Calabash African Cuisine & Bar in Alexandria

In this unadorned room in a strip mall crammed with restaurants, there was pomp. Nkulenu’s Palm Drink, a sweet, almost grassy, saisonlike liquid, is presented with two calabash bowls (hollowed-out gourds). One of the owners, Kafui Attakpah, shakes the bottle and pours.

Jollof rice, a West African staple. / Photo by Rey Lopez

Before the entrees arrive, traditionally eaten by hand, Attakpah brings out a large bowl, a pitcher of water and hand soap to wash before supping. Soon the food arrives, a big, sharable feast of okra soup whose signature mark comes from the slightly sticky texture.

The soup is a little spicy and absorbs the flavor from bone-in chunks of smoked turkey and goat. Served alongside is a plastic-wrapped mound of corn and cassava (banku) with a wicked funk, proving its fermented status.

Get to know fufu at the Ghanaian restaurant. / Photo by Rey Lopez

A peanut soup, thicker than broth, thinner than gravy, is resplendent and rich and welcomes the dipping of plantain dumplings (called fufu and more like a batter). Of course order the famed jollof rice because that deep tomato sauce is everything.

More questions? Ask Ghana native Attakpah—who owns Calabash with his brother, Obed Attakpah, and sister, Faustina Arthur (they run the kitchen)—he’s happy to explain. Or visit the place at 514 South Van Dorn Street in Alexandria, Virginia. Their phone number is 703-823-1333.

Source: Stefanie Gans

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