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

I would say 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

One of my favourites is an Ivorian restaurant called Grand Ecuyer. It does a lot of beautifully grilled, fresh fish. For me, it’s the best in town. They grill your fish to order so it can take a while once you get there. Usually I’ll call ahead when I’m coming and by the time I arrive it’s almost ready. It’s an outdoor spot with printed tablecloths. I think in French they would call it a marque which is mostly outdoor spot and you can just order your grilled fish. They also serve a really good steamed cassava dish which you can have a beer or shandy with.

Drinking With Friends

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

A Great Spot To Work

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

Two Other Local Dining Experiences

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

Japanese Tasting Menus

One of my favourite places is Santoku which is a high-end Japanese restaurant. A la carte is available but it also offers a couple of tasting menus including a fantastic vegetarian one which has amazing mushrooms. I also love the atmosphere. The décor is nice, the service is great, plus there’s also a great cocktail menu.

A Casual, Neighbourhood Restaurant

Then mid-range, a bit more casual, I would say is a place called Bistro 22 which is a quintessential bistro. It’s got a lovely little garden in the back where you can meet friends and have 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. It’s like a neighbourhood restaurant.

My New African Cuisine Approach

My restaurant Midunu serves what I call New African cuisine and takes 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. Goat tends to be more free-range and are also low maintenance animals. We also use snails in our food which are another traditional source of protein.

Communal dining and shared plates are also very traditional in many parts of the continent, so we want to bring 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 generating the economy instead of going for the imported items.

It’s kind of a restaurant, not-restaurant. We have a quarterly nomadic dinner which is communal dining and we also have our tasting menu which is held every Thursday night. And for that we have our 12-course tasting menu which is looking at some of the tubers and some of the grains that are more traditional. The current menu is based on the winter season which is the drier part of the year where the winds are coming off the Sahara. Different things are in season and we’re highlighting those ingredients and just telling people about their uniqueness, journey and cuisine.

Right now, it’s a mostly Ghanaian tasting menu. For example, 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. This menu will run until the next season when we move onto a new menu celebrating 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.

Guide last updated August 2020

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Selassie Atadika

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