New Hampshire’s Ethnic Food Markets: Mercy of God African Market
Center of the Yam Universe
As New Hampshire’s diversity grows with an influx of new residents from all over the world, ethnic food markets located in different parts of the state are meeting the demand to give them a taste of home and an open invitation for everyone to discover new dishes.
Nigeria is known as the “yam belt” for good reason — it’s the world’s largest producer of the vegetable. It’s used to make pounded yam, a starchy food usually eaten with soups or stews.
At Mercy of God African Market in Manchester, customers can find a steady supply of that prolific root vegetable, says owner Beatrice Adekoya, who was born and raised in Ilawe Ekiti State, Nigeria. After living in Akure Town, Ondo State, Adekoya and her family relocated to Boston in 1998, then settled in Manchester in 2004.
She went into business in 2004 after seeing a local need for ethnic food from her region like pounded yam, which is boiled, sliced, formed into a doughy consistency and eaten with stew — no seasoning needed.
“These are delicious dishes people are craving,” she says.
The market also carries beans, beef, goat meat, fish, shrimp, spinach, kale, collard greens, seasonings, and garri — cassava flour — used in fufu, a popular pounded meal known as a “swallow food.”
You can also find ingredients to make Nigerian delicacies like jollof rice with onions, spices, tomatoes and meat or fish; Amala, made with cassava, yams or plantains and served with ewedu (jute leaves soup); okro soup; and efo riro — a spinach stew.
“The foods from my country are organic, healthy and nutritious. No fats, no additives,” Adekoya says.
They also sell household items like African dresses and art supplies, and Adekoya’s biography, “My Name Is A.Y.O (Joy).”
The local reaction to her store has been more than welcoming.
“God is helping us. People are responding positively,” she says, adding that they’re in the final stages of opening the restaurant portion of the market.
Adekoya’s personal favorites include rice and stew: boiled white rice in a stew seasoned with beef or fish and tomatoes, habanero peppers, red bell peppers, groundnut oil (also known as peanut oil); and pounded yam and Egusi soup with meat or fish.
“What I personally like about Egusi soup is that it’s organic, rich in protein, vitamins and antioxidants, and is delicious. These are staple foods of Yorubas, and I still enjoy them up to this day,” she says.
603 Diversity’s mission is to educate readers of all backgrounds about the exciting accomplishments and cultural contributions of the state’s diverse communities, as well as the challenges faced and support needed by those communities to continue to grow and thrive in the Granite State.