Buka – Authentic Nigerian Fare in the Heart of Brooklyn

17 Jul

For good food I’m willing to go just about anywhere — well, just about. And I’m sure hardcore foodies (which not to be mistaken I’m not) will certainly agree. Thus when the opportunity presented itself to trek out to Brooklyn, to Buka, I immediately seized it.
Being of Nigerian heritage, I’d searched unsuccessfully for restaurants specializing in the regional fare, for years, and thankfully a good friend turned up with the discovery that turned out to be precisely what I’d been looking for.
Buka (which could stand for cafeteria in Yoruba) is a restaurant and bar that features mostly southern Nigerian grub in the area of Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. I would say the menu is pretty comprehensive and features authentic specialties spanning a selection of starters, mains, and sides (which really could be ordered in variety to make a meal).
Some items on the menu may be recognizable (by comparison) to diners not terribly familiar with the cuisine such as, ‘Suya’, a kebab of sorts, grilled pieces of meat seasoned with Nigerian spices, to give it a distinctive flavor, ‘Dundun’, essentially, sweet potato fries, and ‘Dodo’, which would be known to lovers of Caribbean cuisine as platanos/fried plantains.
On this particular visit I had the ‘Moi Moi’, a kind of bean cake, if you will, reminiscent of Latin American tomales, except ‘moi moi’ is made with finely blended beans vs corn in the case of tomales. It is seasoned to a savory taste and has a variety of ingredients, including some cases, fish and boiled eggs, to give it some added flavor — simply delicious. My companion had the ‘Akara’ which is pretty much made from the same batter as moi moi but instead, it is fried (so sort of a savory fritter) and has no fish (which worked for her since she’s vegetarian).
Carrying on to Mains, again, given that my dinner companion is vegetarian, she opted for making a meal out of sides: ewa (beans.. stewed), Spinach (or ‘efo’ as known locally), chopped and seared, and, ‘Jellof rice’, a sort of curried rice using stewed tomato sauce. She remarked that she enjoyed them all.
I on the other hand had what’s designated on the menu as a type of ‘fufu’, for familiarity sake, I’d imagine, (though known locally as ‘Iyan’), which can be perhaps loosely compared to mashed potatoes–with a more condensed consistency. It’s made out of mashed ‘yams’ (though think along the lines of yucca rather than sweet potatoes) and is served with a variety of thick sauces (which Nigerians commonly refer to as soups). I went for the one prepared with crushed melon seeds (egusi), spinach and typically smoked/dried fish, etc. Plus, at Buka, you also have a choice of additions: goat, ‘Igbin’ (snails), chicken, tilapia, etc.
Portions run on the larger side (I guess once you leave Manhattan everything tends to be bigger), so bring your appetite. Price points are also pretty reasonable but note that Buka is cash only, so plan accordingly. Worry not though, should you happen to forget to make a withdrawal prior to heading out, an ATM conveniently sits at the entrance to the restaurant

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