Wednesday, February 17, 2021



More food from Ghana

In my last post, we saw some Ghanaian dishes and it turned out that there was a lot more than I had originally envisaged, so we continue here with part two. If you're interested in trying your hand at some of these, the links will take you to websites with the recipes. 

By special request, the first dish I want to introduce is the flamboyant "Red Red." This is a vegan-friendly meal made from black-eyed peas and fried ripe plantains, and a huge favorite of Inspector Darko Dawson's.

Red Red (Photo: Pinterest/Sabre Charitable Trust)

I always thought the name describes the reddish hue of both the plantain and the palm oil in which the beans simmer, but I've also heard that it's due to the addition of red palm oil to red tomatoes and tomato paste. People do add smoked fish or meat, but that's optional. I eat it in its "pure" form. This dish is cooked considerably less spicy-hot than say, groundnut stew.

Another vegan-friendly meal is waakye (wah-chih), which is rice and beans (usually black-eyed peas or red beans) cooked along with dried millet stalk leaveswhich gives waakye its characteristic pinkish color. If you don't have the millet leaves then you just end up with rice and beans and people will laugh at you.

Waakye (Photo: Pinterest/ 

You can eat waakye with any stew on the side. It's invariably served with a delicious hot sauce called Shito, which is made by frying Scotch bonnet peppers with dried fish, prawns, ginger, tomatoes, garlic, and peppers. Some people also add a couple of hard-boiled eggs and spaghetti to waakye. I have no idea how the spaghetti came about, but I can't bring myself to contaminate my waakye with spaghetti.

Another rice meal is Jollof Rice, which originates in Senegal. It's highly popular throughout West Africa, but every country will claim that they make the best version. There's a friendly rivalry over Jollof, most intensely between Ghana and Nigeria. Each one swears their version is better than the other.

Jollof Rice with grilled tilapia ( Sura Nualpradid/Shutterstock)

Like most rice meals, you can eat Jollof with practically anything, e.g. it's delicious with grilled tilapia, as  shown in the photo. By the way, tilapia in Ghana is traditionally grilled whole and topped with a vegetable mix or sauce and looks nothing like the de-boned and skinned tilapia filets you see in your supermarket. Tilapia in the US is very bland compared to Ghanaian tilapia.

Treats, sweets, and snacks

Some of the best treats are bought on the streets. For travelers, in general, if you buy anything on the street that is served piping hot in front of you, you are probably safe. Nowadays, street vendors wear disposable plastic gloves to serve up your dish. In the old days, they used newspaper to wrap some foods, as it was with fish and chips in Britain long ago, but now they use styrofoam containers, another problem all by itself. 

1. Kelewele (kay-lay-way-lay)

Kelewele (Photo: menufinderafrica)

Ripe plantains marinated with ginger, salt, and chilis and deep fried till crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Can be eaten alone or with peanuts, or as a side to offset a savory dish with the kelewele's sweetness. For me, kelewele is spoiled by too much chili. Just as with curry, I prefer it mild.

2. Boflot (boh-floht) : Ghanaian donuts

Is there a country where someone hasn't discovered that deep-fried batter is delicious? Such is the case with boflot, made from flour, yeast, sugar, vanilla extract, and nutmeg. You may add egg, butter, and evaporated milk for instant coronary artery occlusion.

Boflot/boflot (Image: e.TV Ghana)

3. Peanut brittle (or "groundnut cake")

Nothing really magical here: just peanuts, castor sugar, and butter. Melt the sugar, add the butter, and then the peanuts. Peanuts in Ghana, called groundnuts, are smaller than what we get in the US, and the taste is more intense. Likewise, Ghanaian peanut butter, or groundnut paste, tastes quite different.

Peanut brittle (Photo:

4. Meat pies

This is a perennial favorite and a great mid-afternoon snack, appetizer, or finger-food for parties, etc. They can contain beef, chicken, or tuna. 

Meat pie (Photo: Simple African Meals)

5. Kyinkyinga (chih-cheeng-gah)

This is shish kebab Ghanaian style with chicken, beef, or goat. It's very popular at chop bars (informal, small, eating establishments on the street), restaurants, hotel brunches, and drinking spots. It reportedly goes very well with cold beer. The secret of the unique taste is the kyinga/suya powder, a rub made of a blend of peanuts, salt, ground spices and hot pepper.

Vendor grilling kyinkyinga over charcoal (Photo: Maarten van der Bent/Wikimedia)


Even though some of these dishes are fondly called street food, just about anything you'll find there also appears in formal restaurants and hotels that offer Ghanaian fare. The difference of course is in the presentation, and of course the price. A lot of restaurants will list the Ghanaian dishes separately on the menu. 

That reminds me how I was once at a Takoradi hotel frequented mostly by expatriates and tourists. I remarked to the chef that there wasn't a single Ghanaian dish on the menu, to which he replied, "Well, you know, the guests [mostly white] are not going to like Ghanaian food." Maybe he was speaking from experience, and if so, what a shame. You came all the way to Ghana to eat hamburgers and pizza? You wouldn't try Jollof Rice (which tastes rather like Spanish rice) because it's Ghanaian? You would have no interest in at least tasting groundnut stew? Oh, well, you just missed a gastronomic experience of a lifetime.


  1. Oh dear Kwei. This is a crazy, tempting primer in the foods of Ghana! I have had some of these dishes but your post made me dream of the days I can travel widely and eat adventurously. thank you

  2. Which of them have you had? I'm curious now!

  3. I'm always amazed when visitors to a country reject the local foods. It's part - for me a big part - of the enjoyment. We were once in Turkey, enjoying the local food and culture, and was befriended by a British couple. One evening they invited us to join them later where they were going for supper. They had found an almost perfect British pub serving draft bitter and lager and traditional English pub food. They went there every night. We declined with thanks.

  4. I wish, Kwei. Though my situation was different and I was able to eat whatever I wanted when was in Turkey, these days I would have to go to the pub with Michael's friends, given the 27 foods, and counting, that I have become allergic to. I am so glad that I enjoyed being a worldwide omnivore when I had the chance of it. Susan and I are hatching a plan for a time I will go to Japan prepared to avoid soy. Imagine that!

  5. You have opened my eyes to a whole new world, Kwei! Barbara and I had amassed a war chest of beans, rice, and lentils in preparation for the once warned Armageddon. Now you've given us new ideas on how to work our way through that stockpile...and add a few new things to the stores.

  6. Oh, I am starving after reading this post. All look delicious, especially the vegan dishes and the desserts.

  7. I love to write. I mean, I really love to write. It's probably the only passion I have stronger than love. But I need to know what college to go to.. . What college should I go to for Creative Writing?.