Renowned restaurateur and cookbook author, Alexander Smalls, is the curator of Expo 2020 Dubai’s African food hall, Alkebulan. The first food hall of its kind focused solely on the varied cuisines spanning the African continent, it’s the manifestation of Smalls’ dream to share the diversity of African food with the world.
Oxtail fried rice is one of Smalls’ favourite dishes. He doesn’t follow a rigid recipe, but rather creates a slightly different version each time he makes it – often with leftovers.
“You can even substitute the oxtail with shrimp or any other type of protein you have available,” says Smalls, “but you want to maintain the spice profile because it gives it its vibrance.”
In addition to a liberal dose of bird’s eye chilli, the dish mixes African and Asian ingredients, including oxtail, collard greens, soy sauce and sesame oil. The ensemble speaks to the history of African communities in China, explains Smalls, as he splashes soy sauce into his skillet and aromatic clouds waft into the air.
Previously an opera singer, Smalls travelled the world and was left wanting in one city after another that failed to provide premium African cuisine. Back at home in New York, Smalls established the city’s first Afro-Asian American restaurant, The Cecil, to great acclaim. Other restaurants in his erstwhile portfolio included iconic jazz and supper club Minton’s, Café Beulah, Sweet Ophelia’s and Shoebox Café.
Today, Smalls is focused on promoting Alkebulan in the hope of finding investors to help build future African food halls, as well as publishing his culinary memoirs. His latest book ‘Meals, Music and Muses: Recipes from My African American Kitchen’ was released in 2020.
To sample Smalls’ curation of African cuisine, visit Expo 2020 Dubai, running until 31 March 2022, or try creating a version of his oxtail fried rice yourself – just don’t forget the chilli.
§ 2lbs oxtails
§ 3 cups cooked black and white rice
§ 4 heads of collard greens
§ 2 cups of bean sprouts
§ 6 scallions chopped
§ 4 bird’s eye chillies sliced, some set aside for garnish
§ 1 clove garlic minced
§ 1 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
§ ½ teaspoon salt
§ 3½ tablespoons soy sauce
§ ½ teaspoon rice vinegar
§ 4 tablespoons olive oil
§ 2 tablespoons sesame oil
§ 4 eggs – 2 soft-boiled to garnish
§ Smoked paprika, to taste
§ 1 bunch coriander
1. Rub oxtails with salt and five-spice powder.
2. Cover and bake at 200C for 3 hours until the meat falls off the bone, and then cool, shred and set aside.
3. Mix eggs with ½ tablespoon of soy sauce and rice vinegar, then add to the frying pan with 1 tablespoon oil. Cook through. Shred and set aside.
4. Add the remaining olive oil and scallions and chilli to the frying pan. Saute for 2 minutes.
5. Add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds.
6. Add the rest of the vegetables and sauté for 5 minutes.
7. Add shredded meat, rice and sesame oil and 3 tablespoons soy sauce, and then sauté until the rice gets a little crispy.
8. Serve garnished with freshly chopped coriander.