Cooking in the Time of COVID – Groundnut Stew

Instagram Post 5/27/2020

👨‍🍳 Cooking in the Time of COVID 👨‍🍳

(Click on any image to view it in high resolution.)

My fondness for West African food remains unabated even though I’m relegated to my own humble kitchen, so accessing a couple of chicken thighs I had frozen, I summoned whatever I could press into service from the pantry and conjured up some inauthentic groundnut soup.

Also known as peanut stew, maafe, sauce d’arachide, and other handles depending upon its country of origin, this version started with a base of onions, canned tomatoes, and chilies, garlic and fresh ginger, then some chicken stock and spices including sumbala (ground néré seeds), with the addition of creamy natural peanut butter and ground peanuts, sweet potatoes and leafy greens. Dried stockfish often finds its way into this dish but since I didn’t have any on hand, I used some dried crayfish powder purchased from a local African market some time ago which worked out pretty well.

The dish is sometimes served with rice as in Senegal, or with couscous further to the north, or with fufu as in Ghana or in my kitchen; the one you see here is pounded cocoyam (aka malanga). Tasty, but now I’m craving the real deal!
Stay safe, be well, and eat whatever it takes. ❤️

The Point

Instagram Post 9/29/2019

(Click on any image to view it in high resolution.)

I have been remiss of late in posting about West African cuisine, so here’s one that’s been waiting patiently for a few months. My dining buddy turned me on to this humble venue, The Point, in the Bronx; we only had time for a quick bite, food crawls being what they are, but the bite was a good one.

Ampesi, a Ghanaian specialty, typically consists of some form of boiled starchy vegetable like yam, plantain, cassava, or cocoyam alongside a rich stew/sauce. My best guess as to the starch we received was boiled yam although the photo on the wall showed others (should we have inquired?); the sauce, I suspect, was based on kontomire, cocoyam leaves, the traditional partner, but IIRC, she said spinach. We requested goat and mackerel as sauce enrichments – tasty stuff.

The Point is located at 2037 Webster Ave in the Bronx.

Asmau Restaurant

Instagram Post 3/2/2019

(Click on any image to view it in high resolution.)

Another stop along our Bronx West African food crawl captained by Dave Cook from some months ago was Asmau Restaurant at 1460A Boston Rd in Foxhurst. They serve up some fine Ghanaian food and we were keen to sample whatever they had to offer that day. In no particular order, that afternoon’s indulgences included:

[1] Egusi soup, always tasty, thickened with crushed melon seeds and served here with chicken.

[2] Peanut butter sauce (or peanut soup) with beef.

[3] Tomato sauce with chicken and beef.

[4] All of the above are incomplete without some kind of fufu; that’s what turns these sauces, soups and stews into a meal. As with all West African doughy starches, you pinch off a bit, dip it into the delectable soup or sauce, and enjoy – really hands-on cuisine! From the bottom moving clockwise, here are omo tuo, banku and corn fufu. Omo tuo is made from rice cooked with more than the usual amount of water; that technique produces softer grains which are then pounded and shaped into a ball. It works particularly well with peanut stew or soup. Banku is a fermented variety made from cassava sometimes blended with corn; we paired it with the egusi soup. The corn fufu worked well coupled with the tomato sauce with chicken and beef.

[5] Black eyed peas and plantains, no explanation needed, but so good!

[6] Chicken soup with vegetables.

I admit to being a major fan of West African food; it differs from nation to nation so if you haven’t tried any yet, there’s plenty to keep you busy in every borough of New York City. Keep following my posts to see more!

Accra Restaurant

When I write about restaurants on Instagram, they’re usually brief takes accompanied by a photo or two. (You can see my feed right here on by selecting the “Instagram” category from my home page – no signup required.) But folks sometimes ask for more extensive reviews and photos, so in response, here’s a comprehensive report on one of my favorites.

Ever had Ghanaian cuisine? Want to try some of the best you’ll ever have? Then look no further than Accra Restaurant, 2065 Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd, where a group of us converged on a recent jaunt to Harlem. Accra is named for Ghana’s capital and although Senegalese food is a bit easier to find in this neighborhood, we had set out for a Ghanaian feast and this steamtable spot provided just what we were after. Thanks to their excellent food and warm hospitality, it was an extraordinary experience. The story of our first visit is the stuff of which fantasies are made and perhaps I’ll post the details of it soon, but in the meantime, have a look at some of the extraordinary dishes we tried.

(Click on any image to view it in high resolution.)


Skewered spicy grilled beef, served in slices, best known as a delicious street food.

Fried Turkey Tail

This is Halal cuisine, so don’t expect any pork on your fork, but you’ll forget about ribs when you try these. Known to some as the pope’s nose, I call it the part that goes over the fence last. Smoky, juicy, delicious and often overlooked by those who don’t know better! 😉

Plantain Fufu and Palmnut Soup

Pinch off a hunk of the starch with your fingers, dip it in the delectable soup and enjoy. One of my favorite starch/soup combinations, but they’re all great here.

Emo-Tuwoo and Peanut Soup with Goat

I’ve seen many spellings for this starch including emotuo and omotuo; orthography aside, it’s a compressed rice ball that goes perfectly with peanut soup. Sounds good, right? Tasted even better!

Dibi and Acheke

Served with remarkable mustard onions. Dibi is roasted meat, in this case lamb, sliced into chunks, and often part of the street food scene; the mustard component is a significant ingredient in the recipe. Acheke (you might see it as attiéké) is grated cassava with a texture similar to couscous.

Guinea Fowl (Akonfem)

The meat is a little leaner than chicken and the flavor is more pronounced. It was topped with peanut powder, traditionally a blend of peanuts and chili powder along with spices like ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon.

Eba with Egushi

So many fufus, so little time, and I admit to liking them all. In contrast to smooth, pounded cassava fufu, firmer eba has tiny flecks of gari (dried grated cassava) in it and is a little tart or sour tasting. Perfect with egushi (you might see egusi), a delicious soup made from ground melon/pumpkin/squash/gourd seeds.

Banku with Baked Tilapia

Banku is fermented corn or corn + cassava dough, a little sticky, and is a typical partner for baked tilapia and other fish dishes.

Jollof Rice with Chicken

Accra’s jollof rice, the widely celebrated and beloved tomato-based West African triumph and a source of both pride and dispute among African nations as to whose version is best, was delicious as was the chicken.

Pounded Yam Fufu and Okra

This time, the fufu is yam rather than cassava; different but equally tasty. The okra soup is delicious although mucilaginous – an acquired taste, or perhaps an acquired texture. Generally my advice to those who are new to okra soup is to try to think past the consistency and just focus on the wonderful flavor!

Wakey with Fried Whiting and Gari

Wakey (you might see waakye and other spellings but the pronunciation is wah-chay – rhymes with watch-way) is Ghana’s culinary claim to fame; similar to West Indian rice and peas, it’s made with rice and black eyed peas or cowpeas. The characteristic reddish-purplish-brown color can come from dried red sorghum leaves, millet leaves, or even baking soda. Gari is dried, ground cassava, a little like Brazilian manioc, but unique. And tasty fried whiting – what’s not to like?!

Yam Porridge

The last time we went, Ayesha, the owner, told me that this dish was new on the menu and recommended that we try it. I am so glad we did!

Yam Porridge (aka asaro) is not what some customarily think of as porridge, and those are not the kind of yams some think of as Thanksgiving fare (those are actually sweet potatoes); these yams are seasoned and cooked down so there is a little mashed yam “soup” and some larger tender chunks. Topped with a sauce made from smoked turkey, onion, and tomato in red palm oil, it was another winner. If this isn’t comfort food, I don’t know what is!
And two photos from a subsequent lunchtime visit:

Fried Whiting with Jollof Rice

Chicken with Waakye

PS: Get some of their amazing homemade ginger beer when you go! Non-carbonated, non-alcoholic, unique and delicious.
Accra Restaurant is located at 2065 Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd, Manhattan.

Allerton Avenue International Food Festival

Instagram Post 8/25/2018

(Click on any image to view it in high resolution.)

Scenes from the Allerton Avenue International Food Festival in the Bronx.

It was a treat to see Mama G African Kitchen at the festival. I’ve written about one of their brick and mortar restaurants (3650A White Plains Road in the Bronx) here and here so I don’t need to repeat how much I like their food; I’ll just show you what we got:

Waakye – you may see variant spellings but the pronunciation is wah-chay (rhymes with watch-way) and it’s Ghana’s culinary claim to fame. Similar to West Indian rice and peas, it’s made with rice and black eyed peas or cowpeas; the characteristic reddish-purplish-brown color can come from dried red sorghum leaves, millet leaves, or even baking soda. Yellow gari (ground cassava) on the side.

Jollof rice – There’s a keen rivalry among West African countries over whose version is the best but tomato paste figures heavily into all of them.

Fried turkey (the part that goes over the fence last – yum!), plantain, and fried croaker submerged under spicy sauce.


Mama G African Kitchen

Bronx food needs more love, so here’s a nod in that direction! Recently, a group of us who were craving Ghanaian food went to Mama G African Kitchen at 3650A White Plains Road for lunch and I’m so happy we did; the lighting didn’t do the chef’s skilled cooking justice, but fortunately my eyes were bigger than my camera so I enjoyed our meal immensely.

(Click on any image to view it in high resolution.)

Waakye – you may see variant spellings but the pronunciation is wah-chay (rhymes with watch-way) and it’s Ghana’s culinary claim to fame. Similar to West Indian rice and peas, it’s made with rice and black eyed peas or cowpeas; the characteristic reddish-purplish-brown color can come from dried red sorghum leaves, millet leaves, or even baking soda. It was paired with croaker plus spaghetti and gari (ground cassava). Shito, the sauce made from hot peppers, tomato, garlic, and fish, is on the side.

Pinch off a bit of starchy eba (which is made from gari) with your fingers and gather up some stew – here either the accompanying spinach or egusi (ground melon seeds) – the best way to enjoy West African cuisine!

Part of our first course: Grilled Red Snapper and Spicy Kebab.

Peanut Butter Soup (you might see it as Groundnut Soup/Stew). This bowl was home to both meat and fish but I didn’t catch the types. The starch that accompanied it was emotuo, a pressed ground rice ball (some would call it a dumpling) that was perfect with the soup; I’ve seen emotuo only in connection with Ghanaian cuisine.

Okra Stew with Banku. Banku is another West African staple starch. It’s most closely associated with Ghana and is distinguished by the fact that it’s one of the fermented varieties, in this case a blend of cassava and corn. It works like all West African doughy starches: pinch off a bit, dip it into the stew or soup and enjoy – really hands-on cuisine! Okra stew can vary from somewhat mucilaginous to extremely mucilaginous, but either way it’s relentless in that regard. It may be an acquired taste, or more accurately, an acquired texture, but give it a chance before you pass judgment; you might be surprised!
Note that there’s another location of Mama G African Kitchen at 1322A Gun Hill Road, also in the Bronx.


Instagram Post 6/26/2018

(Click on any image to view it in high resolution.)

I may have a found new favorite West African sweet snack: Dakwa. A popular treat in Ghana 🇬🇭 and Togo 🇹🇬, it goes by spellings and names that run the alphabetical gamut from Adaakwa to Zowè. Fortunately, I had only to travel to New Harlem Halal Meat on 2142 Frederick Douglass Blvd at 116th St in Manhattan to spot these treasures tucked away in a large plastic jar perched on the cashier’s counter (see second photo).

Made from ground roasted corn flour and peanuts, spiked with cloves, ginger, chili powder, sugar and a little salt, tightly compressed into 2½ inch balls with a measure of peanut oil to stick it together, its texture is similar to Middle Eastern halvah, perhaps a little stiffer. The balls come tightly bound in plastic wrap; the first photo shows one broken apart for closer examination, but mainly for easier eating. 😉

Sweet, spicy, salty, zowie!


Instagram Post 3/21/2018

Akwaaba is a tiny, unassuming Ghanaian restaurant at 604 Parkside Ave in the Prospect Lefferts Gardens neighborhood of Brooklyn. Akwaaba means “welcome” which is precisely how we were made to feel: don’t expect a menu or even a specials board, just friendly folks who are eager to share their cuisine and tell you what they’re offering that day. (I suggest that if you don’t have prodigious instant memory recall skills, jot down some notes as the bill of fare is recited.) Ghanaian cuisine is largely, although not exclusively, based on a starch plus soup/stew paradigm or on rice dishes; the four of us shared four dishes that are typical of the region.
(Click on any image to view it in high resolution.)

Jollof Rice, served here with some crispy fried porgy and plantains (kelewele), was certainly tasty. There’s a keen rivalry among West African countries over whose version is the best but tomato paste figures heavily into all of them. We were more than happy with ours.
Wakye, most closely associated with Ghanaian cuisine, is a coconut milk enhanced rice and beans dish evocative of West Indian rice and peas. The dark bit peeking out at the top of the plate is shito, the hot pepper Ghanaian condiment redolent of fish paste and authentically potent. You can purchase it jarred at many West African markets and in my experience, it keeps in the refrigerator almost indefinitely.

The delicious Peanut Stew and the Okra Stew (stews thickened with mucilaginous okra are an acquired taste, or perhaps more accurately, an acquired texture) featured goat and beef and are meant to be eaten with a starch….
Our two starches were fufu, cassava pounded into a sticky, dough-like consistency (left), and banku, a fermented corn-based staple that smells vaguely like bread dough waiting to fulfil its mission in life. Best dining practices for both involve pinching off a bit with your fingers, dipping it into a stew, and popping it into your smiling mouth. Messy, yes, but once accustomed to it, you’ll happily see why fork and knife just don’t cut it for these dishes.