London is known for its multicultural verve. Cuisines from all over the world can be found in England’s capital city, which is regarded as a cultural melting pot, and that includes its cuisine. So here’s our list of the best places to buy authentic West African ingredients in London.
The UK is home to around a million adults born in Africa. Although these new settlers and their families have integrated into their adopted society and enjoy the multitude of cuisines from the diverse cultures that London is known for, craving a taste of home is something experienced by all. Ingredients from Cameroon to Senegal can be found in different neighbourhoods across the city. And the siren call of jollof rice keeps the fire in many kitchens burning. But where do you go if you’re looking to recreate one of these sought-after cuisines away from home?
Barking is located in the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham in East London. It is serviced by the District line, Hammersmith & City line and the C2C National rail, and buses which run to and from the surrounding areas, and all the way to central London. There are a good number of shops, as well as the local market at the town centre where West African ingredients can be bought. This comes as no surprise given the active West African community in the town. Food supplies such as yam, plantain, cassava, garri, okro, peppers, live snails, garden egg (aubergine), egusi seeds, dried stock fish, crayfish, and even more seasonal fruits such as agbalumo (also known as the African star apple) and sherry mango can be found in specialist shops. In addition to the local shops, independent sellers at Barking Market itself, which runs on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, sell a variety of West African ingredients for anyone looking to recreate a taste of home. The market is situated at East Street, a five-minute walk from the train station.
Dalston Market is also known as Ridley Road Market. It has been situated in the heart of Dalston since the end of 1880s. It initially began with only 20 stalls but has since grown to host more than 150 stalls offering a diverse range of international goods and food produce. It is located opposite Dalston Kingsland train station, next door to the Kingsland Shopping Centre. You’ll be sure to find all your West African ingredients and foods while you dance to the energetic sound of Afrobeat and reggae music.
Queen’s Market is one of London’s most diverse and cheapest markets. It is located on Green Street, right next to Upton Park Underground Station. The market hosts a thriving community of people from diverse cultures who are able to purchase foods and ingredients for their home-cooked dishes on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. West African ingredients are varied and abundant at this market, whether it is imported smoked or dry salted fish, yam, ground fufu, okro, cassava, curry, thyme or alligator peppers used to make a spicy jollof rice. The market has hosted Jamie Oliver’s Ministry of Food television programme, been visited by BBC Radio 4’s Food Programme and has also been featured in national newspapers and magazines.
Brixton is known for its thriving African and Afro-Caribbean community, so it comes as no surprise that its market is also home of Europe’s largest Caribbean and African market. Plenty of African foodstuffs are sold at the stalls along the street market and in the shops in its arcade.
The Africa Shopping Centre is located on Electric Avenue in Brixton. Although similar to the other groceries in the shopping centre, the Africa Shopping Centre itself is unique because of the speciality of West African ingredients it provides for its customers. It is known for having a wider choice of foods from smaller African communities such as the Ivorian attieké (a side dish made from fermented cassava pulp), which is not easily found elsewhere.
The range of West African foods and beverages at this store is worthy of note. From alligator pepper, jumbo, pounded iyan, a vast variety of peanut paste, ogi, okra, garri, attiéké, and vegetables particular to West Africa such as potato leaf, bitter leaf, scent leaf, can all be found at this grocery store. In addition to these, African masks, bowls, hats and pearls can be found on sale here.
Located between Goldhawk Road and Shepherd’s Bush Underground Station, Shepherd’s Bush Market is renowned for its wide variety of fabrics and multi-cultural offerings of fresh produce. Fruits and vegetables from West Africa can be found here, as well as a rich mix of African textiles. For people living in West London and the neighbouring areas, Shepherd’s Bush Market is the place to go to source the best West African ingredients when a trip down south or east is implausible.
Kumasi Central Market sells a variety of West African food and ingredients. You’ll find all you need to cook the local delicacies that conjure the memory of home for many West Africans in the capital. Living in north London and craving banku? Then Kumasi Central Market is arguably the best place in north London to get cassava dough and fermented corn.
Olumo Foods is a family-run business specializing in the best quality African and Caribbean groceries from around the world. Based out of Darlington, UK, they deliver all around the country with a 24-hour shipping time as long as supplies are ordered before 1pm. For locals living in the Darlington area, pick up from their warehouse is also an option. They sell every West African ingredient you can think of, and even have their own brand of ata agoyin, a special delicacy of very spicy sauce from Nigeria that is usually eaten with beans.
For those conscious of sustainability and the environment, you’ll be happy to know that they use recyclable material to pack their frozen produce such as cuts of meat and fish. Their shipping fee is £10 given their 24 hours shipping time, which comes with up-to-the-minute transit information. Wholesale and bulk-buying options are also available.
Afro Express aims to deliver hard-to-find ingredients and authentic African meals, making it accessible for all. Customers are able to shop from West African grocers and chefs nearby, which Afro Express then picks up and delivers to their door.
Both typical and really obscure West African ingredients and foods such as kuli kuli and uda can be ordered from the e-tailer. They also supply to businesses, cater for events, deliver to private customers and offer a care package to university students across the country.