If you don’t get the title that’s ok, it just means you’re not a Marvel nerd.
The mission Saturday was to find an African restaurant for the blog and hit the road. Turns out the closest one I could find on Google or Yelp was the Wakanda Lounge in Greenville, SC. It was a 50 mile one way drive but the next closest was in Atlanta at 90ish miles away so to Greenville I went.
It was a gloomy grey drizzly day so the drive wasn’t spectacular. I took the interstate to get it over faster rather than the more scenic route that would have acquainted me better with the upstate of SC. Next time I’ll go rural.
Wakanda Lounge is in a little strip shopping area with a couple of other restaurants and it anchors one end so there’s plenty of parking. I got there right after they opened so there was no crowd. It is a fairly good sized place with a bar and 20 or more tables to seat diners / patrons. There is also a stage or a very small dance floor in the center of the main floor. The server was just firing up the smooth jazz background music when I walked in. He waved at the tables telling me to pick my spot while he went off to get a menu.
As we chatted it was obvious he wasn’t from around here, which made me feel like my chances for some authentic food were good. I’ll finish with the ambiance before getting to my food choices. The walls have murals of African villages painted in a sort of stylized manner. The chairs are all covered with black cloth chair covers and the place was very clean. The patrons that came in while I was there were all picking up or placing take out orders except for the guy and his wife who came in to decorate several tables for a birthday part later. They too weren’t SC natives as they were speaking an African French with one of the ladies who worked in the kitchen that they obviously knew well. More good signs for authenticity.
I played it sort of safe and got the jollof rice with goat. Jollof rice I’d had before and knew I liked at least one version of it. You can get it with no meat or tilapia as well as goat and even the goat could be fried or goat stew. I went with fried. As you can see there were some fried plantains on the side and a nice batch of multicolored bell peppers with the rice and goat. The goat was well fried, to the point that the fat was a little crispy and it was lightly seasoned. In fact the whole dish didn’t have strong flavors that punched you but just a really nice melding of flavors that was quite delicious. Often goat can be gamey but this was just rich with goaty goodness. The portion was generous so I left very sated and with dinner for the evening in hand.
No it wasn’t lunch leftovers. I decided to get some peanut soup and fufu to bring home. I got the small because I didn’t expect to be very hungry after the big lunch and it was a smart move. The peanut soup was tasty but I honestly think they should have spiced it up with some heat to make it better. I will also say the soup to chicken ratio was very favorable. The chicken tasted grilled and the peanut soup was properly peanutty. It made for a great dipping sauce for the fufu.
What the heck is fufu, you say? Well it’s a starchy dish made from one or more of several things. Traditionally from cassava it is now acceptable to make it from other starchy foods. The consistency is somewhere between paste and playdough. The flavor is neutral so it goes with anything. It is really just a carb delivery system that’s fun to play with if you don’t mind getting your hands on your food.
It was a trip worth taking and I’m glad I made the drive even if there were no super heroes or vibranium in this Wakanda.
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?