From Nigerian jollof rice to Senegalese thieboudienne, Philly offers an embarrassment of riches when it comes to West African cooking. “Little Africa,” they call it, the stretch of Woodland Avenue in Southwest Philadelphia that’s home to one of the largest West African populations in America. Home to bubbling crocks of cassava leaf stew and styrofoam clam shells filled with jollof rice and braised goat, there to feed a growing community of West African immigrants and those of us who love to eat off the bone.
In this sliver of Philadelphia, and in the West African restaurants of West and North Philly, you don’t use utensils. I mean, you can, but it’s best to just roll your sleeves up and use your hands. I know this because when I ate at Nafisa’s Kitchen, a man eating at a nearby table told me that he saw an American trying to eat African food with a fork and knife. “It looked so uncomfortable,” he said. “We told her that this is African food, use your hands! Americans feel like they’re not being proper when they do that. No, use your hands, man!”