This article was originally published on our partner site Vingt Paris, a blog devoted to the 20 arrondissements of Paris. They’re purveyors of the city’s secrets, advocates of apéros, and about opening doors to the true places and real people that illuminate the City of Light.
Thanks to immigration from former colonies, France is home to over 5 million people of African and Arab descent. Although often at the center of political debates, what is never at debate is the rich culinary diversity France’s African and Arab residents bring to the table.
Restaurants and cafés serving up authentic African dishes can be found in any of Paris’ 20 arrondissements. Yet despite the popularity of such eateries, online search engines often describe these restaurants simply as ‘African cuisine’ — a rather oversimplified term for a continent with 54 countries, hundreds of different religions, thousands of different languages and, to be sure, myriad delicious ways to prepare and present food.
Contrary to popular belief, African cuisine restaurants are not exclusive to neighbourhoods mostly populated by African communities. There’s a whole host of Parisian restaurants bursting with African flavour and fragrance, and VINGT Paris Magazine’s Ndali Amobi shares the very best:
Le Mono is a charming restaurant found behind the Moulin Rouge and offers specialities from Togo in West Africa. I particularly like the fish in moyo sauce made with tomatoes, fresh chili and a fiery citrus kick. Their steamed semolina bread is a delicious accompaniment and a refreshing alternative to rice. With main dishes for under €15, Le Mono is both affordable and appetizing.
For more West African cuisine, head east of Montmartre to the vibrant quartier Goutte d’Or. After five minutes at the open-air Dejean market, which sells everything from kola nut to traditional African fabrics, it soon becomes clear why this area also goes by the name ‘Little Africa’.
Opposite the community mosque is a Senegalese restaurant, Le Nioumre. The soupe kandia is a speciality served only on Saturdays. A palm oil-based stew packed with shreds of meat, stockfish, okra, it offers plenty of flavour. Other dishes include mafé – a thick peanut sauce with chunks of tender lamb – and my personal favourite yassa: chicken braised in a Mediterranean-flavoured stew of green olives, onion and lemon.
Follow up tis hearty fare with tiakri – a rice pudding dessert prepared with grains of couscous. Most dishes are under €10 and served with a mound of rice, which makes the generous portions extremely good value.
Moving south of the Seine and across to East Africa, Godjo is an intimate Ethiopian bistro that has operated in the Latin Quarter for 20 years. The ye tsom vegetarian platter and key wot spiced beef (each €15) are served on the traditional sponge-textured flatbread, injera. Note that the injera is used to scoop up everything from aromatic lentils to curried beetroot and takes the place of cutlery. A café moka is the perfect end to the meal but if you are a minimum of 10 diners, you might like to try traditional Ethiopian coffee for the full authentic experience.
Fortunately my journey through African cuisine in Paris is never-ending. Next on my list is Moussa L’Africain, a cocktail bar and restaurant at Porte de la Villette. Serving specialities from Mali, Cameroon and Senegal, it also welcomes a live Saba Saba orchestra every Sunday.
So time for more food and less talk; as the Nigerian proverb goes – ‘Words are sweet but they never take the place of food‘.
By Ndali Amabi for Vingt Paris