On this bright sunny, if not exactly warm, afternoon I got the culinary passport out and ventured north to Charlotte’s Sugar Creek Rd to grab some food at Samoha African Cuisine restaurant. They are labeled as west African or even more specifically a Nigerian restaurant (thus the country title) depending on where you see them referenced.
The shopping strip they are in is not exactly parking friendly but I found the lone spot and popped in. I was greeted with a big smile and welcome from the lady behind the counter. They have a few tables for dining in however they prominently display their ability to handle take-out as well and that’s what I decided to do.
They have a lot of the stuff made up like a cafeteria so they can fill an order and get you moving quickly. It’s nice that you can see what you’re getting prior to ordering and they had a number of good looking items. I decided to go with the jollof rice, fried plantains and some stewed goat meat for protein.
When I got to the register the gentleman checking me out was also smiling and pleasant and when I asked him to pick me out a soda he liked from the case he was more than happy to grab me a Jamaican Pineapple soda he said was his favorite.
I saw the lady loading the jollof rice into the container but didn’t appreciate how much it was until I got home and really got a look at it and there was easily two meals worth. If you haven’t had it before it’s basically tomatoes and rice with onions, peppers and spices and both times I’ve had it the onions and peppers were very finely cut up so you hardly knew they were there except for the taste. That it was rice and tomatoes reminded me of my father as he liked that combo a lot and factored into my decision to get it over something else.
It was very tasty and meshed well with the sauce from the stewed goat which was also tomato based. The two big hunks of goat meat were cooked reasonably tender and were virtually boneless, just one little piece that easily pulled away. There was a little skin and gristle but the taste was good and not even remotely spicy, which I kind of expected.
The fried plantains were a lightly sweet contrast to the acidity of the tomatoes in the other two dishes and the pineapple soda went surprisingly well with the meal. The pineapple was not as tart and strong as straight pineapple but present enough it was enjoyable and you knew what flavor you were drinking.
It was sufficiently good I didn’t regret having to drive on I-77 & I-85 to get there (a testament all by itself) and would do so again. Maybe I’ll try one of the fufu dishes next time, the melon soup sounded interesting.
From the Orient I headed back west to Africa and specifically Nigeria for the restaurant this week. I actually started out for a Liberian restaurant that turned out to be closed but thanks to the power of my smartphone, Google & Google maps I made my way to Motherland Cuisine & Market which kept it in the west African region. I have to say I was not disappointed in the reroute.
You have to be looking for this place as the little strip it is in runs perpendicular to the The Plaza road so you won’t just stumble on it. It is an interesting little place. When you walk in the primary seating is at two U shaped blue counters with matching blue fixed swiveling stools that seat about 7-8 each. There are a couple of booths against the outer wall and a couple of high tops against another wall. I didn’t see any sign of a market but that may have been in another part of the building.
There were only two other people there eating besides me and one of them greeted me as I came in. Nice to have the other customers welcome you. I grabbed a seat at one of the counters and young girl came over and apparently it surprised her when I said yes I wanted a menu and would be eating lunch there. I guess they don’t get that many guys wearing a cool green Power Ranger t-shirt with kanji all over it there. The menu isn’t very large but they have fish, chicken, goat and vegetarian options so most people should be able to find something. I opted for a meat pie appetizer because I was planning to try the potato greens which didn’t have meat but they were out and I opted for the goat with jollof rice and moin-moin as my side.
The meat pie was ground beef with some spices in a pastry crust. It was good, nothing exceptional and a bit cool in the center so they could have left it in the oven a bit longer. I had no idea exactly what jollof rice was and my options for sides included fried plantains, mixed vegetable or moin-moin. I asked the girl what moin-moin was and she said it was like a cake but not sweet so I went with it since I know what the other two were like. The goat was braised then stewed in a moderately spicy tomato sauce. It was generally tender and boneless and the braised outer edges added something. I did get a chewy hunk of what had to be goat skin and it had a good flavor but I didn’t want to devote the time it would have taken me to chew it sufficiently to digest. The jollof rice was quite good and spicy as well. It has tomatos and spices in it as well so if you are heat sensitive opt for the steamed rice.
For me the moin-moin was the most intriguing of the dishes. It looked like some steam lump of cake that looks orange in the picture but was closer to pink. The taste was familiar but I couldn’t nail down what it was aside from more pepper. Turns out it is made from pureed black eyed peas, with red bell pepper, habanero pepper and corned beef and then the whole thing is sealed in a pack of some sort and steamed. It was soft and moist and went well with the other two dishes. The portions were generous enough I couldn’t eat it all.
Aside from the teenage girl who waited on me there was an older lady who I assume was doing the cooking and a teenage boy a couple of years older than the girl who came over mid-meal and told me he hoped I was really enjoying the food. As I was paying the lady at the register she asked, with African accented English, how I liked it, thanked me for coming in and made sure I had a to go menu to take with me. While this was going on you could hear the kids in the kitchen going back and forth about something. The lady gave them that motherly whisper-yell thing to quiet them. “Brother and sister?” I asked. Head shake, sigh, nod. So it’s a family joint with authenticity going for it. The streak of wins continues as far as I’m concerned.
Check out the Tell Me More link for more on the Jollof rice, did I mention it calls for ground crayfish?