“Before we opened our restaurant, we put a sign up that said coming soon, an African restaurant, and we had people calling to say thank you for coming to Frisco because they had to drive to Dallas to get African food,” Ema said. “The minute they found out we were coming, it was a thing of joy.”
In addition to being co-owner, Ema is also the chef. She said her culinary skills were derived while growing up near Calabar, a city in southern Nigeria.
“My dad was a farmer, and we had a big farm. I grew up eating from the farm that was just behind our house,” she said. “You’d kill the goat, cut the leaves, get the habanero pepper—we cooked everything right there.”
As a child, she spent a lot of time helping in the family kitchen cooking for her 16 family members and learning traditional recipes.
“Growing up cooking has been beneficial to this business,” Ema said. “Sometimes it would be one goat, or two chickens brought in from the farm, and we’d eat the whole thing in one day. I was used to cooking for a large family, so this is nothing to me, because that’s what I grew up doing.”
Ema said they have been surprised by the diversity of their clientele including 40% African, 40% white and 20% Hispanic and Asian customers.
“Sometimes I have to explain to people that some of the soups here are very earthy,” she said. “I have to ask them if they’re ready for the earthy taste; it’s very fishy. They say they want to try it, and I’m excited they want to try it. They like the taste, and it’s different.”
Using family recipes and many ingredients she orders from Nigeria, she prepares authentic Nigerian dishes resulting in her African customers telling her she replicated a culinary memory.
“A lot of guys come in here, and when they are finished eating, they say, ‘Thank you so much, you took me back to my momma’s house. This food tastes like Nigeria,’” Ema said. “I’m so happy when I hear that.”
Ema said she has a strong passion for cooking, and seeing her customers enjoy what she prepares is fulfilling.
“Being able to cook is what I love,” she said. “When I see people eat my food, I see the joy on their face, and they tell me, ‘Thank you, the food is good.’ That makes my day.”
5995 Preston Road, Ste. 102, Frisco
Hours: Mon. closed, Tue.-Thu. 11:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m., Sun. 1-5 p.m.
Chef Ema’s recommended must-try items at Calabar Pot
- Egusi Soup with beef ($20.49) is a melon seed and spinach soup with beef and served with pounded yam fufu.
- White Rice Goat Stew ($23) includes steamed white rice served with goat stew.
- Jolof Rice with Croaker Fish ($21.99) comes with rice cooked with tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, bay leaf and basil topped with croaker fish that is fried with a dash of bell pepper-based sauce.