Sunday, July 20, 2008

Attieke to Write Home About

Attieke is a staple starch of Ivorian cuisine (i.e., food of the Ivory Coast). I first had attieke at Florence's, the Ghanaian/Ivorian restaurant in Harlem to which I wrote a paean a couple of years ago. It's a couscous-like grain made from grated, fermented cassava, and is often eaten with fish, either braised or fried. I liked the attieke at Florence's, but it was somewhat dry and plain. The attieke I had for lunch today at Mariam's (where it's spelled acheke), a fairly new West African restaurant in the Clinton Hill section of Brooklyn, was something else altogether. This attieke was moist and flavorful, apparently cooked in some kind of broth. While Florence's attieke was most definitely a side, this attieke could stand on its own merits, even if there weren't a formidable fried fish to accompany it. Also accompanying the fish and attieke were onions in an excellent mustard sauce.

We had ended up at Mariam's by chance. Our original plan was to try Joloff, a Senegalese restaurant across the street. I was with some vegetarian friends from out of town, and we had just checked out the Fort Greene flea market. When we were about a block away from Joloff I had a premonition and said, "I hope the restaurant is open." I've found that with West African and Caribbean restaurants there's no counting on the official hours, especially on the early end. Well, Joloff wasn't open, but I noticed a place across the street called Mariam's. I figured it too might be West African, as I'm familiar with a Malian singing duo, Amadou & Mariam.

This Mariam is from Guinea, but there's a lot of overlap in the cuisines of West Africa, so there were dishes familiar from Senegalese as well as Sierra Leonean menus. I didn't get to sample too much as the vegetarian options were pretty much limited to two preparations of okra, a vegetable that I only like two ways: Indian dry sauteed and cajun fried. But based on my attieke experience, the menu is definitely worth exploring further.

Mariam's
975 Fulton Street (Between Washington & St. James)
Brooklyn, NY
(718) 398-3930

16 Comments:

Blogger Steph said...

First of all, I am intrigued, as always, by this tale of a cuisine I have never even heard of, nevermind not tried.
Secondly, I can so relate to the whole premonition thing. Isn't it strange how these happen? It's at once both frightening and amazing to have a sudden notion that turns out to be reality. I don't think everyone has them; I think one has to be "dialed in", or open enough to let them in. Maybe it just takes a sensitive soul.

I so wish I lived in Brooklyn! I want to try all these exotic (to me) places, and even those which do the relatively familiar in an extraordinary fashion, like Marlow and Sons.
And I know it's in Queens, but I really want to try Sripraphai.

Clearly I was born in the wrong place.

7:11 PM  
Blogger Eating In Translation said...

On my one visit, Joloff had several dishes that were prettily plated, but none that were exciting. Sounds like you made out well at Mariam's; given a little notice, next time I'd join you.

2:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Attieke is read: A as in atom, ttie as in tea and A (alphabetic letter)and ke as in K (alphabetic letter) which gives A-tea-A-K. It is effectively a meal that looks like couscous but which is not in reality. The Attieke is a meal on it's own. It comes from Ivory Coast West Africa and is made of manioc root in a well defined process.
The Attieke you tried at the first restaurant is probably a dry Attieke which have been made for transportation and then consummation.
The Attieke you tried at the Mariam's is probably imported directly from the Ivory Coast. It was surely cooked there as it is (not dried up and recooked) and reheated here.
The original Attieke from the Ivory Coast is way better, much testier than the dried one (industrial made). You can find the real Attieke in African shop in NY or African people (as they sell from hand to hand among themselves)in small transparent plastic bag.
To eat it, you must defrost it first, if it is frosted. You can just cook it as you do for the couscous: boil some water and heat up the Attieke in water vapor. Or you can just put it in a plate add up maybe four large spoons of water, cover it and microwave it.

(from Yann a proud son of Ivory Coast)

8:42 AM  
Blogger Peter Cherches said...

Yann, thanks so much for that comprehensive explanation of attieke.

10:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi,

For those who want to eat original attiéké from Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast). Non dried one, but a fresh attiéké as it's made by rural women, see on www.attiekedor.com

8:37 AM  
Anonymous JO said...

verrrrry interesting... I'd like to give this some exploration. Thanks for the tip

1:16 AM  
Blogger Fran said...

Hello, Peter:

I just discovered your great blog (I was looking for links between attieke and Ghana's akyeke.) I wonder if you've ever stumbled across mine? www.betumi.com/blog.html (BETUMI: The African Culinary Network). I'm glad to hear updates about African restaurants in NYC. Have you tried out Pierre Thiam's Le Grand Dakar (and his new cookbook Yolele) yet?

8:11 AM  
Blogger Peter Cherches said...

Thanks, Fran. I'll take a look at your blog and add Le Grand Dakar to my must-visit list.

9:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

proud to be african................

7:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well Yann the attieke in plastic you are referring to in NY is not fit to be sold to the public for poor hygiene & low food safety reasons. This explains why "..they sell from hand to hand among themselves in small transparent plastic bag" that have no notice or warnings. Beside Traditional cooked attiéké (only in Ivory Coast)stays fresh only for 3-4 days. Frozen attiéké in plastic is tasteless and can be a hazard to health. I stongly recommend: Anyone willing taste/eat attiéké to try this fabulous attiéké Grain d'Ivoire(well packaged,tasty and very easy to cook. Their website: www.attiekeivoire.com
They are currently giving out a FREE PACK!(3 generous portions). Similar to couscous, this dehydrated and commercial attiéké is in the top draw! TASTY, FRESH, WELL-PACKED & REAL VALUE FOR MONEY! Since trying this attiéké 2 months ago, it has become a regular feature in our family weekly diet. Sure you will enjoy!

Justin Lath

4:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you Justin
I tried the dehydrated attieke from attieke ivoire and it's great.I never taste any fresh attieke like this since i am in vancouver.It quick,easy to store and so hygienique.I even received a free pack i order from their website www.attiekeivoire.com.
I really recommend this attieke to everyone.you should try it and i know you will love it.

10:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello

I try Attieke Ivoire and it absolutly superb.I recommends this Attieke to everyone.It tastier,fresh,easy to cook and hygenique.To order online you can go to www.attiekeivoire.com and you can even claim a pack for free from their website.

10:42 AM  
Anonymous annicette said...

If you are a good consummer of Attieke I recommend you Attieke Ivoire.It differents from the non-hygienique frozen attieke we found in most of the african shop.This Attieke is the number one actually in the market.You can find it everywhere in your local shop.Or you can place your order at www.attiekeivoire.com

Thank you

10:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know that most of you prefer the dehydrated attieke for hygienic reasons. But trust me, if you're so hung up on hygiene, you'll never go to the allocodrome in Abidjan where you would have the best bbq chicken or fishes to go with your side of attieke. Truth be told: attieke is made most of the times in conditions which would give goosebumps to many people. But it won't get you sick unless you go to a garbadrome. As far as I'm concerned (a proud Ivorian woman who has always preferred attieke over rice), if I had to choose between the frozen attieke and the dehydrated ones, I'll go for the frozen ones. I am saying maybe it's easier for me to spot the differences between good and bad attieke, between the different varieties: abodjama, ebrie, adjoukrou... There's also attoukou which is a kind of attieke pancake... If you really wanna enjoy Attieke the way it's cooked and consummed in Abidja, well either book a flight for Ivory Coast, either become friends with some Ivorian people. The African restaurants are just like the Chinese ones you find in any country outside China: nothing is genuine.

8:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said.. becoz like you I prefer the ones we sell hand to hand than the one sold in the fancy packaging. Having done marketing I know how imporant it is to catch the buyer's eyes with the packaging and all the stuff written on it to give all the details etc... I do know and understand the need for good standards and all the rest. I am from the Ivory Coast where ATTIEKE has been made for many years by the women in my family, it was always a joy to have it straight from the fire with a fried fish, roasted meat a sauce etc... My husband who is white british and never has never heard of it thought it was couscous at first and becoz he hates so much couscous he refused to have a go at it until we went back home and he decided to try the "real ATTIEKE" sold in the transparant plastic bag at the Allocodrome of Cocody. Since then, we MUST have ATTIEKE at least once a week on the menu at home!

ps: I tried the one from Attieke Ivoire and unfortunately it didn't do it for me... my husband had one spoon full and refused to finish it saying that it was "fake" and too dry :-(

Love from England

Arl'

4:56 PM  
Blogger Shika said...

i make my own Attieke/ Acheke from Gari which is grated Cassava. It is fresh not dry or overly moist as some of the commercial types of Attieke out there.i make Attieke from scratch and customize it into a flavourful blend with herbs and spices. We eat it with either fried Fish, Steamed fish or Smoked Chicken from Sierra Leone called Pehpeh chicken. see more on our Facebook page-MyWifesHands-A new African Cookbook.

6:56 PM  

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