Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The flavors of Liberia come alive this weekend

Posted By on Tue, Nov 8, 2016 at 11:36 AM

Ameneh Marhaba of Kitchen Ramarj. - PHOTOS COURTESY KITCHEN RAMARJ
  • Photos courtesy Kitchen Ramarj
  • Ameneh Marhaba of Kitchen Ramarj.

It has taken some time, but the flavors of Africa and the diaspora are finally being felt in the pop-up scene in Detroit. First it was African-born Tunde Wey, who took his Nigerian pop-up on the road. More recently, it was Christian Noel doing a series of Haitian-themed pop-ups called N’ap Boulé. Now it’s 22-year-old Ameneh Marhaba’s Kitchen Ramarj pop-up, featuring the flavors of Liberia.

Marhaba has a colorful, international history. Her mother is Liberian and her father is Lebanese. She lived in Lebanon as a child and then in Liberia until she was a teenager, which instilled in her a native's knowledge of both cultures.



Of course, the two cuisines couldn’t be more different. Lebanese chefs can be spice averse, and Liberian food never met a habanero it didn't like. How does Marhaba approach this kind of balancing act? She tells how, at a recent pop-up, she made chicken wings seasoned as in Liberia, with a spicy peanut butter seasoning. “But in Lebanon, you’d usually accompany wings with a hummus dipping sauce on the side and a little bit of garlic, among other things. So when I did the wings, we put the wings on top of a bed of hummus.”

Also, Marhaba gives diners a choice of how high they’d like to turn up the heat. Instead of infusing the dish with chile heat, she offered a spicy habanero sauce on side. Marhaba sounds a little surprised that “some people kept requesting hot sauce.” It’s a little trouble to make the spicy sauce on the side, but it’s worth it if diners timid about spice are grateful.

She says her recent pop-ups were well-received, and that diners unfamiliar with African food made a point of seeking her out and complimenting her personally. “I was wondering if people would like it,” Marhaba says. “But a lot of people who hadn’t tried it came specifically just to have that experience.”

This week, you can join the crowds singing her praises. This weekend, on the final pop-up at Corktown’s Saint Cece’s, she’ll serve a menu of Lebanese hummus topped with seasoned ground beef spicy roasted beef topped with diced plantains and habanero paste, a spicy Liberian kidney bean stew served over jasmine white rice, house-made Liberian banana-and-rice bread with a shot of ginger beer on the side, palm butter stew, and more.

The meal takes place The meal is cash and a la carte. See the Kitchen Ramarj Facebook page for more information.

Kitchen Ramarj will start serving at 5 p.m. Sturday, Nov. 12, at Saint Cece’s Food & Spirits, 1426 Bagley St., Detroit; 313- 962-2121.

PHOTOS COURTESY KITCHEN RAMARJ
  • Photos courtesy Kitchen Ramarj
click to enlarge PHOTOS COURTESY KITCHEN RAMARJ
  • Photos courtesy Kitchen Ramarj
click to enlarge PHOTOS COURTESY KITCHEN RAMARJ
  • Photos courtesy Kitchen Ramarj
PHOTOS COURTESY KITCHEN RAMARJ
  • Photos courtesy Kitchen Ramarj
click to enlarge PHOTOS COURTESY KITCHEN RAMARJ
  • Photos courtesy Kitchen Ramarj
click to enlarge PHOTOS COURTESY KITCHEN RAMARJ
  • Photos courtesy Kitchen Ramarj

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