west african cuisine
I love New Mexican food as much as anyone yet I like to try something other than green chile sometimes. I know, I know. That sentiment is sacrilege here in Albuquerque. But consider expanding your palate and you might stumble upon such gems as the Talking Drums restaurant on San Pedro. It’s easy to find with it’s clear signage and there is plenty of parking. The restaurant itself is super clean and tidy, which I appreciate as a diner, with comfy booths and spotless tables.
Perhaps you’ll be greeted by Alex, one of the owners, who can answer your questions about the menu, should you have any. My problem was choosing what to eat! Since I wanted to sample a few different items, I chose the appetizer featuring four small dishes: suya, puff-puff, moin moin, and fried plantains.
Suya is a West African specialty somewhat akin to the kebab. As part of this appetizer sampler, it is served sans skewer and mixed with raw diced onions. You’ll love puff-puff, a fried bread which can also be served as a dessert by adding syrup and shredded coconut. My favorite of this little quartet is moin moin. It has almost the same consistency as tofu, which makes sense since both are bean curds.
Moin Moin is made from steamed beans which are served here with minimal additions. This makes it a perfect selection for vegetarians. However, Alex told us that in Nigeria, it is typically steamed along with egg, meat, or other tasty morsels. And it did taste marvelous alongside the suya so I’d be curious to try the Nigerian moin moin. And lastly, we have fried plantains. So very delicious!
My lunch companion and I shared a large plate of rice and brown beans with stew. To this, we added meaty, generously-sized goat joints.
The beans in the dish weren’t under-cooked yet kept their shape. Topping the combo was a tomato-based stew, flavored with chili peppers which give it a little kick. Not overly spicy but quite flavorful.
And lastly, take a look at these drinks! You must try the palm “wine” from Ghana. It’s made from the sap of palm trees and slightly fermented. It has a low alcohol content but you’ll still feel it if you drink a large bottle! It is a perfect complement to the West African cuisine. If that doesn’t entice you, try a non-alcoholic Jamaican ginger beer.
On your way out, go next door to the Zenith African/Caribbean market. The family has owned and operated the store for many years but only since February have they integrated the restaurant and shop in the larger space they currently occupy. It’s well-stocked and tidy so you’ll easily find something to take home.