Ghana Food Journal – Part II
The main enemy to our appetite in Accra hasn’t been the threat of food-poisoning or diarrhea, but the oppressive heat. When it’s so hot outside, and you’re drinking gallons water to stay hydrated, hunger is a rare sensation. But we are brave heroes, who will let nothing hinder our mission to try all of Ghana’s cuisine! If we’re feeling full, well that’s just too bad, because here’s another big glop of fufu on its way down the throat.
Possibly the most well known of Ghanaian dishes is fufu, which is a mixture of cassava and plantain flour that’s been pounded for a hour into a gooey, gelatinous blob. It’s served in a bowl, covered in soup and accompanied by some kind of meat or fish. You eat it with the right hand, tearing off a little chunk, dipping it around around the soup, and then plop it into your mouth. You don’t really chew fufu, so much as squish it around until it can be swallowed.
We like fufu, but I can’t say we love it. The last time we ordered a bowl, I said to Jürgen, “It’s not bad. But it’s just… not much of anything! Why would you want to put this tasteless stuff in your mouth? Why not just drink the soup?” But people here love it so much, it must be an acquired taste. Maybe by the end of our stay in Ghana, I’ll understand.
Now here’s a dish we do love! The first time we had red-red, we knew that we’d discovered a dish that we could happily return to over and over. Red-red is comprised of blackeyed peas, served in red palm oil, along with a touch of gari (ground cassava root), and a serving of plantains, chicken or fish. We invariably have ours with plantains, and it’s always delicious.
“Blackberries” and African Star Apple
I love discovering new fruits while traveling. We’ve been all over the world, and the fact that there are still delicious varieties out there that I’ve not yet encountered is both bewildering and thrilling. The Star Apple is a very exciting revelation… the tangy fruit is small, but comes packed with all sorts of health benefits, from digestion to helping with anemia.
And they might be called “Blackberries” here, but the yoyi is more properly translated as “Velvet Tamarind”. The fact that they’re not “berries” in any shape, way or form, doesn’t seem to bug anyone, and so “Blackberry” it is. But who cares, when the chewy little treats are this delicious?
Pronounced “WATCH-ee”, Waakye is a dish we hadn’t heard of until arriving in Ghana, but one which know all about now. This condensed mix of beans and rice is a staple of Accra’s cheap eats scene, especially popular during lunch. It can be served with any manner of side, but most popular is salad, plantain, chicken or fish. This is a heavy dish, and it’s rare that I can get through a full portion. It’s equally rare that a full portion will cost even $1.
I can remember the first time I’d ever heard of this fish… it was on a return trip to the USA, in the early 2000s, when all of a sudden everyone was cooking “tilapia”. Here’s my mom frying up a tilapia, my friends recommending the tilapia, Kroger’s stocking tilapia filets, and so on. However, I’m positive that it was not part of any conversation when I was a child. Trout, perch, salmon, tuna … yes. But did anyone ever go fishing for tilapia?
It’s recently popular in America, but tilapia is an African freshwater fish, and one has been an important part of the Ghanaian cuisine and economy for many, many years. It’s easy to farm, healthy, and absolutely delicious. Some of the best meals I’ve had in Accra have featured grilled tilapia, served with banku or rice.
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Waakye is pronounced something like ‘WA-cha’ (the ‘a’ is very short). However, this is not very accurate and the sound can’t really be conveyed with English transcription.