Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Ghanaian Food in Guangzhou

Last weekend a long lost cousin of mine came out to GZ to cut his birthday with me. I took him out Friday night and showed him a bit of the night life here, from my somber perspective, and brought him home some time around 5am. It was his 35th Birthday. He was very impressed. I had to get up around 7am to get to work so I was running through my day on one of those after drunken stupid highs. I was in a good mood and productive until around 1pm when I figured I had had enough. It was time to call it quits and go chop. Now my cousin having been born in Ghana has never really lived there. I figured it might be a cool experience for him to finally taste the food of the country he was born in 35 years ago. I had heard about a Ghanaian restaurant in Guangzhou a while ago, Maria had given me a street address and Ro and I had already done one trip to the area so I had some bearings. I managed to find the building in one shot. I can’t remember what the street was called but this is the building.

The building I live in here in Guangzhou is infamous for its Indian populace. There are more than 200 Indian families living in the building. Not only are the towers filled with offices and homes, there are also small restaurants, catering services, preschools, day care centers, and ethnic supermarkets catering to the Indian tenants. The building I ventured to look for Ghanaian food in is what I would call the African equivalent of Regal Court. Just approaching the building every third person I passed on the street was either of African or Arabic decent. It was refreshing in a way to walk around and not feel so isolated and different from everyone around me. We headed into the C Block.

The building is not the fanciest place I have been to. I would actually go as far as to say it was run down. The walls were all dirty and the lighting very dull. There were only 2 elevators so the wait is quite long and they are small and stuffy. I will say however that the building was not unhygienic. The walls and floors may have been scuffed up but there was no trash lying around or any funky smells. And although there must have been insects and rodents in the vicinity, I saw none.

I went up to the 24th floor and stepped out of the lift. The aroma of home cooked food and spices hit me like manna from heaven. There were no signs to follow or people to inquire directions from so I just followed the smells. I knocked on one door where an African woman pointed me further down the corridor. I walked into an apartment that had been changed into a restaurant. I asked for Ghanaian food and they told me they served only Senegalese dishes and directed me one floor down. There I walked into an Ivorian restaurant. All these places were small and simple, not focused at all on decoration, only on filling stomachs. I wished I could have eaten in all the establishments. It seems every floor had something to offer and each was filled with its own distinctive fragrance.

Finally I found it, the elusive Ghanaian restaurant. It was not the same place I had been to 2 weeks before; it seemed more like a restaurant. The establishment even had a name, GHANA DISH, run by Madame Atta. The last place I went to was run by some old guy and it makes a big difference when Ghanaian food is served by a large Ghanaian woman. It just feels more authentic. She is from Kumasi and has been living in China for 3 years now. It was great fun chatting with her.

They have a simple menu in her restaurant and like her name card is also printed on the Ghana flag. One thing I must say about Ghanaians is that they seem to be a lot more patriotic than their African brothers. None of the other establishments I visited had any décor that defined where they were from but the Ghanaian restaurant had a few flags up on the wall and even played high life music on the stereo. They only offered a few simple dishes though like Banku, Fufu, Light Soup, Groundnut Soup, Kokonte, Gari, and rice. On order Madame Atta can also whip up some Jollof Rice, Tilapia Fish, and Okro Stew. The field managers name as you can see is, Anyass (Alias Yellow Man)… That is usually what Ghanaians would call a fair skinned or even an albino brother.

My cousin was hanging pretty loose till this point. He is not a fancy boy or anything but I think we went a bit more roots then he’s used to. Before long we were kicking back in the apartment sipping chilled beers (unfortunately not Ghanaian), and blowing pidgin with some Ghanaian brodas. One guy even gave me his name card and you will not believe what his company is called… ‘One Man No Chop’!!! I say gad damn! The brotha was a HUSTLER baby! One Man NO Chop, I see say you de try hard in China! We had a damn good laugh over it, especially when he tried to convince me to give him an invitation letter so he could come to Ghana. But I really give these playa’s credit. They have spent a long time out here, they speak Mandarin fluently, and they just wanna make big money so they can go back to Ghana and live large. More power to them. So I ordered us both some Fufu and Light Soup. Fufu is actually a pounded combination of yams and plantains that are made into a ball that resembles dough. It has a sticky texture and does not really taste of anything. It is good starch though and it really fills the stomach.

The Fufu is usually eaten with Groundnut or Light Soup that is a broth cooked with chicken, mutton, or fish. Sometimes even lean cuts of beef. I like the meat with some fat and skin on it that give the soup flavor and texture. It is usually very spicy and flavorful. My cousin had no idea what he was into. The unique thing about Fufu is that you do not chew it. You have to cut a piece using your index and middle fingers, form a small dimple in the piece you have cut (using your thumb), dip the piece into the piping hot soup, and one placed in your mouth you swallow. You DO NOT chew Fufu. Check out the steam coming off of that puppy!

Dammit my mouth is watering just writing this shit. Needless to say, I was an extremely happy camper. It is hard to imagine that I was running on only 3 hours of sleep and just 8 hours before that I had a 4am meal with Wong and Lu. But I was still famished. It must be the whole no smoking thing.

Here is a short video of me taking one bite of Fufu. Chale, E sweet me oh! I chop all the wele inside too.

GHANA DISH is the best Ghanaian Restaurant I have been to in Guangzhou. And I think it is awesome to say that because it means I have been to more than one here! As always I am blown away by how much Guangzhou has to offer and how navigable this city is even for a bloke who hardly speaks a word of Chinese. People here are extremely helpful and unprejudiced to people from all walks of life. I am looking forward to walking through the entire building floor by floor trying every eating establishment I find and meeting more people there. But don’t be expecting me to dish out invitation letters any time soon.

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