spelling mine) before rejoining an impromptu klatch of open-air fashion consultants.
Unlidded, the porridge revealed itself as a millet couscous with dark flecks that presaged a gingery kick. Good, but probably better rewarmed, if I could have waited. Later I realized that the variety featuring corn, which I've tried in a similar setting, was likewise called moni. It might be that "moni" simply means "porridge" in Bambara, Mali's most widely spoken vernacular language (and the nation's lingua franca, if you set aside French). More investigation to follow.
Sidewalk table at the Timbuktu Islamic Center 103 West 144th St. (Lenox Ave.-Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd.), Manhattan Friday only, roughly midday till midafternoon
What is domoda, the Gambian national dish, doing in a Senegalese restaurant? One glance at a map of West Africa refreshes the memory: Except for its narrow coastline on the Atlantic, Gambia is surrounded by Senegal. Little surprise, then, that a sauce very similar to the larger country's mafe should win admirers on both sides of the border.
Like mafe, which is also served as part of the rotating lunchtime menu at brand-new Pikine (Pee-keen), domoda is thickened with peanut butter. From the recipes I've found, however, its base seems to rely more on tomatoes and not at all on smoked or dried fish. This domoda yap (featuring lamb, $12) sported on-the-bone hunks of tender meat as well as carrot, potato, some sort of pumpkin or squash, and the obligatory hot pepper (in this case, green). Spooned over a big plate of white rice, this could be your new favorite cold-weather stew.
Pikine 243 West 116th St. (Frederick Douglass-Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvds.), Manhattan 646-922-7015
Even in Manhattan, a neighborhood street festival that celebrates local merchants can serve up uncommon fare, provided you're in the right neighborhood. Cases in point: hilib ari, the terrific Somali-style roasted goat from Safari; Haitian black rice with legumes from Harlem Karibe; fried tilapia and plantains from La Savane. The cooks at that restaurant, who hail from various countries (the owner himself is from the Ivory Coast), excel at preparing the thick sauces that are staples on West African lunchtime menus. The two shown at bottom, I'll bet, would have been delicious if I'd been willing to commit to the calories, and perhaps to a nap.
Go Africa Harlem Street Festival West 116th St. between Seventh and Eighth Aves., Manhattan www.GoAfricaHarlem.org (The 2015 festival was held on July 18)
To my knowledge Safari is the only Somali restaurant in New York City. It may well be the first: Although Yemen & Somalia Restaurant operated on this very West Harlem block in the 1990s, Robert Sietsema noted at the time that the proprietors were Yemeni; the chow he described seemed Yemeni, too. At this family-run business, by contrast, the two cousins I spoke with were born in the southern Somali port city of Kismaayo (kiss-My-oh), namesake of my Kismaayo chicken suqaar (soo-Car, "diced"; $13). The spicing of the chicken was less pointed than its ruddy hue would suggest; a pale green housemade hot sauce picked up the slack.
Over many centuries, Somalia's long East African coastline has opened the country to many commercial and culinary influences. "Suqaar," for example, is Arabic, with Somali one of the country's two official languages; order the beef suqaar, however, and you'll find it infused with the Ethiopian spice mitmita. For my accompaniment I chose basmati rice, whose aroma and elaborate decoration seemed almost Persian, but I might easily have been swayed to order the humbler-looking chapati. (A complimentary round of that Indian flatbread, once it had cooled to the touch, proved to be thin and light yet many-layered.) A third starch option, spaghetti in a cream-based basil-and-rosemary sauce — a legacy of Italian occupation — must await a return visit.
Safari soft-opened in May. The restaurant, which keeps halal (most Somalis are adherents of Sunni Islam), is open during the month of Ramadan from 5:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. However, even though food is served by light of day, just as at Midtown's many halal carts, long-cooked dishes such as hilib ari, roasted goat, may be ready only at sunset, when observant Muslims break their fast. Safari's grand opening, and earlier dining-room hours, are planned to coincide with or shortly follow this year's Ramadan-ending celebration of Eid al-Fitr. This begins, in North America, on the evening of Friday, July 17.