Vegan's Chronicles + [seoul]

All Hail Red Red

I was just going to talk about this in my previous 'Itaewon' blog entry, but then decided that this topic most definitely needs to be the star of it's very own post.

For those of you who don't know me, I grew up in Ghana (and also Ivory Coast). Ghanaian food is freaking amazing. Groundnut stew, fufu, banku, fried plantain, jollof rice... omgoodness, my mouth is watering. I miss it all sooo much.

I heard a long time ago that there's a West African restaurant in Itaewon, since there's actually a little West African community here in Korea. I think most of them are from Nigeria, but there are ppl from all over, Ghana included. I've been meaning to try the restaurant out with my whole family so that we can reminisce about our glory days, but so far, that hasn't happened and I've been getting impatient! So this week, I FINALLY went to check it out and order some takeout for myself.

I walked through the alleyway in Itaewon where all the Africans hang out, and went into the first restaurant I saw: the 'Happy Home Restaurant' located on the 2nd floor of a very old building. This is what you see from the outside, infront of the stairwell:

The restaurant itself was pretty ugry... . aged walls, dingy lighting, and furniture that looks completely out of place. There was also a bunch of men just sitting around the restaurant, not ordering or eating, but watching TV and chatting. :) Even though the restaurant wasn't much to look at, something about walking into that space and hearing the different languages made me feel like I was back in Ghana... .

Since it was my first visit, I decided to go with my all-time favorite West African dish: Red Red (although the menu just calls it "beans"). This dish is made with black-eyed peas and is traditionally accompanied with fried plantains. I was going to order the plantains too, but the waiter said that they didn't yet have plantains ripe enough for frying. I guess you can't blame them for that... It's hard to believe they can get plantains in Korea at all. They must ship them in from somewhere.

The waiter/cook also confirmed for me that they don't put fish in the red red (sometimes in Ghana, fish sneaks its way into the dish). I actually got to chat with him for a bit about about how/why I'm vegan. He said he's from Nigeria, but upon hearing that I lived in Ghana, he pointed out which of the men sitting around the restaurant were Ghanaian. haaa. While we were chatting, my Ghanaian accent was just itching to come out! hehe. I was suddenly very aware of how Americanized my accent has become.

So anyway, I got my takeout and couldn't wait to get home and eat it. It was delicious! It was slightly thicker than the red red I've had in the past, but it absolutely had the same African taste. And it was spicy, just like it should be. I'm definitely returning to try their jollof rice, fufu, and fried plantains.

I got to take a menu home with me. Weird how it doesn't include prices... my red red cost 7000won. Click on the image for a closeup view:

After I left the restaurant, I realized that there's actually another West African restaurant right next to this one, called 'Mama's Restaurant' (something like that). This one is on the first floor and looked a lot cleaner and brighter, but it was also empty... . I guess not as happy or homey as the 'Happy Home Restaurant'? I'm sure their food is good though, so I might try them out sometime too.

Anyway, here's a map to 'Happy Home Restaurant.' Their map is kind of confusing, so I tried to add a few helpful details. Click for larger view:

And in honor of my fave African dish, here are some old photos of authentic red red that I had in Ghana: *drool*

Lastly, here's a plate of fried plantain, just because it looks so dericious: