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African Restaurant Week Continues Through Weekend

Above: June Owino, owner and chef at Flavors of East Africa. His restaurant is participating in San Diego's first African Restaurant week.

Aired 10/26/12 on KPBS News.

San Diego's inaugural week-long celebration of African cuisine continues through Sunday. KPBS arts reporter Angela Carone visits one the restaurants participating in African Restaurant Week to find out what's cooking.

Flyer for African Restaurant Week.
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Above: Flyer for African Restaurant Week.

You’ve heard of San Diego Restaurant Week, the biannual event when restaurants offer three-course dinners for cheaper prices? Well now we have African Restaurant Week. Foodies, take note.

The event runs through Sunday with seven of San Diego's 10 African restaurants offering traditional African cuisine at reduced prices.

Think sambusas (fried or baked pastry with a savory filling), stews with hominy and beef, grilled fish, not to mention lentils, collard greens and chick peas with spices galore.

June Owino opened Flavors of East Africa on El Cajon Boulevard just two years ago, after his food became popular at local farmers markets.

In his kitchen, the smell of garlic is strong. "Lots of garlic. That’s the key. Garlic is good for you," says Owino.

Owino was an accountant in Kenya before coming to the States eight years ago. He’s been cooking since he was a child. Growing up with a single mother, he and his siblings prepared most of the meals. He learned expert knife skills from his grandmother.

Owino says unique dishes from other countries get labeled authentic or exotic, but people think differently about African food. "When an African eats whatever they eat or the equivalent, it’s called primitive. So we need to change that kind of mentality." Owino says the best way to do that is through exposure.

Being from Kenya, he cooks mostly food from eastern Africa. San Diego has the largest East African population in California.

East African food is not only tasty, it’s healthy. The proof? Owino says just look at all the Kenyon marathon winners. "You see the Kenyans run. Why do you think they run like that? Because they eat good!"

Owino is hosting an all-day party on Saturday to celebrate Flavors of East Africa's new location just down the street from the old spot. There will be bands, traditional drummers, African dance, and, of course, lots of food.

You can find a list of the other restaurants participating in African Restaurant Week and a schedule of free cooking classes here.

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