On the outside, Diaby African Market looks just like your average bodega corner store. But once inside, it is like stepping onto a trans-Atlantic flight from JFK to Conakry with a layover in Bamako. Diaby has literally dozens upon dozens of foods I have never even heard of, let alone know how to cook with, so I asked Alpha, the owner of the store to show me around a little bit…
The first product he points out on the shelf is Fonio Precuit, a very small type of millet common in Western Africa. An extremely nutritious and fast-growing grain, it is considered West Africa’s oldest cereal and is suitable for extremely arid climates and very poor soils. It can be used to make porridge, couscous, bread, and beer. Interestingly enough, Fonio is great for people with gluten intolerance – it is gluten free! Here is a really simple recipe on how to prepare a fonio casserole.
Kandje (or Kanji) Powder is made up of a series of ground grains and cereals and is used for a breakfast porridge. This one is extremely nutritious and when mixed with curd, buttermilk, milk, or soy milk. I couldn’t find any easy recipes online, so let me know if you could find one!
Another West African mystery foodstuff I found was called Ogi-Akamu-Koko-Pap, also known as ‘instant’ fermented corn flour. It is a microwaveable flour used for porridge or a filler in stews, soups, and sauces. It has a sourdough-type taste and the texture, when cooked, is sort of like a sourdough dumpling. It is made from ground maize or cornmeal, however the corn is allowed to ferment prior to being cooked.
Similar to the Ogi is the Gari, but instead of maize it is made from ground fermented cassava. Here is a really great-sounding recipe for savory gari and eggs, a nice accompaniment with red beans and tomato sauce.
Diaby had shelf after shelf of grains, tree nuts, powders, spices, dried fish, and heaps of other imports from the Middle East and West Africa. I can’t wait to go back and share recipes with Alpha and peruse the aisles looking for new foods! mmmmmmmm
Diaby African Market is open 7 days a week from 9:00AM-6:00PM. It is located at 1164 Fulton Street, Brooklyn, NY, between Bedford and Franklin Avenues.