Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Breakfast in Liberia

Liberian pineapple would rival any worldwide!
There are a great many options when it comes to the first meal of the day in Liberia. The Lone Star Republic offers some of the best pineapple in the world, also banana, mango, and oranges; actually the list of great fruit options goes on and on... There are also specialty breakfast dishes like "moe nee kalah mah" (the ready-made Mandingo inspired breakfast in a bag) and farina that are definitely worth trying. Today I want to share my two favorite Liberian breakfast dishes: Gaaree and/or Calla.


A packet of 'Gaaree" straight from market and ready to prep for breakfast

A nice spot to enjoy breakfast!
What is gaaree? Gaaree is yet another Liberian dish made from the cassava plant (see fufu and dumboy). Gaaree is made by grinding the cassava root into a coarse flour and then drying. They are often sold in little plastic bags on the street. 

Here is what I do with that bag of gaaree: add hot water, a few scoops of Nido (my favorite of the powdered milk options; which are used since milk is practically non-existent in Liberia), and sugar to taste; all going into a bowl and then stirred. Note: depending on how the gaaree is dried it may take some getting used to. Often it is dried over a fire and leaves a smoky taste that is not one that you may desire first thing in the morning. I've gotten used to it, but it is a little intense for breakfast. Indirect heat drying will leave you with a delicious flavor that resembles a hearty cream of wheat sort of experience.

Calla frying in boiling oil... the smell is divine!


By far my favorite breakfast is about 3 - 7 warm calla (depending on the size). Calla are made out of some sort dough that is a cross between a doughnut and a funnel cake. It is formed into balls and dropped into a pot of boiling oil. You have two main kinds of calla: red oil calla and argo calla. These names derive from whatever oil they are deep fried in: red palm oil or vegetable oil (argo). I like them covered in granulated sugar while still hot out of the oil. A great breakfast treat! My mouth still waters whenever I think of the market caller singing: "Swee kah lah! Geh yah swee kah lah!" 

...Can't forget about the coffee!...

Sweet Calla is served!  I think I could
finish this bowl full no prob :-)
To wrap up: I enjoy both of these meals with a cup of hot coffee. Due to lack of electricity you will usually be making this with hot water from the charcoal stove and a french press or instant coffee. Coffee snobs may actually enjoy the french press process and might want to try to find Liberia's very own indigenous coffee (coffea liberica). Another option is Starbuck's Via packets which are known to create a nice cup of coffee. I actually found the local market offers a "3 in 1 instant coffee" packet that really isn't all that bad! My people, I tell you.... Nothing beats sipping a cup of hot coffee and filling up on gaaree and/or calla while there is a nice Liberian rain starting outside and beating on the "zinc" overhead.  :-)

Coffee, Nido, and mango while we wait for calla.

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