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Ghanaian food is made up of aromatic spices and filling staples. The dishes make use of the produce typically grown in the country, such as corn, beans, millet, plantains and cassava, which are combined with age old techniques to create mouth-watering dishes.
Like many other cuisines, Ghanaian food has been influenced by settlers. For example,you’ll often find people eating rye bread, which was introduced by Scandinavian and Portugese gold miners in the 15th century.
But despite colonisation, traditional Ghanaian food has remained unchanged for centuries. Here are some of the most popular Ghanaian dishes.
If you’ve ever read about African food, chances are you’ve heard of jollof rice. This is a dish which is eaten in many West African countries, including Ghana, Senegal and Nigeria, with each country having its own version. It’s a one pot dish which consists of rice, meat (usually goat or beef) and either tomatoes in fresh or paste form. The dish also includes warm and aromatic spices like nutmeg, curry and thyme. Cooked at a low heat, the rice is allowed to absorb the spices and juices to create a real crowd-pleasing dish. It’s often served at parties and get-togethers, and can also be found in most restaurants.
Fufu is a traditional side dish and staple food that is commonly eaten in many countries in West and Central Africa. It’s typically served with stews and sauce based dishes. It’s made by mixing and pounding cassava and green plantain flour together with water. When made traditionally, it’s quite a difficult process and usually requires two people – one pounding it, and the other moving the mixture around. Once smooth, the mixture is shaped into small balls. When eaten, an indentation is made in the ball and this is used to scoop up the stew or soup.
If you find yourself wandering the streets of Accra, you’ll most likely see fished being grilled. Tilapia is a freshwater fish which Ghanaians season with spices like garlic, ginger and cloves, before grilling. It’s often served with banku, a mix of fermented corn dough and cassava dough. This is a staple in Ghanaian cuisine and is often served with soups and stews. Despite sounding a little too carby, banku actually has a high amount of fiber, minerals, magnesium and complex carbohydrates.
Chichinga is a popular Ghanaian street food consisting of skewered and grilled meat – the Ghanaian version of a shish kebab. Before grilling, it’s rubbed with a spice mix known as suya, which is made with peanuts, hot chili peppers and spices like ground ginger, paprika, garlic powder and onion powder. Chichinga is often served with jollof rice, fried plantains or tropical Ghanaian salads.
Kontomire soup or ebunu ebunu (green green) is a popular dish often served in Ghanaian households. It’s made from cocoyam (taro) leaves, smoked fish, mushrooms and snails. The cocoyam leaves give the soup its characteristic green colour. It’s served with a variety of dishes, including rice, boiled plantains and fufu.
Pronounced ‘wa chi’, waakye is a popular Ghanaian dish. It consists of rice and beans (usually black-eyed peas or cow beans) cooked together with the leaf of the indigenous Ghanaian millet stalk, known locally as the waakye leaf. It’s a very versatile dish and can be seasoned and spiced according to your own taste. Waakye is typically served with sides like fried plantains, garri (grated cassava), eggs, meat or avocados.
Palm nut soup is a hearty dish which consists of palm nut pulp, water, fish or meat, tomatoes, onions and spices and seasonings like pepper, salt, garlic and chili peppers. The ingredients are cooked together until they form a thick stew. The soup is often served as a starter but can also be served as an accompaniment to fufu or rice dishes.
Kelewele is a savoury side dish commonly found from street vendors throughout Ghana. Soft plantains are peeled and chopped into cubes or bite sized chunks before being soaked in peppers, ginger and garlic. Some chefs add other spices, but this is just for flair! It’s then deep fried to create a crispy, aromatic dish. Kelewele is usually sold as a snack or a side dish and complements dishes like barbecued meats or stews.
Red red is a filling dish that consists of cowpea beans or black eyed peas which are boiled into a broth. This bean curry typically includes fish or prawns, scotch bonnet peppers, onions, oil and tomatoes. Red red is one of the Ghanaian dishes that doesn’t use many spices, as the taste comes from the ingredients it’s served with, including rice, fried plantain, avocado and garri.