In the latest episode of Cooking in America, chef Sheldon Simeon treks to Houston to scope out the city’s vibrant Nigerian food scene. Texas’s largest city is home to a sizable population of immigrants from the West African nation, many of whom flock to Cafe Abuja on Westheimer Road for a taste of home.
Here Simeon samples a variety of house specialties, even finding some similarities between Nigerian cuisine and the Filipino and Hawaiian foods near and dear to his heart. Egusi soup is a traditional dish consisting of dried melon seeds cooked with beef tripe and foot, dried fish, and crayfish powder, and then there’s fufu, a pounded yam dish that’s basically the Nigerian equivalent of Hawaii’s poi. Jollof rice is cooked in a spicy tomato and pepper puree, and goat proves a popular protein that shows up in numerous dishes.
Owners Rasak and Tiffaney Odewale explain that Cafe Abuja has relied on word of mouth to become beloved with the local Nigerian community, including many who work in Houston’s famously robust oil and gas industry. But Tiffaney concludes, “Really Cafe Abuja isn’t just here for the Nigerians — we’re here for the whole community.”