I often reflect on the underrepresentation of African cultures in the Western food scene.
It troubles me that something so alive and vibrant, is stifled by the West. I was raised eating Angolan food with mighty bold flavours, that my grandmother cooked with love. I was shown that food can come alive through rich colours, textures and spices that dance in front of your eyes, and on your taste buds. Sadly, when walking down the streets of London, I rarely find such flavours. So, when I tasted my first bowl of Cally Munchy‘s Suya Queen Prawns with Jollof ‘n’ peas, I knew that I had found a winner.
Cally Munchy is an Afro fusion food business, founded by Ebenezer, with street food stalls, a catering service and even a cheeky chilli oil venture. I gotta say, the team are one of the coolest, funniest, warmest and most hardworking food families I have met, so it didn’t come as a surprise that their offerings were just as exceptional. The menu fuses West African dishes with global cultures to make something more than just food. In Ebenezer’s words, ‘it’s more than the product, but it’s about the story behind it’. Unravel his story below…
#Flavourofthemonth Interview with Ebenezer from Cally Munchy
Why did you start Cally Munchy?
When I came to this country I was fascinated by how diverse it was. In school, I had friends from different cultures, but there was always that barrier of not going to each other’s houses, or an awkwardness when you’re eating their food, so that motivated me into using food as an avenue to bring different cultures together. Initially, I considered making a burrito with African chicken, or something like that. Fusions can make food a lot more interesting, and if you’re in a restaurant with friends where you can say that, ‘this is from your culture, and that is from my culture’, that is sweet.
Then when I left college, I didn’t want to go down the route of going straight to university, because I don’t like just doing what other people are doing. When I was thinking about what I wanted to do, I thought, let me just take advantage of the fact that I can cook. I was taught how to cook by my family, so I decided to see where it took me and started a professional catering course.
After that I started to look at food with a different eye and did some research to explore African food. I considered how African food is perceived in this country. Culturally, the food is so similar to Indian food, yet that is so popular, but African food isn’t seen as much, so I wanted to build something.
You are so creative with the food combination on your menu, how did you come up with them?
When I finished my professional catering course, I worked in a restaurant and found that being a chef is something I can do, but don’t want to be a slave to. I realised that the world of being a chef wasn’t that interesting to me; it’s full of long hours, rude people, low spirits, and that’s not really where I want to be. However, I still wanted to work with food so I started working with an agency called HireHand, which gave me the experience of working for different food companies. It was amazing because what I needed was experience, and research about food, plus I got paid so it was sweet!
What I noticed though was that was everyone was making burgers, or chicken, or hotdogs, or pizza, or wraps, and so it wouldn’t make sense to do the same thing. All of that has great flavours, but I thought, aren’t people tired of it? It just wouldn’t excite me. I then thought I could do a rice based bowl of food that is something more.
At first I wanted to make fried rice because my mum taught me how to make it, but fuse it with the way that Asians cook it. However, I thought that that doesn’t reflect West Africa, and the number one dish that does, is Jollof rice. I wanted to give a sense of fusion to it by adding the rice and peas element. Also, we use Bangladeshi spices to make the Cally Chicken, and to give a bit of kick, we add marinade and Shi-tuan sauce to it.
The suya steak is premium sirloin steak. That’s something that’s been on my mind – I want to use quality ingredients. The chicken we get isn’t from those markets that sell it for cheap. We get quality, free-range chicken to add authenticity and quality to Cally Munchy.
Then, we wanted to add sauce to our rice because it looked a bit dry, and in Nigeria we have a fried stew which is really red and rich. That’s where the Nyiragongo sauce came in, because we thought the sauce looks rich like lava, and Nyiragongo is one of the wildest volcanoes in Africa. The Shi-tuan sauce is put on the side as well, and chilli sauce is something that is quite popular in this country.
Why did you make your own (Shi-tuan) chilli oil?
To be honest, at first I didn’t want to sell chilli oil. I just wanted to have it on the side and give it to people, but then people kept asking me, ‘what’s that, it’s so good’. I said I wasn’t sure what it was. More people started talking about it, so I thought that could be something missing from the chilli market.
People love chilli, and are always trying to get as much chilli as possible. But some chillies have so much heat that there isn’t that much flavour. I want people to be able to taste the flavours of the food, and have the sauce enhance it. So, I sat down and fused different ingredients together. It’s kind of like a stew with chilli flakes and different chillies blended together. The flavour has a sweet texture to it, which is meant to reflect the story behind Cally Munchy where people aren’t just eating, but there is more than meets the eye. The complexity of the sweetness and the heat is unexpected.
When people buy it, they’re taking a bit of Cally Munchy and adventure with them, and fusing it with other food. That’s what it’s all about, bringing a bit of Africa into your daily meals.
A few people have even said that they eat it on their toast with peanut butter!
Grab a finger lickin’, mouth waterin’, unforgettable bowl of Cally Munchy or some Shi-tuan asappppp! You can find out Cally Munchy’s next location by following them on Instagram !