A local radio station, a sewing studio, an empty space designated as an art gallery. Brightly colored murals contrast with the surrounding residential towers. In the weathered parking garage next door, the last MOT station is sandwiched between two tropical bakeries. The parking deck over the entire first floor is deserted. Further on, in the middle of a playground, there is a small queue for a food truck.
If this had been Brooklyn, it would have been black here with the skinny jeans and racing bikes, man buns on flat whites. But this is the Bijlmermeer in Amsterdam Southeast. All young, white Amsterdammers now turn left at the metro station, towards the blue-yellow furniture giant. It won’t be years before the first hipster serves sour natural wine here. But for now there is still something to discover. Like Nigerian cuisine.
On the last corner before the playground hangs a handwritten A4: if we want to close the door behind us. In a messy hall are some chairs and boxes. Concert announcements and flyers with the shape of the African continent hang on a tiled wall, two cars, a 06 number and the promise of one Mister G.: “Car Shipping? Best price”. From the sink rises the compelling air of those old-fashioned white scented balls that were in the urinals during the time when as a little boy I was sometimes allowed to pee in the cafe with my father when I really needed to. The paper dispenser is held together with duct tape.
Another door leads to the restaurant: eight tables, a suspended ceiling and a TV with non-stop afrobeat songs. This is Obalade Suya, known in well-informed circles as the best West African in Amsterdam and possibly the Netherlands.
I didn’t just walk in here – I admit that until recently I mainly associated the Bullewijk stop with Swedish meatballs. I was guided here by culinary friend Bunmi Okolosi – a native Nigerian, who spent much of his life living in Afro-Caribbean neighborhoods in North London and since living in the Netherlands has been looking for real Nigerian food, just like he used to eat at home. knows.
Of course we start with suya – Nigeria’s national street food dish. You will find it there on every street corner. Suya is a type of barbecue and can be made from all kinds of meat, but the most famous form is skewers with beef. They are grilled, sometimes dried first, sometimes even fried. The meat is always spicy seasoned, with a rub or marinade with peanut. This beef suya is exactly what it should be, according to Bunmi. They are slightly dried yet tender strips of beef – perfectly tearable with the teeth – with a tasty, coarse coating of a spicy spiced peanut butter. The first big smile has arrived.
The Nigerian meal mainly consists of soups or stews that are slathered with a carbohydrate-rich side dish. common soaptools to be pounded yam of amala, both sticky balls of dough that you tear into pieces, made from yam, a large root vegetable. The pounded yam is lighter in color, stickier and very neutral in taste. The amala has a more elastic structure. Dried yam gives amala a darker color and a very slightly bitter-earthy note. A perfect carrier for the rich, sweet, spicy tomato-paprika stew of the pepper soup – another Nigerian classic. Together with the fresh savory vegetable taste of the vibrant green, small okras, a particularly nicely balanced and layered comfort dish. Moreish, as the English call it so beautiful: that you keep eating it. This truly honors my dining companion’s childhood memories – a great compliment.
Even for the less experienced taster of West African cuisine, it is clear that the cooking is skilful here. The tripe in the assorted meats is clean and softly waving (with that voluptuous pepper soup it is not inferior to the best tripe alla romana). The fried fish is definitely over cooked but definitely not dry. The lifted is a yellow bean soup with a velvety texture and refined bean flavour.
There are also things that fail. My table companion finds the jollof rice ‘lafjes’. Of fried rice is greasy with HAK’s overcooked vegetables. the bitter one leaf soup suffers from too much dried fish. And the chicken suya is very disappointing: large, dry pieces of fried chicken.
Nigerian food is a textural experience anyway
An absolute must at Obalade is egusi – „just like my moms”. Those are processed, fermented seeds of a melon-like. A very characteristic and typical Nigerian taste. It reminds me most of the rattan chairs at my grandparents’ house. It is a warm, calming and satisfying hayy and at the same time very intensely stable taste. For a first acquaintance, it is best to order the egusi soup – which has a pleasant scrambled texture (more like a crazy custard, really), accompanied by some bitter leaf and some dried fish for the umpf – before you settle into the head-building dare.
Nigerian food is one anyway textural experience. From the fresh-slimy okra to the sticky amala and the non-descript piece of connective tissue in the assorted meats that is pleasantly reminiscent of mochi, those sticky Japanese rice balls. Gelatinousness is highly valued. For those who love it, the head-building, a mountain of egusi-yellow cubes of goat’s head, a grab bag of pleasure: sometimes a piece of soft-rubbery nose, sometimes more wiry, a slippery-gelatinous skin, sometimes even with some real meat on it. But fear not: even at the entry level, Obalade Suya is definitely worth it. Build up calmly.