LOADING

Type to search

These Chefs Infuse the Hudson Valley With West African Flavor

Share
Photo by T. Roeschlein

The chefs behinds Alima’s West African Cuisine food truck and Keobi in Albany bring the flavors of their homeland to the Hudson Valley.

Alima Bonsa

Alima’s West African Cuisine food truck

Tell us a little about the cuisine.

I do West African food. It’s mostly the food from my hometown [in] Burkina Faso. This cooking is generation to generation.

How did the restaurant come about?

I started in 2017 [in the Hudson Valley], but back home I was walking to neighbors’ houses and selling in local markets since I was a teenager. I decided to open the truck because I think it’s very important, wherever you live, to bring the culture. This is my passion. I want to share my traditional food with the community, and the community really loves what I’m doing.

What are some of the core ingredients?

There are some spices that come from Africa; you can’t even find them here. I’m also a farmer. I make a lot of green bean stews; that’s a typical West African thing. I grow most of my green beans. [My ingredients are] mostly local besides the spices.

Which dishes do you think first-time customers should try?

Number one would be the peanut butter stew with lamb. You find that everywhere in Africa because it’s very traditional. There’s two ways I make black-eyed peas. One is like a stew with coconut milk and spices, topped with plantains. The other way, you make the black-eyed peas and rice together, then sauté onions, tomatoes, herbs, and spices.

What types of restaurants would you like to see more of in your community?

It’s very interesting coming from a different county. I think it’s good when you have diversity in the community. I always want to live in places that have diversity. When I feel there’s not diversity, I try to bring something to the community.

Keobi owners Obinna and Kelechi Nwagboso. Photo by Rad Images Inc.

Obinna Nwagboso

Keobi, Albany

Tell us a little about the cuisine.

I consider it African fusion. It’s influenced by West African cuisine, particularly Nigerian.

How did the restaurant come about?

I moved from New York City [to Albany] about five years ago, and there was no place to go. We had a few parties. My wife [Kelechi] cooked, and every party was bigger than the previous one. There was one common denominator: The food was good. My wife has 28 years experience in restaurants; I have over 20 years management experience. So, we said, ‘Let’s start a business.’ We put a plan together to open sometime in 2020, but COVID came. We opened [in April]. We didn’t know what to expect.

What are some of the core ingredients?

I think the better question is what’s our biggest menu item. Jollof rice is simply tomato-based rice infused with spices — bay leaf, thyme, ginger, Cameroon pepper. There’s no African celebration without jollof rice. [It] sells times two of our next-best product.

Which dishes do you think first-time customers should try?

We go through about 100 pounds of goat meat every week. We sell it with jollof rice; we have pepper soups. We have suya, which is beef kebab with local spice and a little bit of peanut powder.

What types of restaurants would you like to see more of in your community?

I think we should have more ethnic restaurants. People like to try something new. Sixty percent of our customers are non-African. I think it’s a good thing to have people learn about each other.