Culture Tuesday is a new weekly column in which Best of Vegan Editor Samantha Onyemenam explores the cuisines of different cultures across the globe through a plant-based and vegan lens. Click here to read her column about Sri Lankan cuisine, here to read her column about Somali cuisine, and here to read her column about Nigerian cuisine.
Culture Tuesday – Ghanaian Cuisine
The Ghanaian cuisine is one full of flavour and a reflection of the local culture and history. Although the traditional dishes vary with tribe, village, and region, there are some commonalities that form the general cuisine of Ghana. These commonalities include making a meal around a starch. The meal could be a soup, stew, or sauce which is made more filling through the use of starchy foods such as cassava, rice maize, yam, cocoyam (taro), and potatoes in various forms.
The Centre – Starchy Foods
Starches are a significant component of several traditional Ghanaian meals. They are used as vessels to carry flavour, a source of nutrition as well as the main ingredient for dishes. When being used to transport flavourful soups from a plate or bowl to one’s mouth, the starches come in the form of usually lightly coloured, smooth, somewhat sticky mounds that are traditionally eaten with freshly washed hands. These starchy mounds are known as ‘fufuo,’ or ‘fufu.’ They are made through repeated pounding of the cooked starchy food or repeated mixing of the starchy food with hot water. To eat with them, one would pinch a bite-sized amount of it using their fingers and form the fufu into a ball using just the fingers on that hand. An indent is pressed into the fufu then it is dipped into the soup of choice and eaten – usually by swallowing without chewing.
When being used to transport flavourful soups from a plate or bowl to one’s mouth, the starches come in the form of mounds that are traditionally eaten with freshly washed hands. These starchy mounds are known as ‘fufuo,’ or ‘fufu.’
Ghanaians have a wide range of fufu. These include banku (made from a dough of fermented cornflour and cassava), mmore (made from just fermented cornflour), akple (made from plain unfermented cornflour), konkote (made from dried cassava or dried yam), fufuo (made from cassava/yam and plantain or just from cocoyam), garri (made from fried ground cassava), omo tuo (made from rice) and tup zaafi (made from millet, corn or sorghum).
In the cases where the starch is not used to make fufu, it is used as the main ingredient of the dish. Dishes starring starchy ingredients include kenkey (steamed fermented corn dough wrapped in a corn husk or plantain leaves prior to steaming), waakye (rice and beans cooked with red dried sorghum leaves and a pepper sauce), jollof rice (rice cooked in a seasoned tomato stew), Ghanaian fried rice, angwa moo (a rice dish made from cooking rice in a hot mixture of vegetable oil, fried onions and water), ngwo moo (the same as angwa moo, but using palm oil in place of vegetable oil), ampesie (boiled yam served with a sauce) and mpotompoto (yam casserole).
You can never have too many tomatoes
Tomatoes are involved in the cooking process of almost every Ghanaian dish, especially the soups and stews. The tomatoes could be fresh, canned, or pureed. They give the dishes distinct red and orange hues as well as additional umami and sweet flavour. Some of these dishes that feature tomatoes are the Ghanaian tomato stew, which is usually served with rice, bread, ampesie or fried plantains, jollof rice, mako (a pepper sauce made from raw green and red chillies, onions and tomatoes), red red (a thick flavourful bean stew), light soup (a spicy thin tomato soup), groundnut soup (a peanut soup), ayoyo soup (a soup made from jute mallow leaves), egusi (pumpkin seed soup), fetridetsi (okra soup and abenkwan (palm nut soup).
Palm oil in Ghana, and West Africa, as a whole, is sustainably sourced and does not contribute to gross deforestation, animal exploitation or the death of orangutans.
A lot of these dishes also feature palm oil in ways that can not be substituted. Palm oil in Ghana, and West Africa, as a whole, is sustainably sourced and does not contribute to gross deforestation, animal exploitation, or the death of orangutans. Therefore, when making these dishes, it is best to purchase West African palm oil.
Beans are one of the most commonly used non-animal protein sources in Ghana. They are prepared using various methods such as blending then steaming, blending then frying, cooking in boiling water, steaming or cooking in boiling water then frying. They are used to make a range of dishes and snacks such as red red, tubaani (a steamed bean cake), koose (fried peeled bean batter), akara (fried unpeeled bean batter), and waakye. Beans are usually soaked overnight for a smoother blending process and to make the beans easier to digest.
A lot of these bean dishes can be found in chopbars – street/roadside stalls selling cooked food and treats at affordable prices throughout the day.
Snacks and Treats
In Ghana, snacks and treats are prepared through baking, frying, barbequing, roasting, boiling, mixing, and steaming. They can be found in homes, restaurants, chopbars, marketplaces and sold by other street vendors such as hawkers. These foods are small dishes meant to satisfy hunger, craving, or sustain a person until their next full/main meal. There is a wide variety of snacks included in the cuisine of Ghana which are made from wheat flour, peanuts, plantains, coconuts, and more.
GhanAian snacks and treats are small dishes meant to satisfy hunger, craving, or sustain a person until their next full/main meal.
Some of the most popular of these are akara, koose, kelewele (ripe plantain marinated in a spicy aromatic mixture before being fried), bofrot/boflot (Ghanaian puff puff/fried sticky dough), boiled corn on the cob, roasted corn, gari soaked in water and served with sugar and peanuts, tubaani, emo dokonu (rice cake), esikyire dokonu (sweetened kenkey), kuli-kuli (fried seasoned peanut paste), plantain chips, kube toffee (coconut toffee), kaklo and tatale (ripe plantain fritters), etor (mashed boiled plantains and/or yam mixed with palm oil and peanuts), fried yam and Kofi Brokeman (ripe plantains roasted over charcoal).
Vegan Ghanaian Recipe: Okra Stew
Here is a recipe for a delicious Ghanaian Okra Stew. This is an easy-to-follow recipe by Afia Amoako (@thecanadianafrican on Instagram).
If this article on vegan Ghanaian cuisine inspired you to learn more, you might also like:
- Culture Tuesday: An Exploration of Sri Lankan Cuisine
- Culture Tuesday: An Exploration of Indian Cuisine
- Culture Tuesday: An Exploration of Somali Cuisine
- Culture Tuesday: 10 Vegan Nigerian Recipes You Need To Try
- Culture Tuesday: An Exploration of Native American Cuisine of North America
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