If you love recreationally shopping for groceries like me, then there’s a new grocery store to hit up for all you fans of Fubonn, Uwajimaya, and La Tapatía. Fatou Ouattara, the chef behind beloved and recently relocated West African restaurant Akadi, opened House of Flavor Market at 3901 N Williams Avenue in April, with not only a goal of making groceries from across the African diaspora more available, but to help people learn about some African ingredients and how to cook with them.
“With the restaurant, people come and enjoy the food, but they still don't know anything about the culture,” Ouattara told Portland Monthly in advance of the store’s opening. “So the grocery store will have Africans’ favorite stuff that we grew up eating, like some fruits that you don't find at the American grocery stores, the wine, the beers and the spices, legumes, and vegetables that we use that are not readily available at other grocery stores. So we’ll be teaching them how to use these ingredients to incorporate it in their everyday cooking.”
On a street full of fancy boutiques and high-end restaurants, it’s a delight to wander the shelves at House of Flavor Market for snacks and cooking ingredients. At the front, you’ll find a produce section boasting anything from real yams to dragonfruit. To the left, find pantry staples from dried milk to tinned fish, or scour the freezers for ingredients like frozen escargot. On the right, grab powdered fufu, palm oil, or hot sauces and dried peppers hailing from Belize, Jamaica, Nigeria, and Ghana. Then there are the beverages, from South African wines to fit any budget to soft drinks to Nigerian beer. Coming soon: videos of Ouattara showing customers how to use the products in their own cooking, but for now you'll catch episodes of Ugly Delicious and other food shows on the TV. The store is constantly changing its stock of products, and it’s always fun to see what’s newly arrived—but these are some great staples to start with.
Brewed in Nigeria since 1949, this crisp, refreshing, malty lager is a pleasantly quaffable beer similar to Rainier. It’s got some star power behind it, too, with Nigerian American Afrobeats producer KDDO acting as the brand’s creative director. Ouattara has it on the menu at Akadi (1001 SE Division St), too, where it pairs well with the excellent suya wings; at home, have it with a burger fresh off the grill.
Ola Ola suya spice mix
Suya spice is the key to Ouattara’s stellar suya wings, a new addition to the Akadi menu in which chicken wings are wet-rubbed with suya, deep-fried until juicy and crisp, and sprinkled with more suya after cooking for good measure. What is suya spice, you might ask? It’s a blend of crushed peanuts, powdered ginger, peppers, and salt, and it’s also the defining ingredient of suya, a popular Nigerian street food dish that usually consists of grilled beef. Use it on grilled, roasted, or fried meats for the most traditional take—or try it on roasted veggies, on popcorn, or to spice up stews.
Chile crisp lovers, meet shito. This Ghanaian sauce, made with umami-filled tomatoes, shrimp, and fish, plus ginger and peppers and oil, is a smokier, amped-up version that’s super-versatile—and this one from CeCharlo even comes with a little spoon. Ouattara suggests using it in stews, as a dipping sauce with veggies, fish, or meat, or even as an ingredient in ragù.
Nido dry whole milk
While certainly not the most exciting product on this list, Nido dry whole milk, quite common in parts of West Africa, is surprisingly useful. “In Africa, for some reason, we don’t get the liquid milk you get in the store here, unless [you’re from] the Fulani tribe that owns farms and they have fresh milk from cows,” says Ouattara. Backpacking season is upon us, so try using this shelf-stable milk in the morning for cereal or using it to amp up instant mashed potatoes.
“That is such a favorite drink,” says Ouattara. “We grew up drinking Vimto. They even turn it into Popsicles. It’s almost like the African version of Coke.” The blackcurrant soda originated in England, though it’s now also manufactured in Ghana, the Gambia, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen—and it’s particularly popular during the month of Ramadan. Though it leans a little sweeter than most American sodas, the cherry-like, slightly herbal flavor works as a great pick-me-up on a hot day.
Braai Cabernet Sauvignon
Just one of the many South African wines available for purchase, this one is named after the cooking tradition of braai: grilling meat over an open fire. That means that this cab, slightly smoky and sweet, pairs particularly well with barbecue, making it ideal for summer.
Real yams (not pictured)
Think you know yams? Most so-called yams you find in the United States are actually sweet potatoes—and many Americans have never eaten real yams. A real yam is a giant, rough-surfaced, hairy thing the size of a newborn baby or bigger. House of Flavor Market was the first place I saw a whole yam in the flesh, with two types available: Ghana yams and yellow yams. Though they aren’t always in stock at the store, it’s worth grabbing one when you do see them so you can taste them for yourself (though Akadi also serves fried Ghana yams on its menu). “The Ghana yam, you can deep fry it or you can pound it and make it into fufu. The yellow yam, you can boil it and make it into porridge, or you can also deep fry it,” says Ouattara.
Akadi sauce (not pictured)
Ouattara’s signature sauce is now available in grocery stores around Portland, from New Seasons to Green Zebra, so of course it’s a frequently sold-out staple at House of Flavor. This tomatoey, gingery sauce with a kick of heat is great for dipping plantains, marinating chicken or tofu, or adding to stews and curries. (We even tried adding it to chicken tinga.) “People tell me they do things with my Akadi sauce that I’ve never tried,” says Ouattara. “So be creative.”