I’m proud to announce that I’m now halfway through my quest to eat food from 160 nations without leaving NYC. (Burp.) A few quick reflections on my journey so far:
- I’ve eaten herring four times, livestock hooves three times, pig tails once (boing!), and kangaroo once. I got drunk and pretended to be a barn swallow only once. Not bad.
- 69 of the 80 nations were eaten in restaurants—and four of the restaurants have already closed. The other 11 outings included trips to a Russian grocery store, three outdoor festivals, two food trucks, a mosque, two churches, a private social club, and one meal cooked in a private home. The home-cooked Malawian meal was my favorite (hint, hint).
- I’ve only gained 7 pounds so far! That’s 1.4 ounces of extra flab per country. Also not bad.
- Even though I’m convinced that Queens is the best ethnic food borough, I’ve eaten more meals in Manhattan (33) than in Queens (23) or Brooklyn (21). I’ve barely been to the Bronx (2) or Staten Island (1)… and that’s kind of pathetic. I’ll work on that.
- In my spare time, I got engaged and ate deep-fried butter on a stick. Those two events are not related.
To celebrate my achievements, I decided to head uptown for some spicy tripe at Accra, a bizarrely colorful Ghanaian restaurant in the Bronx.
I’m not an expert on tripe, but as I understand it, there are two distinct varieties of tripe: there’s the vaguely gelatinous type that melts in your mouth, and then there’s the chewy tripe that reminds me of fillet of shoe sole. Both types of tripe add a tasty richness to any stew, and even the rubbery-shoe tripe is probably severely underappreciated by most Americans.
On my recent visit to Accra, I skipped the fufu (large balls of pounded cassava, yam, or plaintain), and was instead blessed with a stellar plate of jolloff rice (basmati rice, sautéed in coconut oil with spices, onion, tomato paste, and bits of meat), topped with some outstanding tripe stew. Accra’s version includes both the gelatinous and rubbery tripe variations, as well as bits of non-tripey beef meat (I think that’s the first time I’ve ever written the words “non-tripey beef meat”—apparently, that’s different from “tripey beef meat” or “tripey non-beef meat”… whatever that is.)
Anyway, the friendly women behind the counter at Accra generously loaded my plate with several other dishes in addition to the rice and tripe: a delicious fried cassava topping (reminiscent of Brazilian farofa), some spicy dried beef and chicken mixed with boiled eggs in a fiery red sauce, some wonderfully spiced greens, and a dribble of a fiery okra sauce.
The greens were particularly incredible—perplexingly flavorful, and cooked perfectly. And as usual, I absolutely loved the okra, especially since it was hot-flames-are-flickering-out-of-my-butt-and-nostrils kind of spicy. Who could ask for anything more? For just $8, I filled my belly with tripe and coaxed flames out of my nostrils. Awesome.
So yeah… now that I’ve happily singed all of my nostril hairs, I’m halfway through my quest, and I’ve already eaten most of the African food that I can find in NYC. If you know any African immigrants who might be willing to meet a grateful American blogger, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Accra Restaurant (formerly African Grill)
2041 Davidson Avenue, Bronx
Subway: Burnside Ave. (4 train)