Review and photo by Jack Barten
Thunder Bay’s food scene is becoming increasingly diverse. Nestled in this northern town we have everything from Mexican to Thai, and we also have a growing African food scene. This leads us to our Off the Menu featured restaurant for November: Thunder Bay African Restaurant.
Àmàlà is a traditional Nigerian swallow food that incorporates yam and a variety of different sauces and proteins to make for a unique and delicious experience. For the uninitiated, swallow food means you don’t chew àmàlà like other foods; instead, you take a piece of the yam and roll it into a ball, mixing it with the other components of the meal, then swallow it without chewing. This makes for a fairly unique experience (at least in the context of typical Canadian cuisine) that you really have to try for yourself to understand.
Àmàlà is made in a variety of ways depending on who is making the dish. Thunder Bay African Restaurant’s version is served with mackerel, shaki (also known as cow tripe), roundabout (cow intestines), and cow liver. All these proteins offer their own unique textures and flavours that make the dish feel varied yet cohesive. With that many proteins, one may ask how they tie them all together? Well, this dish is perfected with the base of stews and sauces that make up the vibrant colours found nestled among the fish and meat.
First, you may notice the vibrant green of ewedu, a Nigerian soup made with jute leaves that has been compared to okra. This adds a great bit of freshness to cut through the more savoury flavours. Also present in the dish is gbegiri. Gbegiri is a traditional soup made from a variety of beans and spices, and it does a wonderful job of combining the freshness of the ewedu and the spiciness of the meat and fish.
The flavours of all the elements are really the star of the show as everything comes together perfectly bite after bite. Àmàlà is one of those food experiences that sticks with you—with its unique tastes and textures, it really is a must-try for those foodies who seek out everything Thunder Bay’s food scene has to offer.