I spent several months through the fall and winter of 2005 living in Adenta and Nsawam, Ghana. While in Ghana I had numerous new experiences, many of which involved food and the culture surrounding it.
The Ghanaian diet’s core ingredients were something that grabbed my attention immediately and kept me interested in what I ate throughout my entire stay in the country. Every climate and region of the world has specific foods that are native to the area. Native crops often manifest themselves in the form of an identifiable regional cuisine. Ghanaian cuisine has a cluster of ingredients that in combination make up almost the entire array of meals. What I found to be particularly note worthy is the fact that Ghanaian “traditional” cuisine is a combination of both native foods and foods brought in by colonists, food aid and capitalist markets. The fusion of new and old that has come to define Ghana’s history has also defined their culture and cuisine.
Most of the Ghanaian diet is made up of the following ingredients – Groundnuts (peanuts), palm oil, ginger, garlic, bouillon cubes, tomato, onion, garden eggs (egg plant, small white variety), pepe (ground hot red pepper), plantain, cassava, gari (granular flour of cassava tubers), yam, coco yam, chicken, tuna, tilapia, goat meat, green pepper, rice, red beans, contumre (like spinach, leaf of coco yam), shallots, okra, shito (cayenne pepper sauce) and corn.
This is a full spread at a dinner party and a great visual representation of Ghanaian cuisine. The red dish in the front is called Stew. It is a ginger, garlic, tomato, onion and oil sauce that is eaten with many foods. It is unbelievably good. The rice dish behind it is called Jollof. It is cooked with onions, garlic, chillies, tomatoes and added vegeis, and is popular throughout West Africa. It is also very similar to the Cajun Dirty Rice we have in the USA.
Meal Profile -
One of the most common foods eaten in Ghana, and throughout West Africa, is fufu. Fufu is a ball of dough/paste that is made of pounded plantain, cassava or yam (or any combination of the three). A video showing the fufu preparation process can be found here. The “ball” of fufu is served with several different soups. These soups are similar and all very tasty. The three most common are groundnut, light and palm nut.
Ground Nut Soup –
1 cup groundnut butter (peanut butter), approx. 4 cups water, 3-4 chicken legs, 3 fresh tomatoes, 1 onion, 1 shrimp bouillon cube, 2T ginger, 1 clove garlic, pinch of salt.
- Mix peanut butter with water and cook it on medium-high heat until oil is separated at top (my host mom warned me that if you do not cook it long enough you will give your family the runs)
- Place chicken in separate pot and add 1-2 cups water. Add ginger, garlic, salt, bouillon and pepe if preferred. Place whole tomatoes and onion in on top of other ingredients. Cover and let steam for 30 min.
- After steaming blend the onion and tomatoes. Strain mixture so the juices are returned to the pot containing the chicken.
- Add water to chicken mixture to fill pot (or for desired added liquid). Cover and bring to a boil.
- Place cooked groundnut mixture in strainer and strain it into boiling soup (you do this by holding the strainer submerged in the boiling soup and letting the groundnut more or less dissolve away).
- Let simmer for and hour. Then serve.
This Video shows the groundnut soup preparation process and also has a great Ghanaian soundtrack. (I did not make this video. The recipe varies a bit from my host family's)
This is a small store run by one of my host families. It carries many of the basic ingredients that people use on a daily basis. Often times people only purchase what they need for the next meal they are to prepare. These stores/stands can be found on pretty much every block.
This is an image from Medina Market, the largest market near my home in Adenta. This picture shows the way that spices and beans are bagged to be sold.
This is a picture of my host sisters and friends eating an "American meal." The meal consisted of Sloppy Joes and Mac & Cheese. We prepared Sloppy Joes because they are very USA but also made from ingredients that are part of the Ghanaian diet. We prepared Mac & Cheese to show them what American kids like. They loved the Sloppy Joes and hated the Mac & Cheese. We expected this to be the case. Dairy is rarely consumed in West Africa and most people are lactose intolerant. I think we may have also cooked broccoli, or at least some sort of green. All that I remember was that some was given to the dog and he did not even want to eat it. We joked that kids all over the world don't like vegetables.
This is Waakye (waa-che) and it is my favorite Ghanaian food. It is red beans cooked in combination with rice, served with fried chicken, some noodles, shito, and an egg. It is eaten as a big mixture and can be purchased on the street. It is kind of like a ice cream sunday that you get to pick and combine toppings for.
This Palava Sauce (contumre cooked with onions, tuna, hot oil, tomato and nuts), served with boiled ripe plantain and meat.
This is Kenkey, it is a fermented corn dough. There are two varieties named for the ethnic groups that make them. This is Ga Kenkey, it is distinguished by its corn husk wrapping, shorter fermentation time and added salt. The Fanti variety is wrapped in plantain leaves, ferments longer and has no added salt. Both are often served with shito and dried sardines.