100 Favorite Dishes 2012: No. 28, Egusi at Finger Licking Bukateria

Photos by Troy Fields
This year leading up to our annual Best of Houston® issue, we're counting down our 100 favorite dishes in Houston. This list comprises our favorite dishes from the last year, dishes that are essential to Houston's cultural landscape and/or dishes that any visitor (or resident) should try at least once.

People are still confused when I tell them that Houston has a Little Nigeria. Even self-proclaimed "serious foodies" almost always refuse to accompany me to places like Peppersoup Cafe or Finger Licking Bukateria to try goat pepper soup or egusi. This leads to some serious disappointment on my end -- and not just because I hate to see a closed mind when it comes to food. It's also because they're missing out on some simply wonderful cuisine.

Sometimes I like to eat out at "exotic" places because it's an inexpensive version of going on a mini-vacation. Other times I enjoy eating at restaurants because of the opportunity to learn about someone else's culture and the ways in which it's influenced your own. And sometimes I enjoy a restaurant just because it's relaxing, cozy and offers good food. Finger Licking Bukateria happens to fall into all three of those categories.

As the hub of Houston's Little Nigeria neighborhood, FLB is populated day and night by Nigerian expats as well as all manner of other West Africans, owing to a lot of overlap in the cuisines and dishes in that part of the continent. FLB is run by Tina and Eghosa Edebor, who run two community newspapers in the area. Eghosa is the president of Houston's Nigerian Foundation, and Tina is the de facto greeter at the restaurant when she's there, all bright smiles and kind words.

Tina's great-great-grandfather was a Nigerian slave taken to Brazil, who eventually returned to his country. She's quick to point out that many of the delicacies of Cajun and Southern food such as gumbo are just the great-great-grandchildren of West African dishes themselves as a result of those old slave trade routes -- so why not try a bite of living history?

If you're new to Nigerian cuisine, Tina or one of her friendly staff will help you out. They'll show you what to order and even teach you how to eat it, so don't be wary. But whatever you decide to order, you must start with the egusi. And with egusi comes fufu.

Much like injera bread in Ethiopian cuisine, fufu -- most often made from pounded yam flour -- is used as both a starchy side dish and a utensil, served in a large, soft, white mound that looks and feels like raw dumpling dough. Fufu is used to eat so-called "eating soups" in Nigerian cuisine, while "drinking soups" like pepper soup are eaten either with a spoon or drunk from the bowl. Tear off a piece of fufu and fashion it into a small, edible spoon, then dunk it into your "eating soup" -- such as egusi -- and swallow the entire bite whole.

Egusi is my favorite of the eating soups, accessible in its basic flavors and comforting in its odd familiarity -- yes, even if you've never eaten it before. The soft, fatty seeds of the egusi melon (a sort of wild African watermelon) thicken the tomato-based broth and add a sweetly nutty flavor to the greens and onions underneath. And if egusi doesn't appeal to you? Try the spicy pepper soup, the long-lost cousin to Cajun gumbo.

The list so far:

No. 100: Chili cheese mac at Jus' Mac
No. 99: Texas turkey sandwich at Spec's
No. 98: Custard at Petite Sweets
No. 97: Caprichos mixtos at Taqueria Monterrey Chiquito
No. 96: Pineapple-wasabi burger at Lankford Grocery
No. 95: Farmer's MKT Pizza at Phoenicia's MKT Bar
No. 94: Potatoes at Money Cat Brunch
No. 93: Breakfast tacos at Sunrise Taquito
No. 92: Hot dog at Tacos D.F.
No. 91: Avocado gelato at Frozen Cafe
No. 90: Chicken sandwich at JerryBuilt Homegrown Burgers
No. 89: Beer-battered asparagus at Hearsay
No. 88: Honey Badger omelet at Kraftsmen Cafe
No. 87: Pastelitos de carne at El Jalapeño
No. 86: Pancakes at Union Kitchen
No. 85: Wild boar and crab pizza at Boheme
No. 84: Breakfast croissant at BB Donuts
No. 83: Pretzel at Anvil Bar & Refuge
No. 82: Short rib sandwich at Shepherd Park Draught House
No. 81: Grilled shrimp po-boy at Pappadeaux
No. 80: Dahi puri at Shiv Sagar
No. 79: Aporreado at Los Corrales
No. 78: Oxtail francobolli at Aldo's Cucina Italiana
No. 77: Tonkotsu at Cafe Kubo's
No. 76: Spinach danish from Angela's Oven
No. 75: Pupusas at El Petate
No. 74: Pheasant dog at Sammy's Wild Game Grill
No. 73: X-Tudo burger at Friends Pizzeria
No. 72: Esparragos gratinados at Tintos
No. 71: Gua bao at Yummy Kitchen
No. 70: Geisha dog at Happy Endings
No. 69: Oyster po-boy and gumbo at Goode Co. Seafood
No. 68: Ceviche at Sirena Seafood
No. 67: Caldo de mariscos at Taqueria Arandas
No. 66: Banana pudding at Pizzitola's
No. 65: Fried catfish and gumbo at Cafe-A-La
No. 64: Soft-shell crabs at Banana Leaf
No. 63: Macaroni and cheese at Vic & Anthony's Steakhouse
No. 62: Torta burger at El Gran Malo
No. 61: Black bean burger at Ziggy's
No. 60: Parillada at Pampa Grill
No. 59: Peanut butter and jalapeño jelly burger at Wicked Whisk
No. 58: Eggplant involtini at Giacomo's Cibo e Vino
No. 57: Lone Star dog at James Coney Island
No. 56: Sushi at Sushi Miyagi
No. 55: Palestinian chicken at Al Aseel
No. 54: Roast beef sandwich at Local Foods
No. 53: Mexico City plate at Molina's Cantina
No. 52: Tacos at Brothers Taco House
No. 51: Branzino at Lucio's BYOB
No. 50: Beef sweetbreads at Feast
No. 49: Golden Doomba Special at the Rice Box Truck
No. 48: Malted waffle at City Cafe
No. 47: Banh mi bo kho at Cafe TH
No. 46: Chicken fried steak at Triple A
No. 45: Larissa plate at Harry's
No. 44: Spaghetti carbonara at Coppa Ristorante Italiano
No. 43: Wings and grits at The Breakfast Klub
No. 42: Frito pie at C&D Burger Shoppe
No. 41: Pollo con mole at El Gallo de Jalisco
No. 40: Fried avocado taco at H-Town StrEATs
No. 39: Rigatoni in bolognese sauce at Paulie's
No. 38: Chorizo kolaches at Peña's Donut Heaven
No. 37: Sashimi at Dadami
No. 36: Half-pound burger at benjy's
No. 35: Fried chicken at Haven
No. 34: Whole-fried speckled trout at Liberty Kitchen
No. 33: Moules congolaise at Jeannine's Bistro
No. 32: Pancakes at Fountain View Cafe
No. 31: Pineapple with chile en polvo at Canino's
No. 30: Fried chicken at Barbecue Inn
No. 29: Dirty Burque at Green Seed Vegan

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Location Info

Finger Licking Bukateria

9811 Bissonnet St., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

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conebaby topcommenter

I've been hesitant to try goat, because try as I might I just can't like lamb, but it may be time to pull the trigger. (My husband loves Nigerian food, but I've been a total chickenshit about trying it.)

kshilcutt moderator editor

 @conebaby Hmm. The goat pepper soup is really...goaty. I like it, but it may not be the best stuff to ease you into eating goat. Maybe you could start with the cabrito at El Hidalguense for your first time. It's so tender and smoky and doesn't have that gamey flavor that full-grown goat does. On the other hand, the egusi and the catfish pepper soup at FLB are something that anyone can jump right into.  :)

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