If I hadn’t been surfing the web, I would never have run across the website of The Bush Chicken, the online magazine of Minnesota’s Liberian community, and then I also would never have heard of Vicky’s Place. The ad in the Bush Chicken looked promising, though – it promised fufu and soup, torborgee, attieke, fried rice and more. With a little more surfing, I discovered Vicky’s website, and a lot more interesting-sounding dishes – lots of standard American fare, ranging from pancakes and French toast to chicken wings and hoagies and daily Liberian specials.
So I jumped in my car and headed up to Brooklyn Park for lunch – I almost drove past Vicky’s – from the outside, it looks at first like an abandoned gas station. But the sign in the window said open, so I walked into a brightly lit little dining room with silk flowers on the table and a big flatscreen TV tuned to As the World Turns. The only person in the restaurant was Vicky Pour herself. I told her that I wanted to try some Liberian food, and she told me to have a seat.
Within a few minutes, she returned with the first course – a dish of parboiled rice, and a bowl of mixed meats (chicken, beef and smoked turkey) in a thick green palaver sauce. Vicky said it was a mixture of okra and spinach, which comes close to describing the texture, but I am not sure about the flavorings – except that it reminded me a bit of a Creole file gumbo (another dish with west African roots). It was delicious.
Wikipedia describes palaver sauce as:
“a type of stew widely eaten in West Africa, including Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.The word palaver comes from the Portuguese language and means a talk, lengthy debate or quarrel. It is unclear how this led to the name of the stew. One theory is that when the stew was first made, with long, ropey greens, people would start quarrels by slapping each other with the greens from their stew.”
Next came a bowl of fufu, a rubbery white ball of cooked starch (made from plantain, according to Vicky) accompanied by a bowl of pepper soup, a clear but very flavorful broth with the same meats as the palaver sauce. Vicky explained that in Liberia, it’s actually quite spicy, but she serves a milder version in Minnesota, with hot pepper sauce on the side. Not knowing any better, I ate the fufu with a spoon, spooning a little soup into the bowl with the fufu, then cutting off a little fufu, and eating them together. I later learned (again thanks to Wikipedia) that it is more customary to pinch off a little ball of the fufu, make an indentation in the dough, and fill it with the soup.
At any rate, definitely worth a visit – on Sundays, Vicky offers an all-you-can-eat Sunday brunch for $8.99.
Vicky’s Place, 7648 Humboldt Ave. N., Brooklyn Park, 763-560-9912
If Brooklyn Park is too far a drive, you can find some similar West African dishes at Three Crowns Nigerian restaurant, 2817 Lyndale Ave S., Minneapolis, (612) 813-4444. Also recommended.