The 5 best dishes I tried at the sprawling NJ’s African Restaurant Week festival

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The very first week of African restaurants in New Jersey ended this weekend with a food festival Saturday in Newark.

Music from the DJ roared in the parking lot of Tewahedo Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Bisrate Gebriel as vendors sold clothes, beauty products, health products and more.

And there was food. A lot of food.

African Restaurant Week CEO Akin Akinsanya said he hoped the restaurant week (which included 23 different restaurants) and the closing celebration (with even more food vendors) would help bring African cuisine to life. “on the gourmet menu”. I tried as many dishes as I could on the first day of the event Saturday – some dishes I had tried before and several I didn’t. Day 2 was postponed by Hurricane Henri and will now take place next Sunday.

Here are my favorite foods that I have tasted.

Tamarind Chicken, Fish Stew and Jollof Rice from Delicious African Orchards at New Jersey African Restaurant Week, held Saturday and Sunday at the Tewahedo Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Bisrate Gebriel in Newark. (Jeremy Schneider | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

I’m a sucker for all the tamarind, and the luscious chicken in the hot sauce was my one favorite thing I ate on Saturday. The marinade was sweet but not too much, reminiscent of barbecue sauce but with more bite. Jollof rice (a West African dish that was recently shouted on Apple TV hit show “Ted Lasso”) was tender and packed with a tomato and pepper flavor that resisted the chicken.

Sea foam drink

Sweet-T-Creams Sea Mousse at the New Jersey African Restaurant Week festival in Newark. (Jeremy Schneider | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

Everything you need to know about sea ​​foam It was when I told the owners of Sweet-T-Creams that I had never eaten it before, they pulled out their cameras to film my reaction. As soon as the Jamaican drink, which is derived from a type of seaweed, hit my lips, I knew why. Wow. One of the most unique textures I have ever experienced. Light and soft but also with the softness of a gel. With coconut and vanilla added to the mix, it was a delicious dairy-free dessert with a myriad of health benefits.

Acaraje

Acarajé from the New Jersey African Restaurant Week festival in Newark. (Jeremy Schneider | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

Acarajé is a common street food in the cuisines of West Africa, the Caribbean and Brazil. Black-eyed peas are peeled, mashed and then fried into a ball that is split open and filled with shrimp and cashew sauce and topped with peppers and onions. My favorite part of the dish is the different textures – the donut batter, the succulent shrimp, and the crispy vegetables give you three very different mouthfeel in just one bite.

Suya

Suya by Zobo Sorrel at the New Jersey African Restaurant Week festival in Newark. (Jeremy Schneider | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

The first thing I ate at the festival, and it was the hottest. I guess they weren’t kidding when they said they were spicing things up for me. Suya is a spicy meat kebab popular in West African cuisine. I tried the chicken and the beef and loved both, but the chicken was especially tender and tasty. The red onions on top were a nice addition that cut through the heat.

Coconut pasta

Urdee B’s coconut and shrimp pasta at the New Jersey African Restaurant Week festival in Newark. (Jeremy Schneider | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

Pasta. Shrimp. Coconut. Not three foods I had ever eaten together before Saturday, but now I wonder where this has been all my life. The sauce was the right balance of sweet and spicy, while the shrimp were big and juicy. The pasta combined everything well.

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Jeremy Schneider can be contacted at [email protected] and follow on Twitter at @J_Schneider and on Instagram at @JeremyIsHungryAgain.



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