So this doesn’t come up a whole lot on my blog, but I spent about 10 years of my childhood growing up in Ghana, West Africa (and Cote d’Ivoire). The last time I visited was in 2008 and I wish I could go again. There are so many things I miss about Ghana, but what I miss the most is the FOOD. So flavorful, carby, filling, fatty, sticky, spicy…. ahhh! When I get cravings for West African food, the place to go is Itaewon, in the alleyway behind the police station. There are two restaurants that I know of. Happy Home Restaurant which I blogged about here, and then another one right next to it on the first floor. The place used to be called ‘Mama’s Restaurant,’ but it recently got new ownership and a new name: ‘African Heritage Restaurant‘.
The interior is basic and a bit dingy but the people and atmosphere are really welcoming~ I love that whenever I go to a West African restaurant here, there are always more guys just hanging out than there are actual customers. :) Oh and the upbeat music! Makes me wanna go to a chop bar. Anyway, one of my friends here is Nigerian-American and she’s been missing some ‘home food’ too, so we and another friend all went for dinner. We ordered four dishes (half veggie, half not) and shared them. The server was really accomodating in letting us modify the dishes to make them vegan or at least have the meat on the side so that I could enjoy it too.
In Ghana, this bean stew is called ‘red-red’ (or just ‘beans’ in Nigeria) and it’s typically served with fried plantain. This was one of my fave dishes, along with groundnut soup. They usually add fish or other meat to the dish, but we asked them to leave it out for us. It was definitely a bit oilier than I’d like, but it’s pretty normal for there to be a pool of palm oil around the edge.
Plantains~~~~~!!! Such a rare sight in Korea. I especially love plantains when they are deep fried, really gooey & ripe, and dark from all the caramelization. These were more on the dry chewy side, but still yummy~ I’m good with plantains cooked any which way. Really, I’m not going to complain when I’m in the very non-tropical country of Korea.
Now let’s talk about the fufu. Since yams & cassava are probably impossible to find here, I knew they would use boxed fufu flour. I’ve never had the instant version before, so I didn’t really know what to expect. Traditionally, fufu is made from pounding freshly boiled yams, cassava, and/or maybe some plantain for a super long time until it becomes this sticky doughy mass. And then with wet hands, they will pull off a chunk of the fufu and shape it into a smooth round ball, before plating it with some stew. I love seeing the plump white ball of fufu peeking out from a bowl of stew or soup~~
So, I was rather disappointed when this unshapely chunk came out the way it did. I was really hoping they would’ve at least shaped it into a nice round ball… I know it’s just a minor presentation thing, but I care about these things~! Anywayyyy~ the taste and texture itself actually wasn’t bad… Considering it came from a box, it was actually pretty good. Perhaps not as gummy/doughy as real fufu, but it went well with the beans and I still enjoyed it!
When it comes to fufu, you gotta eat it with your hands. :) Just pull off some of the fufu, mush it a bit with some stew to pick up the saucy goodness, and push it into your mouth with your thumb. haha that sounds so weird. This reminded me so much of Ghana!!! *sob*
Jollof rice, a popular rice dish served in West Africa, made with tomatoes, tomato paste, onions, red pepper, and palm oil. It’s usually served with chicken, beef or dried fish, but we asked them to serve the meat separately, since I was with omnivores. Jollof rice was never one of my favorite dishes because I always found it a bit bland and boring, but I was happy to see it here. :)
Man, I literally grew up on Nido (milk powder) because fresh dairy milk was never available in Ghana. Which is probably why I didn’t actually grow much, or at least it’s what I tell myself. You’re supposed to mix it with water to get drinkable milk, but I actually preferred eating the powder dry. By the spoonful, straight outta the can. Too bad I’m vegan now, or I’d have bought a can or two or three. And Milo! Do you say “mee-lo” or “my-lo”?
Anyway, eating here definitely took me back to my childhood and brought back so many memories. If you’re looking for a new cultural experience here in Seoul, check this place out.
Directions: Itaewon Station, Line 6, exit 3. Come out the exit, turn around and pass Taco Bell. Turn left into the first alley after Taco Bell. Walk straight up about 50 meters. African Heritage will be on your left, first floor. The entrance is very inconspicuous, so don’t miss it! website
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