Most food trucks serve handheld fare like tacos or hot dogs. Detroit-based food truck Fork in Nigeria flips that formula with a menu of Nigerian specialties including jollof rice, fufu, and cassava leaf stew.
Chef Prej Iroegbu launched Fork in Nigeria in June 2020, but his culinary roots date back to childhood.
“I’m the youngest of seven and I grew up on a farm in Nigeria. The older ones went to farm, and I stayed home and cooked for them,” he said. “I would butcher meat, cook it, find herbs and make sure everything was seasoned correctly. I would make sure they have warm food on rainy days and different types of drinks.”
When he immigrated to the United States, it was difficult for Iroegbu to find restaurants serving the Nigerian cuisine he grew up eating. He notes that while there are many Nigerian-owned restaurants in the U.S., they often serve wide-ranging menus of African-Caribbean fare.
“Let’s put that in context — Nigeria is the largest black country on the planet, with the largest black population,” he told Beyondish. “There are 280 ethnicities with different languages, cultures, tribes. They’re like their own different countries, they should be their own countries, but the British put all these [groups] together so they’d be able to conquer them,” he explained.
“Nigeria is so big, it’s hard for someone to say they can cook all Nigerian dishes, then talk about cooking African dishes, then Caribbean dishes on top of that—it’s too much!”
In contrast, Fork in Nigeria serves a menu focused on Nigerian street food. “Goat, oxtails, beef tips, jollof rice — that’s a big signature food for Nigerians. We make our own drinks, hibiscus juices that are all homemade,” Iroegbu said.
“One of our meals went viral, the fufu on TikTok,” he says, referencing a popular challenge that encouraged TikTok users to try the dish. “There’s nothing quite like it. It’s like a doughy yam. You eat it with sauce, you can add meat or eat it as vegan. It’s different — when people come to us, they get something different.”
Diners are definitely eager to try something different. Within a few months of opening, the food truck had served 70,000 meals. Fork in Nigeria has since expanded to three trucks (including one in Columbus, Ohio), and Iroegbu will soon be launching a brick-and-mortar restaurant in Midtown Detroit.
“There are so many meals you couldn’t put together in a food truck — we’re getting those meals at the restaurant,” he said. “People will sit on the floor and eat feast-style, family-style, eating with your fingers.”
He’s also planning to expand Fork in Nigeria to additional cities on a franchise basis. “Columbus is a good market for us. We’re looking at Minneapolis, Cleveland. Smaller cities appreciate international food.”
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