A Dubai hotel serving ugali, mutura and all

Food and drinks

A Dubai hotel serving ugali, mutura and all


Cyprian Macangoh, 37, Head Chef, Alkebulan, the world’s first African dining room that explores African cultures through their dishes. PICTURES | BOWL

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Summary

  • The rice was black from Egypt mixed with Basmati rice and added Kenyan ingredients like black eyed peas (njahi).
  • Alkebulan, whose name means mother of humanity or garden of Eden, has nine restaurants offering cuisines from all parts of Africa.
  • Ingredients are sourced from around the world, including Kenya, Ghana, Egypt, Cameroon, South Africa and Oman.

I had eaten Asian and Arabic food, which tasted weird maybe because my palate doesn’t really like very spicy and oily food before we sat in this African restaurant in Dubai.

Alkebulan, an African dining hall with nine kitchens serving different types of African cuisines is run by a Kenyan, Cyprian Macangoh, who is the head chef.

What struck me first was the shisha menu at the entrance. They have different types and flavors ranging from Sh2,260 (70 dirhams) to Sh3,229 (100 dirhams).

But I wasn’t there for the shisha, mine was to appease a craving for real African food. A satisfying meal.

We started with oxtail fried rice as a starter. The oxtail meat was tender and the dish was a fusion of Afro-Asian cuisine where African ingredients are combined with Asian flavors.

“The meat is highly valued in African households and is usually cooked for nursing mothers and the elderly due to its tenderness. We braise it for about six hours and then strip it off the bones,” Chief Macangoh said.

The rice was black from Egypt mixed with Basmati rice and added Kenyan ingredients like black eyed peas (njahi). It was then infused with Asian white soybeans – shoyu, sesame oil, spring onions and bean sprouts.

For the finish, the chef added chilli and curry powder giving it a spicy taste and the strength of African ingredients.

My main dish was octopus choma served with cassava made from coconut. The dish comes from the Kenyan coast where they use a lot of coconut in their dishes, the chef said.

Being fresh from the ocean, the octopus is cooked with spices like cloves and a bit of pineapple and oranges to sweeten it up and bring out some creative favor.

After braising for about three hours until tender, it is cooked on a grill.

“We sweeten the cassava with onions, boil it and intensify the flavor with cloves, cardamom and coconut cream to make it flavorful and become a bed for the octopus,” the chef said. .

The coconut flavor goes very well with the seafood taste. My colleagues had prime rib served with ugali.

Alkebulan, whose name means mother of humanity or garden of Eden, has nine restaurants offering cuisines from all parts of Africa. This also includes the diversity of cultures within the continent such as Arabic, French and Western.

“The nine restaurants are a representation of Africa. We have a restaurant that offers African street food like mutura, samosa, tamiya from Egypt, manisha from South Africa and rolex from Kampala, which is eggs wrapped in chapati,” said declared the chef who has been working for almost 20 years in professional kitchens.

He has worked with Celebrity Cruises under Royal Caribbean Group, the popular cooking TV series – MasterChef and a Franco-Asian fusion restaurant in downtown Dubai.

Get ingredients

Ingredients are sourced from around the world, including Kenya, Ghana, Egypt, Cameroon, South Africa and Oman.

“We sometimes have supply delays on deliveries when the country is out of stock. But we make sure to have a rotating menu, for example goat from Kenya to replace fish from Ethiopia,” adds the chef.

Prices range from Sh1,500 (AED50) to Sh3,090 (AED100), but some side dishes like roasted plantains or sweet potato fries would cost AED30 (Sh900) while Nairobi samosa costs AED 35 (Sh1,050).

Ugali fries served with a meal of goat ribs cost 82AED (Sh2,460).

Shisha is available at the lounge, as it is a culture for diners in Arab countries to enjoy it in restaurants.

“As a chef in a foreign country, you need to understand business trends and what will move volumes. Most people here smoke shisha which gives them a chance to try our food. And no, shisha is not African. It’s just an addition to the menu,” explains Chef Macangoh.

The interior of the restaurant is designed with African culture in mind. It has pieces of makuti even though it maintains a modern concept.

“Restaurants attract foreigners the most because they find the cuisine unique. Africans grew up with this kind of culture and food,” said Chef Macangoh who started his cooking career when he joined the army in the Kenya Airforce in 2003.

The restaurant will open two other branches in Harlem, New York and London, under the same concept.

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