Luke Tsai’s first article for the U.S. edition of the Guardian of London is about Eko Kitchen.
And on Sundays, the main attraction is what Adebajo calls her “rice spectacular”: three different rice dishes on a combo plate, highlighted by a version of Nigerian native rice that’s infused with a deep umami kick reminiscent of a dried-porcini risotto – a flavor the chef attributes to the use of fermented locust beans and unrefined palm oil.
These are staple ingredients in any Nigerian kitchen, and they’re part of what makes it difficult to describe the cuisine, with its bold seasoning and distinctive textures, to someone who doesn’t have the reference points. Sure, you can liken the custardy, leaf-wrapped blackeyed-pea cake known as moin moin to a tamale, or you can say that the pounded yams, made with extra-starchy Nigerian tubers, are like sticky mashed potatoes you pick up with your hands. But ultimately, these kinds of comparisons don’t do justice to the cuisine. Moin moin is moin moin. Pounded yam is pounded yam.
Whatever else you might want to say about Eko Kitchen, the food is wildly delicious. There’s the intense spicy-savory quality of the efo riro, a thick spinach stew that you scoop up with hunks of pounded yam. There’s the smoky, tomatoey tinge of the jollof rice; the in-your-face heat blast of the pepper soup. There’s the ayamase, in which beef skin and tripe are slow-cooked to obscene tenderness in a rich, creamy, palm-oil-based sauce.
Eko Kitchen, San Francisco’s first Nigerian restaurant, serves traditional cuisine such as fiery pepper stews and jollof rice. Photograph: Gabriela Hasbun/The Guardian
167 11th Street
San Francisco, CA, 94103