Wednesday, August 6, 2008

West African Markets: Accra Foods and Julie's International Market

I don't know West African food, but there are three markets that offer up Ghanaian staples -- along with an eclectic array of other foreign foods -- clustered along eastern Howard County.

Julie's International Market is the newest entrant in the shopping center next to Food Lion right off Rte 108. This is officially Elkridge, but it's right where Columbia, Ellicott City and Elkridge meet near the new Costco and Best Buy.

(Update:  Julie's appears to have closed in May 2009.  I think that Accra and Afia -- discussed below -- are still open.)

All three markets -- including Accra Foods in Laurel and Afia International Market in Jessup -- seem based on the Nina brand of packaged foods. The Ghanaian company sells everything from frozen fish to spices to oils to ukazi leaves. I don't know Ghanaian food so I can't judge or use the markets in the way that I enjoy Sizar's for Middle Eastern food or Desi Bazaar or Apna Bazar for Indian. At Accra, I tried to ask for suggestions. There aren't packaged foods like you see in Indian markets, and the owner either didn't believe I really wanted to cook or didn't have much
experience explaining recipes. He was nice, but I couldn't figure out what to buy.

On the shelves, you'll see staples like canola oil, rice and spices. There are also spiced palm oil, coconut oil, and ground shrimp, and Accra had fufu and corn meal balls called banku. Each market offers a small amount of meat. At Julie's, there was a cooler with smoked turkey wings and fish, along with a freezer that held Nina brand smoked cat fish along with meat stored in Ziploc bags and clearly packaged by hand. Julie's also stocks Jamaican products along with the Mo'pleez brand of Indian snacks (luke aloo lachha, bhel puri, etc.) and the Dominican Country Club brand of raspberry soda.

I'm looking for a cookbook so that I can take advantage of these markets. I'd appreciate any recommendations or advice.

Click here for a comprehensive list of organic and ethnic markets in Howard County. You can't go wrong exploring Sizar's or Lily's Mexican Market.

Julie's International Market (apparently closed)
6520J Old Waterloo Road
Elkridge, MD 21075

NEAR: Julie's was in a small shopping center near the Food Lion on Rte 108 just up from Rte 175. When you pull into the Food Lion, steer left to the shopping center that also has a Chinese restaurant, a pizza place and a thrift shop.

Accra International Foods
10051 North Second Street
Laurel, MD 20723

NEAR: This is on the east side of the north-bound U.S. 1 in Laurel. It is about a half mile north of Main Street in Laurel. It is at the end a shopping center next to a paintball store.

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