Sunday, 6 March 2016

The A to Z of Ghanaian Food Favourites

You know I love my blog tradition of publishing something Ghana-centric on Independence Day. This year, it is sugar and spice and all things food. You've been served. 

A is for Apapransa

The joyous fusion of palm nut soup and roasted maize flour are the main components of this Ghanaian dish. Filling and eye-catching, especially when garnished with crabs, you certainly won't forget it in a hurry.

B is for Banku

To make banku is to get a lesson in: proportionate mixing of fermented corn and cassava dough, achieving a smooth consistency and being rewarded with perfect lump-free balls. Serve with soup, stew or a pepper sauce with fish. Tilapia usually wins here. 

C is for Chichinga

This skewered meaty addition - also spelt kyinkyinga - is a must on any party table or street food venue. Lamb, beef, pork, chicken...the possibilities are endless. Don't forget the all important liberal sprinkling of chichinga powder which is made from a mixture of roasted cornmeal, red pepper, pulverized peanuts, salt and other spices. You don't want to miss that distinctive zing.

D is for Domedo 

This spicy pork belly delicacy had to have the entire letter D because it has become an institution unto itself. An unmissable component of Ghana's street food scene, domedo can be fried, grilled or roasted to accompany kenkey, fried yam or banku with pepper. Among some friends of mine, Sundays in Accra are not complete without hitting up a domedo joint in Jamestown.  

E is for Ekwegbemi 

Coarse corn meal eaten as a cereal with milk and sugar to taste. As a child in Kumasi, I used to listen out for Eno Mary, the neighbourhood ekwegbemi seller. Her melodious ditty alerting the neighbourhood of the readiness of "hot hot ekwegbemi" was one of the firm sounds of the morning. Good old days.

F is for Fufu 

This national dish is traditionally made by boiling cassava, yam, plantain and/or cocoyam, and then pounding them into a dough-like consistency using a mortar and pestle. Due to the exertion in making fufu, you really must sit down to the finished meal with the view to enjoying every last morsel. Or, you may also skip all of that and purchase any of the ready-mix powdered versions available on the market. Enjoy with just about any local soup going - See 'N' for some examples.

G is for Gari

The multi-functional gari can be eaten sweet (soaked in water with sugar and milk, popularly known as 'gari soakings') or savoury (with gravy, soup or shito - See 'S')

H is for Hausa Koko

This popular meal is available from the time the cock crows. Made from components including corn, millet, ginger, dried pepper, hwentia (Grains of Selim), fom wisa.(Grains of paradise) and soro wisa (West African pepper), it is guaranteed to hit the spot and set you up for the morning.

I is for Iced Kenkey 

The divine ice kenkey is the art of giving kenkey a new lease of life. Perfection is achieved by mashing the kenkey to a watery mix, with sugar and milk added to taste. Pop it into the fridge to complete the ice cool goodness. 

J is for Jollof Rice 

There's a battle on social media (#JollofDebate; #JollofWars) and in real time to decide which West African country lays claim to the best version of this one-pot dish of deliciousness. Made with a tomato stew base to which rice and spices are added and allowed to slow cook, jollof is the summation of all that perfectly cooked rice should be. Rest assured they don't come tastier than the Ghanaian version. Sit down, Nigeria. 

K is for Kelewele 

Diced, well-spiced fried ripe plantain that is the stuff of enjoyable snacking. What's not to like? (I also have an untested theory that kelewele is always the first to finish at the buffet table of any Ghana/West African party).

L is for Light Soup

This soup, although called 'light' can be thickened with garden eggs and broad beans, and enjoyed with different types of meat and/or fish. 

M is for Momoni

One not exactly for the faint-hearted. This salted fish could blaze its way through the nostrils of a comatose patient - and wake them up. The French have their 'stinky' delicacies in cheese and what not. In Ghana we have ours in momoni and its ilk (eg. koobi, totobi, dawadawa). So allow. Keep calm and spice your local soups and stews with it. 

N is for Nkwan 

We seriously love soup (nkwan - Akan word for soup) in Ghana, and, thankfully, the national palette serves different options. These include Nkrakra (light soup), Abe nkwan (palm nut), Nkate nkwan (groundnut), Werewere nkwan (sesame) and Ebunu ebunu (soup prepared with an assortment of green leaves, particularly kontomire), among others.

O is for Omo Tuo

One for the rice lovers, omo tuo is cooked with more water to achieve a soft consistency, and then rolled into small balls. Usually served with groundnut or palmnut soup.

P is for Prekese

Prekese goes by the sonorously alliterative botanical name, Tetrapleura tetraptera (...go on, say it again. I know I did). Your soup will thank you for its flavoursome contribution. Not one to slack in life, prekese is also notable for its medicinal uses.

Q is for Quiche 

I'll crave your indulgence and go with quiche here since it has become a firm fixture on the Ghana food scene. On that note, anybody out there with suggestions of a local Ghanaian food/ingredient beginning with the letter 'Q'?

R is for Red Red 

Getting its colourful name from being cooked with palm oil, red red is black-eyed bean stew. For the love of beans, have it with fried plantain and gari to make it a memorable threesome! 

S is for Shito

This black pepper sauce is as ubiquitous as the wind. From being a student companion taking pride of place in the 'chop boxes' of boarding schoolers, to finding itself a suitable accompaniment to everything under the sun, you will soon love the fiery presence of shito. Call it a black magic potion for every season of life, if you will. 

T is for Tuo Zaafi ('TZ') 

'TZ' can go far with you. I mean, it can be made from millet, corn, sorghum or cassava mixtures, and enjoyed with soup. Tell me, if that isn't going the whole nine yards with you, what is?

U is for Umbles

Umbles is the offal of deer. Those who have had it tell me it needs to be eaten to be believed. This neatly takes us to the next letter.

V is for Venison

Empirical observation tells me use of venison is not as widespread as other meats. However, it certainly has enthusiasts who swear by its flavour. The contents of the gut are squeezed out, mixed with water and strained before being added to venison soup to give it that "gutty" taste. It's not for me, but it certainly is a delicacy for some. 

W is for Waakye 

Your typical waakye meal consists of cooked rice and beans with stew, plus a combination of spaghetti, moist gari, fried fish/meat, boiled egg, fried plantain or kelewele and vegetable salad. It is the stuff of goodness, the stuff of legend, the stuff of morning or lunchtime joy, the stuff of - okay, it is rather obvious waakye is a firm favourite of mine. At this point, I'd like to thank Mama Tess Special Waakye Joint at Kaneshie for many delicious meals. She and I are even on first name terms. That's special. 

X is for 

Erm. Yea, this is not happening. Please send help. 

Y is for Yam

In the food world, the humble yam is high on the list of 'Most Versatile Vegetable'. What do I mean by that? You may bake, boil, fry, mash, pound or roast yam. Here, the list really is endless.  

Z is for Zomi 

Zomi is palm oil cured in an especial way, giving it a distinct flavour and tasty sediment . May it forever make meals memorable. 

Happy Independence Day, folks!

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