Accra Restaurant

Instagram Post 6/30/2018

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As part of a recent jaunt to Harlem, we visited Accra Restaurant, named for Ghana’s capital. Senegalese food is a bit easier to find in this neighborhood, but we had set out for a Ghanaian lunch and this steamtable spot provided just what we were after. Alas, my photos of their savory okra and palm nut soups with fufu got lost in the sauce, but here are two dishes that we enjoyed equally well:

[1] Fried whiting with jollof rice. Our 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 perfectly delicious as was the whiting.

[2] Chicken with 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. Love it!

Accra Restaurant is located at 2065 Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd, Manhattan.


Instagram Post 6/26/2018

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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.
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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.