(Originally posted in the San Diego Reader February 6, 2013.)
On a warm Sunday afternoon in late September, the San Diego Public Market teems with socially responsible shoppers toting reusable bags.
A crowd of eight to ten people is in front of a booth marked with a canvas sign that reads “East African Cuisine.” Some browse the menu or reach for the small sample cups filled with a purple-hibiscus iced tea. Others peer through the glass in front of the steam table to get a look at the food. The rest wait for their turn to order.
“I just want you to make me a plate,” a woman in a fuchsia tank top says, leaning against the glass, “like you did for my husband.”
Hasno Ali, the round-faced, 46-year-old owner of East African Cuisine, grabs a large Styrofoam container from a stack on the table beside her and begins to fill it with rice, lentils, and cabbage.
The woman in fuchsia claps her hands in anticipation. “I want it all!” she says. “How much for the sambusas? I want a chicken and a beef.”
Ali’s face beams at the woman’s enthusiasm, and before she closes the container, she adds a chicken kebab.
“No charge,” she says, smiling.
A man in a faded denim cap that reads “Santa Barbara” bypasses the crowd in front of the booth, approaching from a side angle, and asks, “What’s a sambusa?”
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