Naija Boy Tacos

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Rasheed Amedu of Naija Boy Tacos
Rasheed Amedu of Naija Boy Tacos. Photo by Aniko Kiezel.

Sacramento chef Rasheed Amedu knows it takes some moxie to open a fusion restaurant. That’s because some consider fusion to be the f-word of the restaurant world, a concept that can dilute or even disrespect the very cultures it purports to celebrate. Yet others (Amedu and celebrity chef David Chang among them) have come to embrace how a mash up of distinctive cuisines can result in some spectacularly good dishes.

At Naija Boy Tacos in the Mansion Flats neighborhood, Amedu ingeniously marries the Nigerian dishes he ate at home in his native Chicago with the Mexican food that was ubiquitous in his boyhood neighborhood. By serving tortillas made with plantains, a starchy staple in Nigeria, and filling them with his mother’s chicken stew recipe or curry goat, Amedu is reimagining what a taco can be while also bringing West African cuisine to new audiences.

“It made sense in my head to fuse the two because the flavor profiles aren’t too far off,” says Amedu. “And the proteins are similar, with goat being prevalent in both cuisines. Most importantly, it was an easy way for people to begin to understand African cuisine. Once there’s a point of reference, then we can show the actual dish that we’re drawing inspiration from.”

Housed in a mobile structure, Naija Boy Tacos is part popup, part temporary restaurant, part food truck. Currently, it sits on a parcel of land that will be developed into housing next year. Eventually, says Amedu, it will find a permanent home on that land.

What allows fusion cooking to be successful, according to Amedu, is understanding a food’s origins from the outset. Before launching Naija Boy, Amedu read up on regional Mexican cooking, comparing and contrasting it with the ingredients and flavors of his upbringing. The Nigerian elements of Naija Boy’s menu can be traced directly back to his mother’s kitchen. “The rice and beans is literally my mom’s stewed beans. The chicken stew, the beef stew, everything came from her. It’s everything I grew up eating,” Amedu says. “The whole menu is a love letter to my mom.”

Naija Boy Tacos

628 15th St.;
(916) 296-4525;
naijaboytacos.com