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Meals for (Mostly) Everyone at Divine Flavored Nigerian Food Truck

First, a snack: asun, dark, smoky goat meat sifted with what looks like crimson dust and proves to be Scotch bonnets, smashed into powder and weaponized. This is a fine thing to gnaw on the sidewalk, mouth burning, by a food truck with bright green hubcaps and a beach scene with silhouetted palms on its flank.

In Nigeria, the goat would come with the skin still on. “It has to,” said Godshelter Oluwalogbon, the chef behind the Divine Flavored truck, which parks weekdays in front of the Nigerian Consulate, a few blocks east of Grand Central Terminal. But the version he serves here is skinless, he said with a sigh: “For the general public, we have to make accommodations.”

Fortunately, those accommodations are few. It’s rare that the general public has a chance to encounter, on the streets of Midtown Manhattan, the likes of gizdodo, chicken gizzards boiled just short of tender, then fried with Scotch bonnets and red onions and folded with dodo, plantains caramelized in curry powder and thyme: gooey, sugary and meaty, all at once.

Or moi moi, malleable bundles the texture of mashed potatoes, made of honey beans dismantled by soaking overnight. Steamed in foil, they taste of the sea, contoured in brine from dried shrimp and sardines, with buried slivers of hard-boiled eggs.

Or nubs of beef knuckle, roasted and patted down with suya spice, a blend of ground ginger, cayenne and crushed kuli-kuli — groundnut paste squeezed until the oil runs out, then crisped into hard cakes, a kind of earthy concentrate.

Meat pies are more familiar, colonial descendants of Cornish pasties, flaking and caving without going to pieces. Likewise balls of fried dough, here called puff-puff, speak to all nations; these have a tinge of nutmeg and an unexpected density.

Larger dishes are built for a culture that recognizes the value of midday naps. Honey beans, sweet kin to black-eyed peas, are beaten into a coarse, rich mush; yam porridge, even thicker, hides an army of Scotch bonnets.

(Why is Nigerian food not more widely recognized as one of the world’s great hot cuisines? Scotch bonnets find their way into nearly every dish. It can take a minute before you feel the heat unfurling, then no part of the mouth is left unscathed.)

Most entrees come with a choice of meats: goat on the bone, ready to fight the teeth; chicken cooked hard; tilapia, more yielding. Each comes in a tomato sauce with a trembling heat and a sweetness approaching ketchup’s. Sometimes all three are heaped together, and once I received the benediction of a cow’s foot, its collagen leaking a shining trail through the stew.

On another visit, my companion, who grew up in Nigeria, said that the jollof rice tasted as if it had been made in a giant caldron in someone’s backyard, the way it was meant to be. To me, it tasted almost wholly of smoke, like the aftermath of a demonic possession.

Mr. Oluwalogbon, 40, was born in Ghana, his mother’s homeland, and raised in Nigeria, his father’s. He came to the United States a month after 9/11 and worked his way up from prep cook to sous-chef at Zabar’s on the Upper West Side. Six years ago, he started a catering company. He delivered so many lunches to the Nigerian Consulate, he decided in the spring of 2015 to station a food truck in front of it.

The truck’s beach scene is a holdover from its previous life under a Caribbean chef; Mr. Oluwalogbon didn’t have time to paint it over. Now he’s added the flags of Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo alongside those of Ghana, Nigeria and the United States. “It is for everyone,” he said.

A towering sculpture by the Nigerian artist Billy Omabegho stands in the small plaza outside the consulate, with zigzagging vertical curves that call to mind chain links or an abstract ouroboros. One afternoon, I took my lunch at its base, next to men in dapper suits speaking Yoruba.

In my box was ayamase, a chunky stew fortified by the profound funk of iru, fermented locust beans. It came loaded with beef, tripe and flagrantly rubbery curls that had a jellied sheen. Mr. Oluwalogbon told me, later, that this was pomo: cow skin. For some things, there can be no accommodations.

Source: nytimes

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