Durham, North Carolina — Saltbox Seafood Restaurant Owner and chef Ricky Moore celebrates Black History Month with a new dish introduced every Wednesday in February.
“I created this menu to celebrate Black History Month. And by that, I mean the pan-African global influence of the Atlantic slave trade – specifically where slaves landed in the New World,” Moore said. “These dishes tell the story of how they have influenced and interacted with the food and culture of these places. These dishes are a testament to the global influence that African cuisine has had on our food culture in the Americas, not only in the United States.”
Moore said he chose to showcase dishes he’s eaten in the areas they hail from. Since Saltbox is all about seafood, expect the menu to highlight fish and other seafood.
Saltbox Seafood Restaurant is located at 2637 Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd. and is open Tuesday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Saltbox Seafood Joint Black History Month Menu Specials with Moore Descriptions:
Wednesday February 2 – Fried catfish and spaghetti
The origins of this dish are in the Mississippi Delta and it traveled north during the Great Migration – the decades-long movement of millions of African Americans from the southern United States to other parts of the United States. But it’s not a dish that’s recognized in the Soul Food canon nationally. Rather, it is specific to major cities that stretch north along the Mississippi River and beyond, including Memphis, St. Louis, Chicago, Detroit, and Milwaukee. I discovered it when I was living in Chicago and teaching at the Washburne Culinary Institute on the South Side. Spaghetti is the side dish to fried catfish (much like here in North Carolina, we serve coleslaw on the side). Spaghetti is often overcooked and served with tomato or meat sauce. My version will cook spaghetti properly, of course, and also play up the flavors of dirty rice using the “holy trinity” aromatic base of onion, green pepper and celery.
Wednesday, February 9 – Bake & Shark
It’s a popular street and beach food you’ll find all over Trinidad and Tobago. Many African slaves ended up in the Caribbean and this dish was originally developed by African fishermen. But like all Trinidadian dishes, it has many other influences, including South Asian (Indian) and Native American flavors and ingredients. It’s basically a stuffed pocket sandwich. “Baking” refers to bread that is similar in shape to a pita but is made from fried bread dough that is more like donut dough minus the sugar that is fried. The bun is then opened and stuffed with fried shark and plenty of toppings including lettuce, tomato, sliced star pineapple and two types of sauces, spicy cilantro and tangy tamarind. The “shark” is cut into pieces or small fillets, breaded and fried. The first time I tasted this sandwich was at Richard’s Bake & Shark, a famous beach spot on Maracas Bay in Trinidad. My version will stick pretty close to the classic using local North Carolina fish like a Smooth Dog Shark or a Dogfish. I’ll season my fish with a light paste of salt, pepper, garlic and mashed parsley and definitely grill the pineapple for an extra smoky flavor.
Wednesday, February 16 – Senegalese Fish Yassa
The origin of this dish is Chicken Yassa, a traditional Senegalese dish of chicken smothered in a caramelized onion sauce seasoned with mustard, lemon juice and a little heat from fresh chillies served over rice. Popular throughout West Africa, its origins come from the Casamance region of Senegal and can be found in Senegalese restaurants around the world. The dish also reflects the region’s history as a former French colony, as it is known as both chicken yassa (in French) and yassa ganaar (in Wolof). While exploring West African restaurants in New York, I came across a place that did yassa with a whole fish, which is what I’m basing my version on. This dish depends on what’s in the market, so I’ll probably use redfish or monkfish, served with local rice from Kay Rice located in Craven County, where I grew up. Most of its flavor comes from the large amount of caramelized onion, which provides considerable depth of flavor and color. It also gets a nice flavor that helps round out and cut the richness and sweetness of the onions with the addition of lemon juice and a little mustard. The majority of the slaves that landed in South Carolina were from West Africa, which I think most likely explains why when you order fried fish in South Carolina it comes with a mustard sauce . It all goes back to yassa!
Wednesday February 23 – Moqueca Baiana
Moqueca is a fish stew and one of the classics of Brazilian cuisine. There are two versions, one is in the North and the other is in the South, each influenced by the culinary habits/influences of each region. To the north, Moqueca Baiana, has elements of African culture, while in the southeast, Moqueca Capixaba, is heavily influenced by Portuguese and Spanish. Both contain garlic, tomatoes, cilantro, onions, salt and olive oil. The difference is that the Moqueca Baiana also calls for dende oil and coconut milk – ingredients that are not part of the capixaba version. Dende oil (also called palm oil) is native to Africa and is commonly used for frying and to impart a deep dark reddish color. The key element to this dish is the rich, decadent broth, which comes from dende oil and rich coconut. My version will use a variety of fish and shellfish, whatever feels right to me that day, and top with a chiffonade of collard greens cooked in olive oil, garlic and salt.