Caribbean Thoughts

by Carol Mitchell

Cuisine in Ghana

I am back in Ghana after a long rejuvenating visit at home. This is our last year in Ghana and I hope to fill it with as many experiences as possible and to share them with you, so watch this space!

Shortly after we returned from the summer break, I had the pleasure of attending the official opening of KFC. While it may seem a frivolous event, if all, or even most of the promises and plans come to fruition, it is an event which can positively impact the agricultural and tourism sectors of the Ghanaian economy.

There are two types of restaurants that will always do well in St. Kitts: fried chicken and bread. We love both of these and will support these restaurants regardless of economic hardships. Not so in Ghana. In a 2003 article produced jointly by the World Health Organization and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations1, it is reported that the average person eats 24.2 kg of meat per year. However, in sub-Sarahan Africa (excluding South Africa), that statistic is 9.9 kg. In addition, fish is the preferred source of animal protein in Ghana.

Starchy foods make up a large portion of the Ghanaian diet. The choice of staple varies slightly by region. In the north, millet, yams, and corn are staples, while the south and west enjoy plantains, cassava, and cocoyams. The people of the dry southeastern region eat mostly corn and cassava.

Corn is often used to make a popular dish called Kenkey. It is made from ground corn and involves letting the maize ferment before cooking. After fermentation, the kenkey is partially cooked, wrapped in banana leaves, corn husks, or foil, and steamed. The preparation method varies slightly in different parts of the country. I am told that this is also made in Jamaica.

Kenkey Preparation

Roadside stall selling Kenkey made by the Fanti Tribe

Another staple dish is Banku, made from a dough of fermented corn and cassava which is cooked in hot water into a smooth whitish consistent paste.

Banku Preparation

Typical Banku presentation

West Indians may be familiar with the dish Fufu which originated from Ghana. It is made from pounded cassava, yam or plantain. The pounding process requires a considerable amount of skill and timing as one person turns the food and the other pounds it vigorously with a large heavy stick.

Fufu Preparation

Fufu balls

All of these dishes are typically eaten with the hand. In a traditional Ghanaian home or restaurant, there will be a bowl of water and liquid soap so that diners can wash their hands before and after the meal.

Luckily for me, rice is a staple throughout most of the country. This makes me feel very much at home. You may have heard of Jollof rice, a spicy dish that includes tomato sauce and meat. Another very popular rice dish is Waakye (the ‘ky’ is pronounced ‘ch’ as in ‘church’). It is similar to our rice and peas, made boiling rice and beans together. It may be made with tomatoes, chilli pepper, and other spicy ingredients. It has a very distinct flavor which makes it taste very different from the rice and peas enjoyed in the Caribbean.

Many meals include thick, well-seasoned soup-like stews. These stews come in a variety of flavors, the most popular being okra, fish, bean leaf (or other greens), forowe (a fishy tomato stew), palava sauce (local spinach stew with either fish or chicken), and groundnut (peanut), one of the country’s national dishes. Stews are traditionally accompanied by a staple, such as rice or boiled yams. The idea of eating soup without anything else is foreign to many Ghanaians.

I have the pleasure of knowing Asantewaa Tweedie, a Ghanaian woman of many talents including cooking. Her cookbook, <a target=_blank href=http://betumiblog.blogspot.com/2011/05/new-edition-of-tweedies-ghanaian.html >Ghanaian Cooking with a Twist</a>, is a great resource for anyone wanting more information on cooking Ghanaian style.

1. Diet, Nutrition and the Prevention of Chronic Diseases, WHO Technical Report Series 916
Report of a Joint WHO/FAO Expert Consultation

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