by Tom Sims
Tom Sims searches the Valley for tips on eating healthy, buying healthy food, growing healthy food, and eating out healthy in the Valley, for this Healthy Eating in the Valley column. Feel free to share your suggestions of places and things to check out!
If humanity originated in Africa, then so did the consumption of human food.
Thirty-three nations, hundreds of languages and cultures, and thousands of recipes later, Africa is not one entity, but many. Yet, there is only one place to get authentic African food in Fresno and there, you can sample the cuisines of two countries.
Until recently, Ethiopian fare could be sampled at Lucy’s Lair and Fasika. Shortly after I reviewed Lucy’s Lair, it closed. It made me hesitant to write about Faskia, but I will. After visiting there three times, talking at length with the management, staff, and customers, I think it is here to stay. If the number of people coming and going is any indication, it will continue to grow in popularity.
Fasika, which opened in 2011, means “resurrection.” It is described as “the feast of feasts” in Ethiopia and is “celebrated with special solemnity, even as it expresses profound joy over the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
When Charles Kalokia, a local business man and entrepreneur, took over Fasika, he brought along his Kenyan culinary background to the Ethiopian feast that was already at the table. But he also reached out to Africans from other nations and cultures and invited them to gather in his place on Blackstone Avenue to celebrate and dine.
As part of the Blackstone resurgence spear-headed by the new Fresno General Plan and Better Blackstone, Fasika has no agenda other than to offer the best and most authentic food in the most inviting atmosphere in the core of the city.
When you enter, it is like coming home to Africa, perhaps our common home.
The first Homo sapiens in Africa were hunter-gatherers.
Later, they learned to farm.
Today, farming is the primary means of producing food on the continent. As an aside, Fresno Interdenominational Refugee Ministries (FIRM) recently opened an African garden plot at 4141 Ministries where African families from Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, and Congo, to name a few, can take a plot of land and farm it as they would at home, raising healthy food on healthy soil through organic practices. This is under the Horticultural Therapeutic Community Centers (HTCC) project in cooperation with Fresno County. The dedication of the garden, that is already growing, is May 27, 10 a.m.–Noon at 4141 N. Fresno St., Fresno, CA. 93726. Fasika will be serving food there!
Ethiopia is one of the oldest civilizations on the African continent. Advanced and sophisticated cultures have thrived there for thousands of years. The oldest human bones ever discovered were in Ethiopia.
Kenya is a thriving and modern nation with pockets of very old culture. There are overlaps to the cultures and cuisines of the two nations, but also major distinctions.
Fasika keeps the Ethiopian and Kenyan menu pages distinct as well. Of course, mixing and matching is encouraged and injera is available on both menus. It is that sourdough-risen flatbread with a unique, slightly spongy texture that I mentioned in a previous article. Not only does it serve as the bread with any meal, but it is also the fork and spoon with which one picks up bite after bite of flavorful food.
For the most part, the various cuisines of Africa use a combination of locally available fruits, cereal grains, and vegetables. They may also add milk and dairy products. Ethiopia is famous for its vegetarian options.
Africa is the world’s second-largest and second-most-populous continent with about 30.3 million square miles of land all-told, and 15% of the world’s human population resides there. It contains fifty-four countries, nine territories, and two states with limited or no recognition. It also has a vibrant diaspora scattered around the world in places such as the California Central Valley.
Fasika gathers the diaspora from the continent for food, art, and cultural events as well as good conversation.
Charles Kaloki is both host and educator at Fasika. He stops at every table to talk with his guests who soon become his friends. His humor, warmth, and knowledge are as inviting as his food. He readily answers questions, suggests menu items to try, and checks back to make sure you were delighted.
I am always delighted at Fasika.
The food is bright and interesting. It is sophisticated, perfectly seasoned, artistically presented, and more than ample in quantity. It is also, healthy. As a vegetarian (well, now pescetarian because I eat some fish) and as a consumer with many dietary restrictions, I have no problem finding menu items that fit my needs and tastes.
I always have to ask for a carry-out box at the end.
Some suggestions are:
• Try the beverages, especially the specialty coffees.
• Save room to try desert.
• Take a friend because the food is served family style and everyone can order their favorites and share.
• Order the Four Entree Special. The price is right and the food is plentiful. One such special should feed two people for lunch. If not, you can order more items.
• Eat with your hands and with injera.
• Check Groupon for good deals at Fasika.
• Plan to attend one of the special Africa nights that is offered periodically. It is usually on a Saturday night with dinner and live djembe drummer. We met one of the main drummers at our last visit and had a long conversation about African cultures, foods, and agriculture.
The main hours are 12:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. on Tuesday through Saturday.
Fasika will deliver and will also cater. The entire restaurant can also be rented for special events.
But then, every visit to Fasika is a special event.
Fasika Ethiopian Restaurant
4712 N Blackstone Ave
Fresno, California 93726
Website – www.FasikaFresno.com
Video of Africa Night: