When I was in Uganda a couple years ago adopting our youngest daughter, one of my favorite places to eat was just around the corner from where we were staying. We’d take a motorcycle taxi (called a boda-boda) for about 50 cents to the local chapati stand and get a batch of the dense, chewy, pita-like breads for about $2. Then, we’d step to the next stand and get a couple samosas, which were fried dough stuffed with meat and sautéed vegetables for another couple bucks. Five dollars fed at least three of us with leftovers.
At new Rochester restaurant Aboba’s African Eatery, owner Yual Dut doesn’t have samosas, but he has sambusas. And he doesn’t have chapati, but he does have shwarma pita.
“These are foods found all over Africa, though they might have different names,” Dut said. And when I take a bite of the sambusa, I know he’s right.
The spices are a bit more Middle-Eastern or Indian, but the basics are the same, with delicious results — and even better, the prices aren’t much more than I paid at the street corner in Uganda: $1.50 for sambusa; $6 for shwarma pita; $5 for falafel pita.
Dut emigrated to the United States from South Sudan when he was 10 and said his memories of his life in Africa are spotty at best — with one exception. “The food,” he said. “You can’t forget the food.”
While several dishes originate in Eastern Africa, where South Sudan and Uganda are located, the Aboba menu has influences from all over the continent — including South Africa, Kenya and Egypt.
Dut said his most popular dish since opening in March has been Aboba’s chicken shwarma pita, which is served up Greek gyro-style: chicken spiced with cumin, coriander, turmeric and ginger wrapped in a pita layered with lettuce, tomato and sweet onions and topped with their house-made sriracha mayo sauce.
The sambusa dough is made fresh daily, and the little triangles are packed with grilled vegetables and crumbled meat with a ton of flavor from allspice, coriander and turmeric. It’s served with sweet chili sauce, which sends the combination of flavors over the top.
Other menu items include rice combinations with steak, goat or fish; as well as other pita filling choices such as steak, falafel, fried fish, or rice and veggies. They feature a special every day that features a unique flavor from different regions in Africa.
When I go back again this week, I’m definitely trying their tea, which gets rave reviews, as well as a piece of Aboba’s baklava for dessert.
Dut isn’t done expanding the palette and variety of his menu, either. Within a week, he’ll be offering gyros, and soon after that, he’ll expand the soup selections, with more additions to come.
Aboba’s offers another ethnic food option in Rochester, with flavor combinations you won’t find elsewhere. If you like Greek, Indian, Middle-Eastern or Mediterranean, you’ve got to check them out.
Aboba’s modest dining room is located across from Northgate Plaza at 1205 Seventh St. NW in Rochester. It’s open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and closed on Sunday.