>> Totos' African Cuisine | Eat the World Los Angeles

Sunday 7 March 2021

Totos' African Cuisine


COVID-19 UPDATE: The dining room is blocked at the door, where a table is used to place pickup orders for customers and delivery drivers. The proprietor is being very cautious about distance, etc.

While the words "African Cuisine" in the name of this restaurant are written larger, Totos' has the confidence to put the name of a specific country on their sign as well. In this case, the country in West Africa is Nigeria, probably the most well-represented nation in all of sub-Saharan Africa in Los Angeles.

At the back corner of the Village Plaza in Van Nuys, they are also one of the only places where you can confidently order most of what is offered on the menu any day you walk in, rather than finding out this or that is not available some (most) times. Because of this, orders are given a good lead time of at least 30 minutes, so plan to call in if you do not want to wait.

Make sure to supplement any order with at least one meat pie ($2.99, above), a descendant of occupation. These are most commonly stuffed, as they are here, with ground beef, potatoes, peas, and carrots, and can be either baked or fried back home. Here they are baked and come with a very thick shell that is softer closer to the center and flaky on the outside.

In Nigeria and Cameroon you will find vendors that offer a few options of these like onions and tomatoes, and sometimes even fry fresh to order. These baked ones are the most delicious, and easier to deal with especially when taking food home for reheating.

Nigerian pepper soup has a reputation of being one of the spiciest soups in the world, and for good reason. It is rare for a chef not to warn a non-Nigerian what they are getting into, but here she was unfazed by the order. It is offered either with fresh fish filet or as shown here the beef feet pepper soup ($9.99, above), which shows up under the appetizers on the menu.

One lopped off cow hoof is placed with the deeply flavorful and very spicy soup, which comes at you with a lot more than just fire. If you ordered any other dishes with rice, you might want to dip into that to help get through the full bowl.

Staple Nigerian starches like fufu and garri (cassava) and amala (yam) are difficult to reheat when not eating immediately, so rice was chosen to pair with their house stew ($16.99, above). Choosing the goat meat for this (or anything) costs an extra $2.50, but that is the meat it goes best with. The stew itself is a thick sauce of tomatoes, onions, oils, and spices. It is tasty in its own right but should be eaten separately from the pepper soup or the more subtle flavors will get lost.

You can also pick up Nigerian beers like the light malty lager Star and dark stout Guinness. What's that you say? Oh, ask a Nigerian whether Guinness is their own and you will hear the full story. Nigeria was the first place outside of Ireland and Great Britain in the early 1960's to have a Guinness brewery, and ever since it may just be the most popular beer in the country since it can be enjoyed at a fair price when manufactured locally.


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