The growing Nigerian population in Kigali now has a restaurant to call home — Jollof Kigali — where they can dine and enjoy their local cuisine.
At the entrance, Jollof Kigali has glowing gold lights against translucent decor and dark walls giving the place a majestic look.
It is located right on the busy Kismenti street.
The place is often full, but not congested, catering for those who prefer an intimate space inside, while those in celebratory mood can sit around the TV lounge or at other open spaces.
The owner is an amiable Nigerian man popularly known as Manny, he is married to a Rwandan, who is his partner in the business.
They met several years ago when he was working in Malaysia and she was a student. She convinced him to come with her to Rwanda and explore business opportunities there. When in Rwanda, he noticed that there was a growing Nigerian population living in Kigali, and Nigerian tourists coming to Rwanda, yet there wasn't any place serving their local food.
For the whole of 2019, Jollof Kigali operated exclusively on Instagram, where customers made orders and food was delivered to their doorsteps. Last year, despite the pandemic, the restaurant opened its doors.
Jollof, a type of rice recipe prepared with red sauce, crayfish and hot sauce, is popular in West Africa. The restaurant also serves ogbono, egusi, okro, eforiro vegetable soups with pounded yam, semolina and oatmeal flour.
RwandAir has direct flights from Kigali to Lagos and Abuja, which has helped them get a constant supply of Nigerian foods and the ingredients they use in preparing the food.
Manny also brings in chefs to prepare the Nigerian cuisine, but now they have started training Rwandans on how to prepare the dishes.
The first time I went to the restaurant, I had pork ribs and a salad. The ribs were greasy, but still tender and succulent. Manny told me that Nigerian dishes tend to be oily. The next time I tried the fried rice, fish served with plantains and salad on the side. The rice was a bit dry, but delicious, after pouring the sweetened salad on it.
"The restaurant is a way of bringing the Nigerian culture to Rwanda. Rwandans love Nigerian food," Manny said.
He says he followed his heart to Rwanda, and his faith helped him to start over.