EXPLORING GHANA’S TOP DELICIOUS DISHES
Now let’s get onto the subject of food…. You can’t come to Ghana and not experience the local food! From street food on just about every corner at roadside stalls referred to as chop bars, to more established and conventional restaurant options, you will definitely not go hungry in Ghana!
Ghanaian dishes usually comprise of a starchy staple food, accompanied by either a sauce or a soup/stew. The food can be quite hot (spicy) due to Ghanaians’ love of chilli pepper (referred to and pronounced as pepeh). The main ingredients and flavourings of most local dishes are ginger, garlic, onion, shallots and fresh tomatoes. Nearly every dish is cooked or fried in palm oil.
Start with something simple, such as kelewele, fried yam or jollof rice. Any chop bar, and even most restaurants will have these 3 popular items on their menu.
Kelewele is usually sold as a snack or side dish and is made by frying soft plantains that have been soaked in a mixture of peppers, ginger and garlic. Plantain is plentiful in Ghana and can be eaten in various ways: fried, baked, barbequed, grilled, and in chip form (our favourite!). Plantains look like large bananas, and can be green, yellow or almost black. They are eaten as a carbohydrate rather than as a fruit. Plantains are the less sweet, starchier equivalent of bananas. Plantains are almost always cooked before eating, as they taste pretty bland raw, so don’t be fooled by their banana-like features!
Jollof rice, though originally from Senegal, is a one-pot rice dish enjoyed through out the West African region. A hugely popular dish both here in Ghana and in neighbouring Nigeria, you have probably been living under a rock if you haven’t heard about the long-standing feud between Ghanaians and Nigerians about whose Jollof is the best – fondly referred to as the jollof wars!
Banku is a mix of fermented corn and cassava dough, and is often served with very hot pepper sauce, diced tomatoes, onions and sometimes fish.
Banku with tilapia
Kenkey is another corn-based staple similar to banku, made by moulding fermented corn dough into balls and wrapping them in dried corn leaves, which are then boiled. This meal is also served with hot pepper sauce. Kenkey is a staple dish similar to sourdough dumplings and it originates from the Ga and Fante-inhabited parts of Ghana. It is usually served with pepper sauce and fried fish, soup or stew. It is usually made from ground corn (maize) and involves allowing the maize to ferment for a few days before cooking. After fermentation, the kenkey is partially cooked, wrapped in banana leaves or cornhusks and then steamed.
No dish is complete without a generous serving of Shito on the side. Shito is the ultimate Ghanaian condiment and is eaten with just about everything. This black hot pepper sauce consists of fish or shrimp, pepper and blended spices. It packs quite a punch so go easy to start! Once you get accustomed to this acquired taste, you may find it quite addictive!
You definitely need to try the Fufu while in Ghana, another very popular local staple. Fufu is made by mixing and pounding equal portions of cassava and green plantain flour with water. It is usually served with groundnut soup, palm nut soup or light soup.
Tilapia (fish) and goat meat stew are also firm favourites amongst locals and feature on most chop bar menus. Fried yam makes for a great street snack and they can also be boiled (though we definitely recommend fried!). Light soup is another well-liked dish and it pairs well with rice, yam, kenkey or fufu.
Kontomire stew is made from boiled tender cocoyam leaves, salted fish and boiled eggs, and goes perfectly with boiled yams, plantains and avocado. Other really popular local dishes, (which a lot of obrunis enjoy just as much) include groundnut soup (made from peanuts), and Waayke (pronounced waa-chay,) a very tasty rice and beans dish, one of the yummiest kinds of street foods you’ll find at almost any chop bar.
Akple is an Ewe dish consisting of corn flour, salt and water. Then there is another favourite, Red Red, comprising of black-eyed pea/beans, cooked in palm oil with plantain. The dish gets its name from the red colour it takes on from the palm oil.
Beans and Plantain (Red Red)
For all you vegetarians out there, fear not, as Ghana is one place where you can find tasty vegetarian options quite easily.
What about beverages?
As far as non-alcoholic beverages go, you might want to try sobolo (also called bissap), a drink made out of rosella leaves. We just love our daily dose of fresh coconut water, available from a roadside vendor near you! Also worth a try is the local Emudro ginger drink, made from fresh ginger roots and whole cloves – you can add pineapple juice to it if you feel the ginger alone is too strong. Local alcoholic drinks include palm wine and Akpeteshie (the local gin) – try the Akpeteshie if you dare! There is also local beer made from fermented millet called pitoo. Star and Club are the two most popular brands of local beer available at bars, restaurants and other outdoor drinking venues and stalls.
For the ultimate in Ghanaian feasts, we recommend a visit to one of these restaurants:
Buka in the heart of Osu, serves both Ghanaian and Nigerian dishes. Thanks to its elevation, you can enjoy the welcome sea breeze. Try the goat light soup!
Azmera is located in the suburb of Ridge, not far from Airport Residential. A hit with locals, this restaurant is nearly always full. Try the banku and okro stew!
Mazera restaurant in the neighbourhood of Nyaniba Estate is a long time favourite with both locals and expats. The very simple setting is offset by the tasty food – try the Tilapia! Located on Okodan Road, call 020 817 5450 for directions.
Value for money: Street food and Chop Bars
Chop bars are street food stalls, and are probably the best way to experience Ghana’s cuisine, like a local! Affordable, simple but tasty – all in a casual setting.
Katawodieso serves amazing traditional Ghanaian food, and you only have to see the queues at lunchtime to understand why they’ve been a local favourite for many years now. You’ll find everything from banku and fufu to jollof rice, but their speciality is definitely the waakye. Their reputation for great local food is known throughout the city, so you can expect it to be busy on any given day! They are located in Labone on La Crescent Street, or call 024 436 8200 for directions.
Also in Labone, is another roadside favourite, Auntie Munis. They also serve a killer waakye! Find Auntie Muni’s at Orphan Crescent Road, Labone. Call ahead to be sure they are open and if they still have any left!
For a spot of French-inspired west African street food, try Chez Marcelle, directly opposite Alliance Française in Airport Residential.
Papaye is the Ghanaian equivalent of popular fast food chains like McDonalds except that it specializes only in chicken and lots of it! With branches in Osu, Tesano, Spintex and Tema, you won’t need to travel very far to find one!