By J.D. Herman
There are a few streets in Houston that really exemplify the amazing diversity of our city. Bellaire Blvd. is one of the first that comes to mind but a close second has to be the street of West Bellfort. In the very heart of the Brays Oaks Management District, West Bellfort is home to restaurants and shops celebrating a truly global influence. For those looking for African staples, Makola Market at 9051 W. Bellfort Blvd. is your one-stop-shop for an amazing selection of goods.
The original Makola Market in Accra, Ghana was built in the 1920s and run by local women traders. It quickly became a central point of social interactions for the city and the region. In fact, the market had such a significant cultural impact that it evolved into a major destination for food-loving tourists in Ghana–including Anthony Bourdain.
Unlike its open-air namesake, our local Makola Market is housed in a modern, brick, standalone building (between South Gessner and the Beltway), but offers all the same familiar foods as the original. African expats living in the Brays Oaks Management District and beyond come for traditional treats like ginger beer and malt sodas, which are heavily stocked with boundless options to choose. Exotic and tempting ingredients also await those with a global palette and who enjoy cooking.
Chefs eager to experiment with a variety of African dishes–especially those that love heat––will find inspiration in the spice aisle. Cameroon pepper (dried scotch bonnets), while very spicy, also imparts a unique smoky zest to rice and meat dishes. One recipe to be sure to try is jollof rice––a one-pot rice dish cooked in a flavorful tomato and pepper purée. The rice is a rich deep red and can either be served as an accompaniment to other dishes or on its own alongside some plantains. Popular across all of West Africa, there are as many variations of the recipe as there are nations, but Cameroon pepper will give yours an authentic flavor.
Makola also has an extensive selection of specialty flours. The one that I was most excited to see was Cassava flour! Cassava is gluten-free and offers the same consistency as a more traditional wheat flour. Many regional breads and cakes from Africa use cassava and you can find some great recipes online.
Goat meats and tripe for traditional soups are all available to perfectly match that Jollof style rice. The produce section is limited with a focus on root vegetables, including real yams (not the small sweet potatoes Americans are accustomed to seeing in more mainstream grocers). These will go perfect with your fufu, which will go perfect with your goat stew, which… dare I say, will go perfect with your cold glass of Malta! All of which you can get at Makola. My mouth is absolutely watering right now!
Snacks like plantain chips, imported and locally produced groundnuts (peanuts) are also readily available, along with sweet treats and tea biscuits.
Brays Oaks Management District is lucky to have such a great culinary resource. Makola is a unique store, with unique food options, and truly celebrates the cultures of West Africa right here in Houston. Visit them next time you are in the area!
9051 W Bellfort Blvd, Houston, TX 77031