Nigerian restaurant Little Lagos Bistro & Bar began in Sydney in 2017 as a pop-up that served dishes to locals with a hankering or at least a curiosity for spicy, aromatic, and out-of-the-box dishes.
Adetokunboh Adeniyi, known as Ade to his friends, wanted Australians to learn more about Nigerian cuisine.
Now, Little Lagos has a permanent spot in Newtown in Sydney's inner west, where you can choose from dishes such as freshly baked Nigerian meat pies, crispy plantains and jollof rice.
"Lagos, Nigeria, is not on the list of places to visit for more Aussies, and that's because not much is known about it.
"But, most Aussies know about Afrobeat, which was created in Lagos and they enjoy the music — but the food is something they haven't experienced. A visit to Little Lagos broadens their knowledge about Lagos."
One of Ade's menu specials is efo riro. This dish features spinach that's slowly simmered with lots of Nigerian spices and combined with an array of beef parts such as bokoto (cow leg), ponmo (cow skin) and shaki (tripe). Although, Adi explains you can use many parts of the cow in efo riro.
He likes to describe the dish's texture to guests. "I explain that it's cooked very softly and tender, but I also warn that it's not for everyone — especially if you didn't grow up eating it".
"Most Aussies know about Afrobeat, which was created in Lagos and they enjoy the music — but the food is something they haven't experienced. A visit to Little Lagos broadens their knowledge about Lagos."
Ade explains efo riro signifies sustainability. "It's mainly from the culture of not letting anything go to waste.
"Meat used to be a very expensive item in most parts of the world, so not everyone could afford the prime cuts. [Offal and other parts] definitely add to the overall flavour of the efo riro and other traditional dishes."
Many of Little Lagos' dishes are fuelled by Ade's experiences of eating them during his childhood. That means his efo riro is accompanied with fufu or pounded yam.
"As a child, this was a treat, because we usually had it on Sundays for lunch or very special occasions," he explains.
His mum cooked it the traditional way, which meant pounding the yam in a mortar with a pestle.
"It's a very hard job and even now I am still amazed by how easy my mum made it look.
"As a very young child, I would always beg my mum to let me pound the yam as well, and I had my first shot at 11 years old. It made me very happy."
He doesn't need to pound yam these days, since he can buy yam flour, which yields the same result with much less labour.
Efo riro (spinach and beef stew)
- 1 kg beef parts, including tripe, cow feet and cow skin
- 6 tomatoes
- 2 capsicum
- 2 onions
- 4 habaneros
- 150-200 ml palm oil
- 1 tbsp iru (locust beans)
- 4 spinach bunches
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tsp chilli powder
- 1 tsp curry
- 1 tsp vegeta spices
- Other traditional African spices such as a Nigerian curry spice called knorr cubes.
- Boil the meat and set aside.
- Wash the spinach and drain the water from it.
- Blend the tomatoes, capsicum and habaneros until smooth.
- Dice the onions. Add the palm oil to a pan and heat on medium, then add diced onions and fry until soft.
- Pour the blended sauce into the pan and fry.
- Chop up the spinach and set aside.
- Add the spices, salt, condiments and locust beans to the sauce.
- Keep stirring and tasting the sauce to make sure it's well cooked.
- Add the boiled meat.
- Let it cook for about 20-25 minutes. Allow the proteins to soak up the sauce and taste to see how soft it is.
- Add the chopped spinach and stir in.
- Stir the mixture until all the ingredients are properly absorbed.
- Serve with fufu or steamed white rice.
- 500 g yam flour
- Boil about 2-3 cups of water.
- Once the water boils, add the yam flour slowly until it's soaked up.
- Start stirring firmly until a smooth, fine dough forms.
You can buy African spices, such as knorr cubes, at African grocery stores, including African Shop Newtown, D F Hunny Food in Seven Hills and Afrique Food Mart in Mount Druitt, in Sydney.