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Ghana on a Plate

GHANA | Friday, 7 November 2008 | Views [4144] | Comments [6]

Think of a diet packed with enough carbohydrates to give posh spice a severe heart attack. That is what my stomach encounters daily in Ghana… White rice (starch), potatoes (starch), yam (starch), plantain (starch), bananas (starch), cassava (starch), maize (starch), bread (more starch…)

Don’t get me wrong, the food here is DELICIOUS! And our starchy staples are supplemented by chicken, fish, beans, jollof sauce or goat. It’s usually unadvisable to associate the mangy chickens and goats tottering in the streets with the food that appears on your plate.

We get out eats from little booths on the side of the road or head-food (food carried in boxes balanced on women’s heads). Some of these women risk their lives to criss-cross through traffic and fill the tummies of hungry tro-tro commuters. We also go to spot bars (small bars with plastic furniture that serve very cheap meals and local beer). One spot I saw last week was interestingly aptly named “Comfortable Stomach Spot Bar,” because frankly it can be a gamble sometimes. Some spots serve bush meat and there’s no identifying exactly which animals constitute ‘bush.’ It could include anything from monkey to grass cutter (a massive rat-like creature). I stay away from bush meat.

What’s for dinner?…

- Red-red is fried plantain (like banana), served with a bean stew which often includes fish or tuna. Yum.

- Ground nut soup with omo tuo (rice balls) is a peanut soup usually served on Sundays. Like most Ghanaian food, it’s spicy and is served with chicken. This is one of my favourites!

- Banku is fermented maize mixed with pounded cassava. We eat it with a spicy red Okra sauce. This dish is definitely eaten with your right hand. (Don’t ever dream of handling food, or even passing someone money, with your left hand) Delicious!

- Jollof rice is rice cooked for about two hours in a red sauce until the rice absorbs the vibrant colour. Once again – spicy and served with chicken or fish.

- Yam and Palaver sauce is either boiled or fried yam served with a spinach-like sauce which is sometimes mixed with tuna or chicken.

- Fufu is plantain and cassava pounded until it forms a goo-gacky-doughy-plastic consistency. It’s a specialty and is usually served with light soup. It sticks to the roof of your mouth a little. I can take it or leave it but it is nice to see the women pounding fufu in the mornings. My attempt was rather unco.

I have to admit that I do miss vegetables, dairy of any kind, cereal and red meat but Ghanaian food is amazing and often when given the choice between a 'continental' dish and a plate of red-red, I’ll take the red-red.

Other favourites: gorgeous pineapples, papaya, bananas, ground nuts, tiger nuts, fan yogo, plantain chips, kili-kili spicy plantain pieces, yam balls, banana bread, and these really delicious soya bean balls mixed with vegetables and deep-fried like dim-sims.

The egg-sandwiches are awesome! Ama, our local ‘egg-sandwich lady’ in Cape Coast made the best ones hand down. 70 peswas (around 85 cents) buys you an oozy omelette with vegetables and laughing cow cheese melted into it and served inside pan-toasted white bread.

Some of the most delicious things I’ve eaten came from unidentified opaque black plastic bags offered to me by strangers in taxis or tro-tros. They say, “you’re invited” and it’s polite to take some. I enjoy sharing my own food with strangers in transit also because sharing is so integral to the culture here.

My host mum, Mrs Djan, is going to teach me to cook some traditional dishes so I’ll be making a beeline for the markets in search for some scarce Ghanaian ingredients when I’m home.

You’re invited!



Yay Leecy can't wait to have you back in the kitchen cooking up a storm....a ghanaian storm by the sounds of it. I will have a huge huge bowl of vegies waiting for you when you get home to fill the apparent void. Love your work. Keep doing what you do best. Love Ma x

  Gina Beacom Nov 7, 2008 10:27 PM


Thanks darling for my next "chapter." I think your mum will only be too happy to hand you over her kitchen. I must say you are very gutzy eating all of these unknowns....I wouldn't be! You are just amazing! I do hope they will serve you the Ground Nut Soup with Omo Tuo tomorrow (Sunday) ENJOY DARLING!
Love...aunty Mena xxx

  Mena Librandi Nov 8, 2008 9:25 AM


Your Kind Invitation is accepted with great pleasure...Thanks!

Aunty Mena

  Mena Librandi Nov 8, 2008 9:29 AM


Are those rice balls as good as Gina's Meatballs?

  Macca Nov 9, 2008 12:20 AM


Hi there!

This is a great explanation of some of the common foods! I am going to be traveling from the U.S. to Ghana and so many bloggers rave about the red-red!! I will have to try it!

There are some concerns about the cleanliness of food preparation that I have been reading at some blogs but you haven't mentioned that here. There are concerns that the scarcity of clean water in some parts of Ghana reinforce a practice of "re-using" dish water for several days. (I wanted to gag.)

Your blog is so informative and detailed!

Keep writing!

  TheFisherOfMen Nov 9, 2008 8:16 AM


Hi Eliska,
Read your last two blogs with great interest.Beautifully described as always.Firstly, our new puppy is a Bernese Mountain dog(more photos are coming).She may have been handy on your recent trek. And secondly, I look forward to your gourmet treat when you return.Take care,
love Dad xx
Ps India just beat Australia 2 nil in recent Test series.

  Max Beacom Nov 11, 2008 12:53 PM

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