Ghanaian Cuisine: 5 Savory Dishes You Can’t Go WithoutAfrica, Destinations, Extras, Ghana — By Heather D on February 17, 2011 at 9:00 am
It’s easy to say that before this trip my experience with Ghanaian cuisine was non-existent. At home I am surrounded by food from various cultures, but I had never been to, or seen, a Ghanaian restaurant. I am not what you would call an adventurous eater. My meals of choice were cheeseburgers with no toppings and pizza with no toppings. I never ate anything that was spicy, hot, or had vegetables in it. Well, after a week in Ghana, that all changed.
Ghanaian cuisine has a diverse traditional history that stems from the various tribes and regions in the country. Each region has a signature dish. Although they all vary in looks and texture, the components of a traditional Ghanaian meal are the same: meat, vegetables, and some form of starch served with a spicy soup or sauce. If you are visiting the country, it is important that you get out of your hotel and eat where the locals do. The atmosphere between the two places is completely different. At one place, you have proper servers dressed in uniform taking your order, at chop bars everything less formal and more real. Most chop bars do not look like restaurants; to me, they look like homes. Usually there are only a few tables so do not look to bring a large group in to dine. One or two people prepare fresh food, so this limits the amount of customers they can accommodate at one time. During my stay, there were five main dishes all the locals recommended: Jollof rice, fufu with light soup, kelewele, groundnut stew, and okro stew with banku.
1) Fufu with Light Soup: You cannot go to Ghana without trying fufu. It would be like going to France and not trying a croissant. Fufu is made of starchy foods, usually cassava or yams that are pounded into a gooey mass. The ball of mashed starch is then served with a soup or stew. The important thing to remember about fufu is how to eat it. Do not reach for a fork and spoon. Instead, roll up your sleeves and use your pointer and middle finger to cut off a piece of fufu. Then use your thumb to create a hole and dip your fingers into the soup using the fufu as a spoon. Fufu is available everywhere, but the soup it is served with may vary by region. My favorite pairing was with the light soup, which is typical in the Western region.
2) Kelewele: One of my favorite foods to snack on in Ghana was kelewele. It’s otherwise known as fried plantains seasoned with spices like ginger and cayenne pepper. You can find kelewele on the menu of any restaurant or chop bar.
3) Jollof Rice: This dish is originated in the Central region, but can now be found at chop bars anywhere in the country. I had my first taste of Ghanaian cuisine in Accra. Since it was my first meal I decided to play it safe and order chicken and rice. Then the woman asked me if I wanted plain rice or jollof rice? This was the moment of choice; I could really play it safe, or dive headfirst into my first Ghanaian dish. Thank goodness I jumped in headfirst because the spicy orange rice was amazing. Jollof rice is a staple in Ghanaian cooking and can be found at chop bars throughout the country. The dish consists of white rice, onion, chopped tomatoes, thyme, and saffron.
4) Groundnut Stew: I will admit, the first time I tried groundnut stew I did not like it. The light brown stew has a grainy texture and a spicy aftertaste. When we returned to Accra I decided to give the stew another try. Fortunately, my taste buds adjusted to spicy food and I not only finished my bowl, but also ordered it everyday for the rest of the week. The main ingredients in groundnut stew are peanut butter, tomatoes, chilies, and ginger.
5) Okro Stew with Banku: Okro stew is a signature dish in the Greater Accra region. However, like the other items on this list, you can find it at most chop bars throughout the country. Banku is very similar to fufu; only this gooey mass is made from corn. Okro stew is made with okro, palm oil, onions, chilies, tomatoes, and ginger. The okro stew has a unique texture similar to egg yolk that you eat with your hands. Just like with fufu, you use the banku as a spoon to eat the soup.