Monday, October 28, 2019

Where to Eat: A “DIY Nigerian Dinner Party Vibes” Airbnb Experience @ Eko Kitchen, SOMA, San Francisco

The Experience: A two-hour initiation into the art of cooking Nigerian cuisine, including favorites like chin chin, stews and puff puff

The Location: SOMA

The Vibes: Cozy, earthy, educational, inviting

Good for: Alone, dates, small groups

When-To-Go: Select Thursdays; check the website for exact availabilities

The $$ Factor: $43 per person

The Names behind the scenes: Head chef / Owner Simileoluwa "Simi" Adebajo

The 4-1-1: In addition to offering this Airbnb Experience, Eko Kitchen is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings. I
t’s closed during the week but offers meal preps and corporate catering for companies in the city. The restaurant also occasionally hosts pop-up dinners throughout the Bay Area. 

Transportation: The restaurant is located just a few blocks south from both the Civic Center/UN Plaza BART and the Van Ness MUNI stations

I’ll Be Back…: To learn how to make jollof rice and chin chin next!

Back in 2017, the digital travel platform Airbnb expanded its offerings, introducing a new program called Airbnb Experiences. For any given city, you can now search hundreds of activities that typically last a few hours, ranging from neighborhood walking tours to culinary classes and even photo sessions — something I booked during my latest trip to London.

Earlier this month, I signed up for an Airbnb Experience right here in the Bay: a “DIY Nigerian Dinner Party Vibes” class at Eko Kitchen.

For a little bit of context, Eko Kitchen is a casual, one-roomed restaurant serving up Nigerian cuisine, all to the backdrop of Afrobeats in the heart of SOMA. This modest dining spot is bathed in earthy yellows, tans and muted grays. It officially opened earlier this year and started hosting Airbnb Experiences in September.

Head chef / owner Simileoluwa "Simi" Adebajo (pictured below left with me) is originally from Lagos and quit her job as a financial analyst to operate Eko Kitchen full-time. She leads her sessions in a laid-back, welcoming manner that feels like you’ve known her for years. 

Each "class" can have up to 10 guests. Participants get to make two to three different Nigerian dishes, learning about the ingredients and various cooking methods along the way. At the end of the night, the group sits down to feast upon all of its hard work. The menu rotates weekly, so even if you’ve previously attended, you can potentially have a different experience, the next time you go.

Here’s a look at how my night went! 

There were only two others along with my friend and I, making for a nice intimate setting.

We kicked off our session by watching everyone wash their hands — so appreciated and welcomed — before reuniting in the main dining area to divvy up responsibilities to prepare our lovely dinner of fried plantains, chicken stew with rice and puff puff

I got stuck with cutting up onions, garlic and ginger, but still made sure to sneak next to my friend, who was responsible for the plantains, as Adebajo was explaining how to properly peel and cut them, prepping them to be fried. 

Look at how gorgeous our plantains turned out! Perfectly golden on the outside, sweet and mushy inside.

After everyone chopped, sliced and diced the veggies, marinated the meat and mixed the puff puff batter, it was time to head into the kitchen. Here, we gained hands-on experience frying the puff puff, a traditional dessert pastry made of yeast, cinnamon, flour and sugar. If I had to compare it to anything, it’s kind of similar to a beignet or donut hole. There’s a very nuanced way of scooping the batter with your hands and dropping it directly in the deep fryer, so as to have flawlessly smooth, fried spheres. 

Unfortunately, none of us except for Adebajo could master the technique, so we instead ended up with puff puffs that she affectionately coined “alien babies,” pictured below. Nonetheless, they were tasty no matter how they looked, so the moral of the story: don’t judge a book by its cover! 

The last item on our list was the chicken stew, a recipe that’s been in Adebajo’s family for generations. I learned some excellent cooking tips while helping with this dish: roast rather than boil veggies to retain their flavor, blend veggies in a blender for a puréed texture, and rub chicken down with oil as you season it to help it more easily absorb the spices. 

After letting the chicken marinate in our spice blend — including a spice cube called Maggi that Adebajo brought directly from Nigeria — we baked and then added it to a blended mixture of onions, ginger, garlic and peppers. We also made long grain par boiled rice, which Adebajo shared is frequently eaten in Nigeria. 

Now that’s what you call a stew!

After almost two hours of cooking (and nibbling on plantains and puff puffs to sustain us throughout the evening), it was time to sit down and enjoy the fruits of our labor. It was all quite delicious and I can't wait to try to reinvent this in my own home. 

So the next time you’re in the mood to have a hands-on culinary adventure and learn more about Nigerian cuisine, I recommend checking out Eko Kitchen’s “DIY Nigerian Dinner Party Vibes” Airbnb Experience. You’ll find new friends, discover new cooking secrets and of course, eat wonderful food.

See you there soon!

For more information:


  1. YUM! I didn't even know that you could buy cooking experiences on Airbnb -- this looks like so much fun and like its so tasty.
    Your alien babies/puff puffs were cute and I bet they were yummy too.
    Thanks for the pro tip and for keeping so a nice log of the experience to share with us.

  2. As a naija girl myself I'm here for all things Nigerian cuisine! Lol this is awesome. I never knew this existed. Thank you