Flavors of Southeast Asia Flourish at Tumerica

LORDSTOWN, Ohio – Motorists on Tod Avenue could easily overlook Tumerica Asian Soul Kitchen, where owner-chef Hendrix Muhammad produces big flavors in his small kitchen.

Tucked away in a small plaza just north of the new Ultium Cells plant, it’s one of the Mahoning Valley’s more interesting dining spots.

Muhammad draws upon the influences of Indonesia, Malaysia, Japan, China and Korea, with some classical French techniques, to create his own take on southeast Asian dishes. The chef cuts no corners, prepping everything in-house and cooking entrees to order and with an eye for colorful presentation. The only staff member is his 12-year-old son, Dion.

The Indonesian-born Muhammad literally has a world of experience. Professionally trained and educated but also self-taught, he has worked in kitchens on cruise ships, in New Orleans and in several other global food capitals.

It made him fluent in the food of many lands. The result is something rarely tasted in this area, sold at popular prices and served in a humble but pleasing atmosphere. Reggae music plays in the dining room, adding another layer to the cultural fusion.

Chicken teriyaki at Tumerica.

A glance at the menu demonstrates the variety. Entrees include General Tso’s chicken, Malay curry laksa noodle, chicken mie goreng and teriyaki chicken.

On the seafood side is sesame crusted salmon teriyaki, coconut Thai shrimp noodles, seafood udon and Singapore shrimp noodles.

There is also a beef and chicken satay with peanut sauce, pepper steak stir fry, Rendang short ribs and udon beef stir fry. Specials are posted daily, including an Asian burger on coconut bread that is made in-house.

The small bites menu includes crab Rangoon, chicken gyoza, egg rolls and a variety of sushi.

Muhammad came to Youngstown four years ago to settle here with his wife, a Mahoning Valley native, who he met in West Virginia.

His work experience includes head chef on an American Cruise Line river cruise ship in the Western states; executive chef at Harrah’s Casino in New Orleans; and other restaurant work in Los Angeles, West Virginia, Erie, Pa.; and, briefly, the Hollywood Gaming racino in Austintown.

Kitchen work is only part of the jovial chef’s hospitality experience.

“Mostly, I was a bartender. In Dubai, I was a flair bartender,” he said, referring to the style of mixing drinks that involves slinging bottles in a choreographed way.

Muhammad did not find the front-of-house restaurant duties to be satisfying and gravitated toward the kitchen early in his career.

The exterior of the restaurant, located in a small strip plaza on state Route 45 in Lordstown.

After he and his family settled in Boardman a few years ago, the chef felt the time was right to strike out on his own. “I wanted my own restaurant, a southeast Asian place,” he said.

He took the name of his restaurant from turmeric, the healthful spice that is at the core of much Asian cuisine. Turmeric, along with candlenut and galangal, are used to flavor most of his dishes.

“Everything you eat in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia has turmeric in it,” Muhammad said, noting the spice is known for its anti-inflammatory qualities.

Eating healthy is top priority to the chef, and he incorporates that mindset into what he puts on the table.

“You will not get heartburn from consuming our food,” he said. “There is no MSG, salt or cornstarch.”

A staunch believer in healthy natural remedies, Muhammad also sells imported Asian and African spices, roots and powders, as well as botanicals, which can be viewed in display cases in Tumerica.

The restaurant is geared toward lunch and gets dozens of orders each week from the many South Koreans who work at Ultium Cells.

He also stays open just late enough on weekdays for folks to pick up dinner to take home.

Hours are noon to 5:30 p.m. Monday; 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday; 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 3:30 to 7 p.m. Friday; and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday.

The restaurant is located at 6100 Tod Ave. SW. Call 234 600 5988 or go to its website.

Pictured at top: Hendrix Muhammad sits inside his Tumerica Asian Soul Kitchen.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.