Earlier this year, many months ago, a Facebook user reached out to me with information of a colorful truck in front of the Nigerian consulate that I should check out. She had me at hello.
Unfortunately I never found myself in east Midtown with time on my hands, and the year slipped by until I finally had the chance to check it out in early October. Just walking up to the truck, which can be found somewhere around the corner of 2nd Avenue and East 44th Street, has the feeling of finding something. It stands out even in New York City for its uniqueness.
The truck will park as close to the Consulate General of Nigeria as it can, set up its colorful sandwich board menu, and go to work even before lunch time officially arrives. Besides Nigeria, the flags of Ghana, Sierra Leone, Togo, and Senegal share space on the truck, as well as many things in common in the cuisine. These other nations are probably represented here more in spirit, a way for the truck to catch the eye of the stray West African that might happen upon the corner.
When I took this meal, the weather was warmer and afforded me an opportunity to sit down in a nearby plaza to eat my take. A walk further away from 44th Street to the river or a more suitable plaza would probably be recommended if eating one of the dishes with pounded starches properly with your hands. West African food needs a sink and soap, and this might be the only drawback of a truck... although I figure most of their patrons pop out and grab their meals to take back inside.
I could not resist an order of puf puf ($3 for 5 pieces, above), sweet enough alone not to be begging for a roll in sugar like you sometimes find on the street in Nigeria. The fluffiness here is spot on, while the exterior is lightly fried just enough to keep the thing together.
I was intrigued by a dish I had never tried before, the honey beans ($10, above). Known as ewa oloyin in Yoruba, this variety of black eyed peas is known for its slight sweetness, giving it the name. The sweetness is not very prevelant in the final product though, for those of us like myself who expected something from the word "honey."
This dish must bring back very strong memories of home, but does not invoke strong feelings for us that do not know it from our childhood. For a moment I attempted to feel these emotions for this food, but was largely unsuccessful. My day old plantains did nothing for the enjoyment either.
Almost as an afterthought when ordering, I was given the option of a "piece of meat" by the lovely woman; goat, chicken or fish. I chose the goat, which was very slow cooked and tender despite being well done. Its slightly tough exteriors gave way to a meat that fell right off the bone.
On the menu the dish mentions the spicy Togolese pepper sauce, as potent as some of the face-punch sauces used in Nigerian cuisine. I dipped my fork in the sauce, let it drip off, and then stirred in the small remnants left into a bite of the honey beans. This provided more than enough kick, the blisteringly hot smoky sauce attempting to take over the entire palate.