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A hop, skip, and a jump from JFK Airport, Maima's might be the city's only Liberian restaurant, representing a nation founded by freed slaves from the States in 1847. The cooking is an amalgam of recipes from many coastal West African nations, based on starches including polished white rice, plaintain and white-yam fufus, the Ivory Coast cassava stodge called athieke, and "dry rice," a uniquely Liberian concoction that features okra and bitter ball--a smaller cousin of eggplant. Pair any starch with any of several thick or thin soups (the menu offers suggestions), of which the best are made from cassava leaves, okra, or palm butter with a diverse selection of meat and fish. The outlandishly spicy national dish is pepper shrimp.