Finding Far Africa fares is easy in the Puget Sound region where the East African population (currently around 40,000) is growing rapidly. In fact, approximately 55,000 East Africans and 78,000 immigrants from the African continent now call Washington State home.
by Tukwila spice bridge, a food hall operated by the non-profit Global to Local, allows diners to connect with a tapestry of tastes in a light-filled space. The room is colored by the “Stories of Arrival” poetry exhibit created by refugee students from Foster High School. As part of the Food Innovation Network, this food business incubator helps women of color and immigrant women in southern King County launch and grow their businesses.
Currently, four vendors serve African flavors at this location:
Beef stew and chicken mayonnaise are big hits for kids at Taste of Congo, just like fried donuts (mikate in Congolese) for dessert. Afella Jollof Caterer focuses on Senegambian cuisine – dishes from Senegal and Gambia that benefit from a shared culture and cuisine.
Black Star Kebab offers authentic Ghanaian cuisine on the go; think kebabs (chicken, beef, lamb) and vegetarian dishes served by a traveling food truck. Kids Combo includes smaller, spice-free portions of chicken skewer with jollof rice and sweet red plantains.
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Further north, in downtown Seattle, Cafe Selam (“Cafe Peace” in Amharic) prepares Ethiopian cuisine with a Middle Eastern twist in a home-like environment. Kids will especially love getting their hands on the homemade injera (soft bread).
While these small eateries offer simple decor, others also create a robust visual escape. To Marrakesh in downtown Seattle, diners are instantly whisked away to a Moroccan-style tent.
Billowy fabric hanging from the ceiling helps create a distant ambiance, as do dimly lit walls covered in red, blue and gray Moroccan rugs, goatskin poufs and elongated sofas, and small tables with wood inlays complex. Then there are the table rituals – like the invitation to eat your five-course meal with your fingers rather than utensils. The belly dancer adds even more allure.
Seattle dad Curt Small found Marrakech a unique hangout for parents and teens during a recent special outing with his 16-year-old daughter, Olivia.
“It felt like a short trip away from the mundane weekend, a magical doorway leading away from the gray streets of Seattle,” says Small. It also proved to be a great way to introduce her daughter to another global culture.
“The food was amazing,” says Olivia. “The waiter poured water in our hands and made us wash them before dinner and (that) made me curious about the customs in Morocco and if it’s something they do [during dinner].” A student at Stadium High School (Tacoma), Olivia says the dramatic after-dinner tea and belly dancer added to the evening’s “authentic, authentic” vibe. She thought it was a wonderful introduction to this North African country.
Father and daughter were impressed with the dinner dancer, but realized they had homework to do before heading out again.
“I didn’t know how to show her support for her dancing,” Olivia says. “I didn’t know if it was rude to clap or stand up while she was dancing.”
Curt Small added: “I realized I knew nothing of this tradition – something to research later!”
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