Our settling in and exploration of our new digs continues. . .
The latest food adventure and cultural outing took us to "African Spice Restaurant", a mecca of deliciousness tucked into a busy market in a slightly run-down shopping center.
The largest business in this shopping center is the County Health and Human Services office, but all the action is happening at the Safari Market. Safari Market used to be a big grocery store, and now a busy East African cultural hub, full of separate stalls selling hijabs, sports team T-shirts, incense, spices and soaps, travel agencies specializing in travel to Somalia and Ethiopia, visa services, and our new favourite restaurant.
There was no printed menu. We asked what they recommend, they said the fish, because they were all out of goat. Damn. We ordered the fish.
What we got was a pile of perfectly crisp and plump sambussas (like a samosas) full of the tangy spicy goodness. I don't know what all was contained in their flaky goldenness, but they were totally amazing. The green onion and the fish were easy to distinguish, but the rest of the ingredients were a mystery to me. A yummy, yummy mystery.
After our frolic in sambussa heaven, we were brought a plate of gorgeous saffron rice topped with roasted red pepper, green bean, pea and sweet potato matchsticks. This was garnished with a coconut and jalapeno chutney that balanced the earthy low notes of the rice dish amazingly well. It was gorgeous, and stunning. The rice served as accompaniment for an absolutely lovely pan-fried white fish in a delicate saffron and mystery spice sauce. It was expertly cooked - not too tough, not overdone, not too spicy, just exactly perfect. On the side was a green jalapeno salsa and a tomato salsa that added a nice kick and acidic punch to the dish. My oh my it was good.
To top it all off, a banana. I don't usually think to pair a banana with my fish and rice dinner, but it was, like everything else with this meal, perfect. Yum!
After stuffing ourselves into dystentia, we strolled around the former grocery store now East African market and bazaar. In the very back of the building, there still hung the cartoon pork-shop shaped sign for the meat department. The counter and refrigerators and equipment for the former meat department are long gone, but the faucets and low tile basins remain. Lined up in front of these basins were men who were taking polite turns at the faucets. They removed their shoes, washed their feet well, and gave their faces and hands a good scrub. They then would give up their spot at the basin, set their shoes neatly by a door, and disappear into the room on the other side of the door. It turns out that the former grocery is not only where one could get goat meat and travel reservations, but there is mosque back behind where the bakery used to be. One-stop shopping at its best!
If you are interested in checking out this amazing deliciousness, or in getting some incense or going to temple, check out Safari Market:
4348 54th St
(between El Cajon Blvd & Trojan Ave)
San Diego, CA 92115