April 6, 2011


I had the great pleasure of sitting down with Iba, owner/creator of Cazamance food trailer in the Rainey district downtown the other night.  Iba is a self-taught foodie from South Africa who knows the importance of nutrition and relationships.  He practices being kind to all who come to his 'table', which is one of my favorite things about eating at the trailer - you get treated like family, and you get to eat really well. 

His menu is African influenced, and yet Iba develops the menu with his own creativity and persuasions.  For example, his recent options include a cinnamon rosemary smoked brisket, and a red curry smoked brisket.  A little Texas, a little Africa, and you've got a meal to be remembered.  He also likes to shop at the Asian market on North Lamar to utilize their wild spices in his creations.

We talked mostly about his Mafe' ('ma-fay'), otherwise known as Peanut Soup. It is an authentic dish from West Africa that he relates to mashed potatoes of the states.  It's a dish that makes you think of family and home, but each region will do it a little differently.  He gives the example of New Orleans mashed potatoes having different spices and flavors than perhaps the way New York does their mashed potatoes.  Same thing with peanut soup.  He did give me the recipe which will be featured in my upcoming cookbook - and I have to say I'm excited to start making this at home.  You'll have to wait for the publication to get the measurements, but one tip for home-chefs is to make sure the peanut butter is fully dissolved in water before adding it to the soup.

So what is Iba's version of African peanut soup?  He says, "My mom cooked it way differently than my recipe.  She slow cooked the vegetables like a stew, cooking them for hours.  But when you cook vegetables like that for so long, you lose the nutrients.  So I prefer to steam the veggies while cooking the body of the soup.  I make my soup in 30-45 minutes instead of 5 hours, and mine is healthier," he says with a genuine grin. 

Also on his menu is yassa, which is a dish that was developed from food they grow in Senegal: clear-water river fish, lemon, onion and of course the staple rice.  I have tried his delicious 'bunny chow' a few times, which is a beautiful plate of meat stuffed in bread. Iba told me this orginated during the Apartheid time when many poor blacks worked in the kitchen and would hide meat inside a loaf or piece of bread.  This way, when they were seen giving other blacks food, it just looked like bread.  They would add curry and beans as well, making a wholy delicious but secret meal. 

'The eyes eat first," he says, so everything that is plated at Cazamance comes out appealing to look at.  Every dish that walked by made my mouth water.

Eating at Cazamance gives you the full trailer experience of community, good food, and a friendly Austin vibe under the shade trees.  It's across the street from Clive bar (where you're sure to find a friendly bartender), and smack downtown off Red River and Caesar Chavez - super easy to bike to from just about anywhere.  Also, Iba is open on Mondays when most trailers are not - so if you're hunkering for something different and nourishing I absolutely recommend trying Cazamance at your next trailer outing.