“I arrived and it felt just like home,” says chef Ahmed Obo, remembering when he moved from East Africa to his new home in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Obo is originally from Lamu, a small island off Kenya’s coast where residents move about on foot or by boat. After moving to New York, at age 22, Obo landed in New Mexico, where he began working in restaurants and local grocery stores to support himself and his family back on Lamu Island.
Obo is joining host Sheldon Simeon in this episode of Cooking in America to share a meal at Obo’s Jambo Cafe. On the table, there’s island-spiced mahi mahi, ugali (cornmeal dough), and coconut pili pili shrimp — tiger shrimp over basmati rice with an East African coconut tomato hot spice (pili pili means chile in Swahili). The nearly 10-year-old restaurant was the only African restaurant in Santa Fe when it opened. “My target is not Africans,” says Obo. “My target is the local people who have embraced me,”