Selassie Atadika

Chef Selassie Atadika is at the vanguard of the “New African cuisine” movement. After eating extensively across Africa, America and Europe, she studied at the Culinary Institute of America and went on to establish Trio Toque, a modern African restaurant in Senegal. Now based in Ghana, she is advancing the African food discussion via Midunu, a dining experience inspired by the food traditions of her homeland and other countries around the continent.
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Welcome To Ghana

Ghana is a wonderful place. If you’ve never been to Africa, it’s a great place to start from. The weather’s great, but it could be hot for some people. It’s warm year-round and humid. There’s a lot of great food and a lot of great music. I kind of feel that an example would be West Africa in terms of flavours, sounds, colours and fashion. It’s all here. The food culture here is quite vibrant and has changed in the last few years. Ghana used to be a place where you ate mostly at home. A decade ago it was really just hotel restaurants, but today there are lots of places to go out and eat. There are the high-end international restaurants serving Japanese, Chinese, French and Italian food. We’ve also got dining in the middle that’s more for the everyday person and a lot of international fast-food chains have recently popped up, too. But to me, there’s room and a need for restaurants that are inspired by African flavours and ingredients.

An Introduction To Ghanaian Street Food

Then there’s more of what I call the street food scene where you get certain dishes from certain people. A lot of these street food vendors have been run by the same families for years and years, so they’re known as the best place to get X, Y or Z. So it really depends on what you’re looking for. But the international street food rule – where you see a long queue, there’s where you go – still holds true. There are a few quintessential dishes. In the morning, you’ll get waakye which is like beans with all the fixings, there are lots of different toppings you can put on top it. There are breakfast foods like hausa koko, a millet-based porridge which you can get in the morning around town that is classically eaten with ground nuts or peanuts and sort of a local doughnut. In the afternoon you get the heavier foods, not so much street food, but what we call chop bars [a traditional eatery] where you just go and “chop” which means eating in slang. This is where you can get something like fufu which is a pounded cassava and plantain sort of spice that goes with different foods. We also have something called kenkey which is a fermented corn dough that can usually be eaten with fresh fish. At night there’s kelewele which is fried, spice plantain with cayenne and ginger. I get my favourite one from a place in a neighbourhood called Julua.

How To Support The Local Economy And Environment

Try to eat what grows here. It’s not always completely evident, but for example, try some of the local tubers instead of potato chips or a potato mash. There’s a lot of amazing and beautiful local fresh, tropical fruit. A lot of local beans. A lot of local greens. Some of the challenges that would be hard for people to know would be which is the local rice and which is the imported rice, but I think having a conversation with the people who are running the establishment is a start. Try to eat something different to what you’re used to and it’s most likely going to be a local dish that uses local ingredients.

Where To Enjoy Traditional Ghanaian Dishes

Most traditional Ghanaian dishes are best eaten at lunch time. There are a few Ghanaian restaurants in the low- to mid-range. Buka serves Ghanaian and Nigerian dishes and has an outdoor space, but there’s also a space that is air-conditioned. It’s a good place to visit at lunch time. Azmera is another spot and has a massive buffet of different Ghanaian dishes. Again, I’d recommend visiting at lunch instead of dinner.

The Best Grilled Fish In Town

Au Grand Ecuyer is an Ivorian restaurant that does beautifully grilled, fresh fish. For me, it’s the best in town. It’s an outdoor spot with printed tablecloths. They grill your fish to order so it can take a while. I usually call ahead and ask them to grill it. By the time I arrive it’s almost ready. They also serve a really good steamed cassava dish which you can have with a beer or shandy.

Drinking With Friends

If industry friends are visiting, I would take them for a drink and snack at The Republic Bar & Grill. It usually has live music so it’s a great place to go in the evening. Both old and up-and-coming artists come through to play. It’s outdoors and full of energy. There’s a local gin made from sugar cane that’s used in the cocktails. I’d also take them for drinks at Front/Back, a member’s club with a lot of affiliated bartenders. They make classic cocktails and cocktails made using native ingredients. It’s both an indoor and outdoor space; and the work artists from around the continent is often exhibited.

A Great Spot To Work

Cafe Kwye is just behind the Holiday Inn and is a great spot to hang and catch up on emails. It has a cafe-bistro feel and uses local ingredients as much as possible. The owner supports a lot of local food entrepreneurs who are coming up with new products. There are wraps, sandwiches and salads on the menu. We do some of their desserts.

Two Other Local Dining Experiences

Dine On The Mat is a pop-up dining experience that I recommend. The chef is from Sierra Leone but is of Fulani descent, so she does a lot of Fulani dishes. The chef at La Chaumiere is North African and has some interesting and lovely French and North African dishes on his menu.

Japanese Tasting Menus

Santoku is one of my favourite places. It is a high-end Japanese restaurant that does a la carte but it also offers a couple of tasting menus, including a fantastic vegetarian one with amazing mushrooms. There’s a great cocktails menu. I love the atmosphere: the décor is nice and the service is great.

A Casual, Neighbourhood Restaurant

Bistro 22 is a quintessential neighbourhood restaurant with a lovely little garden in the back for friends to meet for a drink. The menu has steak frites and things like that, but it isn’t only French food. They serve burgers; grilled fish; a vegetarian curry; and a really nice braised octopus. At lunch time, there are salads and sandwiches, too.

My New African Cuisine Approach

My restaurant Midunu serves what I call New African cuisine and brings to life the lessons I’ve learned living across Africa. It’s plant-forward and uses ancient grains like sorghum and millet; wild and foraged things; and nuts and seeds to supplement protein. I tend to use animal proteins more as a garnish and meat that’s better for the climate: goat, for example, instead of beef. Goats tend to be more free-range and are also low maintenance animals. We also use snails in our food: another traditional source of protein. Communal dining and shared plates are also very traditional in many parts of the continent, so we brought some of those lessons into what we do. It’s going beyond contemporary plating and thinking: “how do we take cuisine, community and culture and intersect that with environment, sustainability and economy?” Try to use more local ingredients and generate the economy instead of going for imported items. We have a quarterly nomadic dinner (communal dining) and a tasting menu every Thursday night. And for that we have our 12-course tasting menu which looks at some of the tubers and some of the grains that are more traditional. The winter season is the drier part of the year where the winds are coming off the Sahara and brings a special menu with it. Different things are in season in different times of the year and we try to highlight those ingredients and tell people about their uniqueness and the journey they’ve travelled. We’ve done a mostly Ghanaian tasting menu where the first course is a water course. Traditionally, when you arrive home, you are given a glass of water that, in the coastal areas, is infused with smoke. That’s how we greet our guests at the beginning of the tasting menu. When we move on to a new menu we celebrate dishes, inspirations and flavours from around the continent.

An Edible Souvenir From Ghana

When visitors are heading out of the country, they should definitely pick up some of our hand-crafted chocolate made using chocolate made in Ghana. It’s great to actually buy the chocolate in Ghana, not just cocoa beans from Ghana. You can order our Midunu chocolates online and we will deliver them to your hotel the next day.

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