P.E.I. restaurant owner Ian Mensah is on a mission to introduce jollof rice from his native Ghana to his new home province.
Mensah opened the restaurant The Jollof House in Charlottetown in January 2021 with his partner, Amanda.
He said they've had some ups and downs their first year, but he loves seeing people enjoy his food.
"They are really coming for it, I can tell the people are loving it now," said Mensah.
The Jollof House is one of the only restaurants on P.E.I. serving African food.
Mensah describes their signature dish, jollof rice, as plain rice cooked in a tomato sauce.
It includes onion, ginger, nutmeg and other herbs and spices. At their restaurant, they serve the rice with chicken and salad.
Jollof rice is ubiquitous across Ghana, Senegal and Nigeria, and Mensah said each country has its own version.
"Usually most people would think the Senegalese is the best … I personally would choose Ghanaian over Nigerian every day," he said.
Mom is always right
Mensah first came to the province to study at UPEI, after living in Ukraine for a year and a half.
That's where he first learned to cook jollof rice.
"I had learned how to make the sauce through YouTube and it wasn't still coming out right, so I called home for a few tips," he said.
His mother gave him her advice, which perfected his dish.
Now Mensah is sharing his recipe with CBC P.E.I. readers to try at home.
Mensah said back home in Ghana, people eat jollof all the time, including at celebrations like Christmas, as well as at weddings and funerals.
"People like to go to funerals and weddings when they are not invited, just to go try [the jollof]," he said.
The menu at The Jollof House includes other Ghanaian specialties.
"We have the kelewele, which is the spicy plantain," said Mensah.
Another popular item is the peanut butter soup.
"Which I was really iffy about in the first place, but it took off," he said.
Mensah won't reveal the ingredients of the soup, except for the obvious one.
"I can only tell you it has peanut butter in it, because it's so simple to make I don't want to give it out. Then they won't come here and buy it," he said with a laugh.
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