Prince Albert is well known for being an amazing multicultural mix, welcoming both the original people of the area and the newcomers to Canada.
Shalom Ogoh is one of those people. Originally from Nigeria, Ogoh has started a new business in Gateway Mall. Her foodcourt restaurant, Suyah to Go, is situated near the north doors, with a red banner strung along the front top of the booth.
“I feel like Prince Albert is a great place to start with something unique…something very cultural, so I would say I was inspired mostly by the people,” Ogoh said.
“What Prince Albert already has going here, like the Pakistani foods, the vegetarian food, and all of that good stuff…that inspired me to do something very Nigerian-based as well, as I feel it would be very welcoming in the city.”
So far the response has been good. COVID-19 hit the restaurant industry hard, and Ogoh said some people are still getting used to going out for a meal. Still, she’s happy with the start.
“It’s been good,” Ogoh said.
“People are pretty surprised that this place has opened up after three years of (nothing being here),” she explained. “They’re just getting used to a (booth) being here.
“For the food, I would say the response has been very welcoming by the people. They love the foods, they love the rice, they love the shawarma. I’ve gotten a lot of great feedback.”
The feedback has been a two-way street since Ogoh opened Suyah to Go. While she’s introduced many residents to Nigerian food, she’s also learned quite a bit about the tastes of the local community. It’s even inspired her to add some items to her menu, like a cookie milkshake for the summer.
“I’ve learned to kind of adjust to the taste of the people here,” she explained. “If they want flavour, but they don’t want it too hot, it’s like a balance there.
“I feel Nigerian cuisine has a lot to offer the people and they will definitely enjoy it, once they get to know the flavour.”
Where did the name of her business come from? For Ogoh, the name is from someplace near and dear to her heart.
“The word ‘suyah’ comes from a special spice we use in Nigeria,” Ogoh explained.
“The spice has roasted nuts in it, ginger, garlic, paprika…so it gives off a smoky and spicy or hot aftertaste.
I would say the spice level is between mild to medium hot. That spice, we use it on our BBQ chicken or beef. This cooked meat, chicken or beef, is what we use in our shawarma wraps.”
The food at her restaurant goes beyond just the meat dishes.
“We also have deep fried plantain, a very popular side dish back home in Nigeria,” she explained. “That can be eaten with Jalal fries or fried rice and coleslaw as well.”
In the future, does Ogoh see the opportunity for expansion of her business?
“Definitely,” she said. “I see a bright future for this restaurant. The plan is, with the city opening up, the viability of a new district is also opening up. The big recreation centre, and the paper mill opening up as well, there will definitely be more traffic to the mall as well as local attractions. I definitely see myself opening up another location somewhere in Prince Albert, or even around Saskatchewan.”
Suyah to Go is open most days from 10 am to 6 pm, and Sundays noon to 5 pm. at the Gateway Mall food court.