Still, there are some things that Liberia has in common with other West African countries. Ingredients such as tomatoes, palm oil, sweet potatoes, cassava leaves and a wide variety of seafood (including dried fish) are common in many recipes, often accompanied by massive portions of perfectly cooked rice. Liberians eat mashed cassava (fufu), but they are very serious about their rice!
My time in Monrovia -- which is Liberia's capital -- was pretty short. I was fortunate to be accompanied by Liberians who knew the best places to eat. I made sure to stress that I wanted to eat in locally owned restaurants that served Liberian cuisine. The hotel where I stayed caters to the international, Western crowd. I went the night that I arrived, expecting to find Liberian dishes on the menu, only to discover that 90% of the offerings were continental. I asked if my choices could be Liberianized in some way. That didn't work so well.
So I understood that I had to venture out to find local food. When I asked people for recommendations on where to eat, invariably I was told to go to Evelyn's on Broad Street.
It's a pretty simple place -- definitely not fancy. But bear in mind that Liberia is still recovering from two brutal civil wars. Because a place is simple doesn't mean that its food isn't delicious! People directed me to Evelyn's, which is a favorite with both Liberians and ex-pats.
It's good, solid Liberian food in a down-home, comfy environment!
is chock full of local favorites, which are usually spicy stews made with some kind of meat or fish cooked in a thick mixture of cassava leaves, palm oil, stock, and aromatic spices.
A large plate of perfectly cooked rice accompanied the stew
The stew was flavorful, heavy and filling. I left nearly half of mine. I wanted to leave room for dessert! My eye was captured by Liberian rice cake, which looks like a variation on an American carrot cake. But the texture is thicker, grainier, less sweet. And it's made with either bananas or sweet plantains. The waitress brought me a warm piece that was just crispy on the outside and softer on the inside. I smelled nutmeg and ginger as the spices.
A slightly more upscale place was located in The Rose Garden Plaza, a spanking new building that housed a travel agency.
Restaurant at der Platz is definitely more upscale than Evelyn's, and it had a much more extensive menu.
Unfortunately, the time we had for lunch was even more compressed! So instead of choosing based on what I really wanted to eat, I was guided by what was already ready!!
I got a little carried away with the palm oil, forgetting about its richness. In Liberia, it's poured over the rice, which is then topped with the bean gravy.
Most probably don't. They go to local markets like this one, located along the main road that goes to Sierra Leone:
This open-air market, like others in West Africa, sell spices, meat, fish, and produce. I wish that I had had more time to explore this one, but alas, I was on the way to the airport and had time for only a quick drive by.
I look forward to returning to Liberia. I hope to actually get into a kitchen and cook local food!!!