Saturday, May 26, 2012

Not your Shirley Temple: Nigeria's Chapman drink

In my recent post on the restaurant Suya, I mentioned that I'd enjoyed a "Chapman" drink there (photo on right). My son-in-law jokingly called it "Red Kool-Aid" because of its distinctive red color, but that was the only similarity. The owner told me it included "cranberry juice for the red color" and "cucumber."

Hmmmm, that piqued my curiosity. I've spent several days tracking down information about the drink. The most thorough description with many interesting comments appears to be at the Kitchen Butterfly site, where someone claims that his father, Mr. Alamatu, in the Nigerian hospitality industry, was the inventor. But others claim it is tied to an expatriate named Chapman. As far as I can tell, the earliest references to it online refer to drinking it in Nigeria in the mid-1960s.

It's interesting to see how it evolved. Given my experience in West Africa, it's hard to imagine that it was originally made with a glass full of ice cubes, much less Fanta or Sprite. I would tend to think lemon squash and ginger beer, with maybe some kind of syrup, like grenadine, or black currant, or lime syrup (I saw recipes using all these, along with lime or lemon squash, and even lemonade),  with the Angostura bitters thrown in.

At any rate, it's clearly a popular drink in Nigeria. It appears that an unsuccessful canned red "Fanta Chapman" once existed. The Chapman is a completely user-friendly drink, and variations on the ingredients used to obtain its signature red color range from black currant syrup to pomegranate juice to cranberry. . . I also found people garnishing it with not just cucumber slices and a lemon or lime slice, but also oranges, strawberries, mint leaves, and banana.

Since this is a holiday weekend in the U.S. (Memorial Day), here's an easy-to-make, refreshing red drink to join the  celebration.

Basic Nigerian Chapman Cocktail

For my first batch I used:

a very tall glass or mug (I tried both, even though I also served the Chapman to my next-door-neighbors in a variety of smaller glasses)
a U.S. cup of chilled Sprite (~240 ml)
3/4 U.S. cup of chilled Orange Fanta (~175 ml)
a few shakes of Angostura bitters (less than 1/8 U.S. teaspoon or .62 ml)
1 (or more) U.S. tablespoons (or 15 ml) grenadine syrup (more or less to taste--I don't like very sweet drinks, so I only used a little)
about half a tray of ice (or enough to almost fill a tall glass--in the picture at the top left  I used the kind of classic beer mug in which the drink was classically served)
a lemon a slice or two for a garnish, and a good squeeze in the glass
a lime also a slice or two to garnish, and a good squeeze (probably about a tablespoon) in the glass
a few slices of unpeeled cucumber

To prepare the drink, I made sure my ingredients were all well chilled. Then I washed and sliced the lemon, lime, and cucumber slices. I poured the grenadine (or Ribena) into the glass, then added over half a glass of ice cubes, then the Sprite and Fanta, then a squeeze of lemon and lime each (or use either alone), and topped it all off with a few good shakes of the Angostura bitters. To serve I garnished the drink with the lemon and lime and cucumber slices. Adjust the proportions of any of the ingredients according to your taste preferences.

NOTE: I also experimented with the ingredients below, which were suggested by some other recipes: black current juice (Ribena), pomegranate juice, banana, orange, and even strawberry garnish. I forgot  to photograph mint leaves as a garnish, but some recipes suggest them, too.

I made a few batches and shared with the next-door-neighbors, from child to adult, and got a big "thumbs up" from everyone, including multiple requests for seconds. "It's so refreshing," "yummmm," and  "I want the recipe" were some of the comments.

I came back inside and whipped up a couple more for my husband and myself, adding a shot of vodka to each  for good measure (but forgot to photograph that batch), and these also rated a vote of approval.

Before some of you say "Isn't that just a jazzed-up version of a 'Shirley Temple'?" let me mention that the only similarity to me seems to be the lemon-lime drink and the grenadine syrup. Also, I cannot imagine many adults ordering a "Shirley Temple" in a bar, whereas in Nigeria, with many Muslims abstaining from alcohol, it appears to be a beloved cocktail among both children and adults. Plus, the bitters and the cucumber add subtle but distinctive flavors to the drink, and the ice prevents it from excessive sweetness.

Somehow, making individual servings of Chapman (Chapmans, Chapmen?) reminds me of the joy of creating and savoring caipirinhas in Brazil (minus the cacha├ža, though it would be fun to try adding a shot of Brazil's signature sugar cane spirit).

I encourage you to try making your own Chapman, and add it to your repertoire, along with a Ghanaian "Shandy." Enjoy the beginning of the holidays.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Suya comes to Berkeley

Last week before leaving Berkeley, California, we stopped in at a modest but welcome new addition to the culinary scene, called "Suya." (Located at 2130 Oxford St, between Allston Way and the West Entrance to U.C. Berkeley. They're open every day but Sunday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.) The Nigerian owner explained that when he came to the U.S. he always longed for a place to get the popular street/party/kebab-style food in Nigeria called "suya." (pronounced "sooya"). He and his wife decided to make it happen. We should all be grateful to them.

The restaurant is tiny (read "intimate"), and focuses its attention on grilling beef, tilapia, or chicken spiced to order with either the distinctive, vibrant rub called  "yagi"  (aka "suya powder") or Caribbean jerk seasoning--they even set out samples for passers by to taste, and though I sampled the jerked version, my heart belongs to suya (Ghana's chichinga).  While there are actually 3 or 4 types of suya (tsire, for which I've posted a recipe, kilishibalangu and dambu) most people use "suya" to refer to the most popular type, "tsire suya." The spices are exciting and distinctive (especially the powdered peanuts), the cooking lowfat and healthy, and there's no substitute for that freshly grilled taste of vegetables (corn, plantains, zucchini, peppers, etc.). Our grilled ripe plantains disappeared before I could even photograph them! The eating area is quite compact, the service friendly, and there is the advantage that you can watch the chefs grill your meal.

I'm generally not a big fan of tilapia, and I've never had fish suya before, but I found the spices gave it a delightful flavor. If you're in the Bay Area, do stop by and check Suya out.

In my next posting I'll blog about the refreshing Nigerian nonalcoholic drink I had there--a West African challenge to sangria: the Chapman! Who would have thought of adding cucumbers to a cocktail? Hint: note the bright red color of the drink in one of the photos below.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Ghana's Black Gold

Before Ghana became Ghana, the British colonial state called it the "Gold Coast." However, along with its celebrated gold reserves, Ghana has long been known as one of the world's leading producers of "black gold," high-quality cocoa.

This week while visiting in Berkeley, California, I've already twice seen Ghana's influence on the international trade in chocolate. My daughter pointed out the Divine chocolate line of Fair Trade chocolate in a local grocery store. 

Not only is the wrapping gorgeous and covered with Ghana's striking and meaningful traditional adinkra symbols,  each square is also individually stamped. I especially appreciate how the "V" in the name "Divine," is reminiscent of a variation of the "sankofa" (return and fetch) symbol. The story of the Divine company is heartwarming, and I'm pleased to say that the chocolate is delicious, too. 
A day later, I stopped at (the original) Pete's Coffee shop, and noticed a bar of "fine, artisanal chocolate" at the checkout stand. The chocolate bar was wrapped beautifully and stamped with another adinkra symbol, the "ram's horns," symbolizing strength and humility (also found on the Divine chocolate wrapper shown to the right of the Peet's wrapper).

When I mentioned I wanted to blog about the Divine chocolate initiative, daughter Abena kindly stopped by the local Fair Trade store to show me the wide range of the Divine bars.

Ghana's chocolate is found numerous other places worldwide. I've (written about and) savored (Korean) Lotte chocolate bars from Japan, as well as Jameison's. As a confirmed chocolate lover, I wanted to continue to share about this Ghanaian resource.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

African Cooking on the Move

It's exciting to see the surge of interest and activity regarding African cuisine. In ongoing support of my assertion that African cuisine is gearing up to be the next big thing in the culinary world, I submit:

On April 27, 2012, The Wall Street Journal Online featured an essay "Next Stop for Food Fanatics--Africa" by food futurist Josh Schonwald, who assures us "It will take a while, but African cuisine will arrive. Bring on the fufu.")

2 days later,  Tejal Rao wrote in The Village Voice blog to correct a few stereotypes in Schonwald's article ("The Wall Street Journal Gets Africa Wrong"), and mention  several African food blogs.

From Cameroon: BBC News Africa, 30 April 2012--"Food for thought--When service is on top of the menu."

A number of culinary pioneers have also been quietly working towards promoting African cuisines, such as Kunmi Oluleye, the powerhouse behind Sheba foods--if you haven't gone to Sheba's multifaceted site, do so today. It's in the process of a complete overhaul, and I predict is destined to become a giant in the African culinary movement in North America.

There are so many things happening RE African cuisine these days, it's hard to keep up.

In February, Xoliswa Ndoyiya, Nelson Mandela's long-time personal chef in South Africa launched a cookbook featuring Mandela's favorite recipes. (I'd love to get a copy if anyone can help advise me on how to do that).

Not least of all, let me close out today's posting with a huge "thank you" to colleague Joan Baxter, a Canadian journalist with over 2 decades of experience living in and writing about Africa.

She noticed a Sierra Leonean cookbook in Freetown recently--see the cover above for What's Cooking Today (Sierra Leonean Favourites): Recipes Used Around Sierra Leone, and kindly sent it to add to our Africa Cookbook Collection. Originally published in March 1996 ("Dedicated to my dear husband, Christopher S. Davies on our 50th Wedding Anniversary. . ."), author Muriel Davies was a pioneer in the Sierra Leone Home Economics Association (founded by Dr. Pamela Greene [nee Thompson-Clewry].  Pamela  Thompson-Clewry, at the Home Economics Department at Njala University College/University of Sierra Leone wrote the preface to the 1996 edition. The 107-page (modestly called a "booklet" by the author) black-and-white document was reprinted in May, 2001, and while the paperback suffers from a poor binding, it contains a wealth of information. Part I covers rice dishes; Part II plasas, stews, and vegetable dishes; and, Part III (Knicks Knacks) Snacks. Thank you again, Joan. And we all thank Mrs. Davies for helping to preserve Sierra Leonean classic recipes.