Boyle Heights is now home to incredible Cameroonian cooking

Ndolé in a white bowl beside a plate of plantains
Ndolé from Mama D’s African Cuisine in Boyle Heights.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

Last fall, in the thick of the pandemic, Claudia Wanki was searching online for restaurant spaces to lease. She noticed one in a shopping center along South Soto Street in Boyle Heights. It had previously housed Puertos Del Pacifico, which specialized in mariscos. Wanki rented the building and named her new business Mama D’s African Cuisine, in homage to her mother’s restaurant in Maryland just outside of Washington, D.C.

Wanki had worked previously as a substitute teacher and a senior caretaker. She was finishing her M.B.A. degree from Marymount California University as she opened the restaurant in November, cooking many of the same Cameroonian dishes she learned in her mother’s kitchen. She is often a one-woman operation “I don’t mind working long hours,” Wanki told me in a phone interview.

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Mama D’s African Cuisine is this week’s review. If you’re new to the flavors of Cameroon, a country at the cusp of western and central Africa that borders Nigeria to the south, I’d suggest wading in with two regionally specific dishes, ndolé and eru. They’re based on greens; they’re very different, though equally delicious. To find out more … right this way.

Poulet dg on a white plate that's sitting on the edge of a table.
Mama D’s African Kitchen’s Poulet dg.
(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

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