Bronx Eats: Peanut-Powered Kebabs and Black Pepper-Spiced Milk at Accra African Grill
Meals at Ghanaian restaurants tend to consist of soups and stews with starchy fufu or banku, the occasional rice, and a side of shitor din, a versatile sambal. But with temperatures rising, you may find yourself in the mood for something lighter than thick sauces and starchy cassava. High-octane homemade ginger juices may help kick through the thick summer air, but for those with growling stomachs, the suya ($7.00) at Accra African Grill will satisfy without knocking you down for the count.
A change of pace from your everyday meat on a stick, suya are distinguished by their roasted spice rub, the ingredients of which vary by region. At Papaye, the spices are fiery and grainy; at Accra, the aromatic blend imported from Africa includes ground peanuts and carries a lingering, but not overpowering heat. The lightly charred kebabs are served off the stick; they're made with beef instead of the more traditional goat, but the meat remains—and this is how the kitchen wants it—somewhat chewy and gamey-smelling. The smaller, crustier strips and fattier bits are the most flavorful; these should be saved for last.
In addition to brand name drinks and homemade ginger juice, there's also the less common fura ($3.50) Usually associated with Nigerian cuisine, fura is a milk- or yogurt-based beverage made with millet, corn flour, black pepper and cloves. It tastes suspiciously like eggnog, which makes sense given the rich spices and creamy texture. The black pepper is applied carefully, operating like a background tune while the cloves do most of the talking. Though it seems too rich, the drink is tough to beat in this heat: it's one of those unpredictable, surprisingly refreshing combinations that just works well.
Equal parts buffet, bodega, and community meeting place, Accra is perhaps a sign of changing times. Proper lighting, tiling, and colorful decorations put it several steps above the average West African haunt of creaky tables and dim lighting. It's a pleasant dinner destination for those seeking a gateway into the world of Ghanaian food. Beyond the kebabs, an expansive steam table will take care of you: scan the menu, but don't rely on it. (Some items, such as moi-moi or fried black eye pea pancakes are less regularly available.) Hop in line and wait your turn. When you're called on, you'll hear something like, "what do you want? We've got white fish...red fish, too."
Accra African Grill
2041 Davidson Avenue, The Bronx, NY 10453 (map)
About the author: Chris Crowley is a former Serious Eats intern and the author of the Bronx Eats column. You can follow him on twitter here, or pay a visit to his new food blog, Sound Bites, over on Wordpress.