Monday, March 12, 2012

A Short Guide to Ghanaian Food

This is by no means a complete guide, just a rough outline of what the food is like here.  Some food is more common in the south, but most of these foods are common here in the Upper East.  There is not too much variety, but I mostly enjoy what Alice serves me or what I buy in my village.  I don't cook these dishes for myself, but I have helped Alice and Esther cook before, so many of these things I at least know how to prepare.  People in the market always ask what I'm going to cook, they always think I am going to prepare tzet and stew.  I usually lie and say yes because that's the easiest answer, and it gives them a good laugh.  But sometimes I simply say I'm going to prepare soup ("Mam duge ziiro"), which is partly true most of the time.

tzet (in Gurune/Nab't it is called "saab" or "sagebo")- the most common dish served in the northern parts of Ghana.  Made from white or red millet flour, or sometimes corn flour.  You prepare tzet by stirring the flour with water in a special metal pot over a charcoal fire.  It is served with some sort of stew, such as okra, groundnut, palm nut or bito and alefe stew.  Very plain tasting, the stew served with it is absolutely necessary to add flavor to the dish.

banku- another popular dish found in the north, but also very common in the south.  Made from fermented corn dough and cassava dough.  Prepared by stirring the doughs with water in the same special pot as tzet, over a charcoal fire.  Also served with some sort of stew.  At first, the bitterness of this dish was not pleasant, but I have really come to enjoy banku.  I may even prefer it over tzet because it has more taste.

fufu-  very common in the southern parts of Ghana.  Made from cassava, yam and/or plantain doughs.  Instead of stirring this to prepare, you "pound" it with a long, narrow wooden stick in a wooden bowl.  I most commonly ate fufu at my homestay with groundnut soup; palm nut soup or light soup is also common.  I had fufu here in Kongo for the first time since I left homestay, and it was completely different that what I ate in the south.  I think it was made from corn flour or millet flour; I much prefer the southern fufu.

rice balls-  made from smashed up rice.  Also served with soup or stew.

kwokwo ("coco")- a spicy porridge made from ginger and pepe.  Most of my friends in Kongo eat this for breakfast with cosi.  A few mornings a week, I go to my kwokwo lady who lives next to Cletus and Alice, and who has a puppy she keeps wanting to give to me.

cosi- fried bean cakes.  Made from a liquid-y dough of white beans.

tobani- bean cakes made from bambara beans, very similar in taste to cosi.  These can also be fried, but I think more commonly they are boiled or steamed. 

groudnut soup- made with groundnut paste, pepe, and usually some kind of meat like chicken or beef.  I most commonly have eaten this with fufu or rice balls.

palm nut soup- made from small, red palm nuts.  To prepare, you must boil the nuts for quite a while, then pound the nuts to remove the shell, then you boil the pulp to get the oil.  Lots of work, but quite delicious.  Served with banku or tzet.

okra stew-  can be made form fresh or dried okra, although I think I prefer the fresh okra better.  The fresh okra is cut up and boiled with tomatoes, onions, pepe and meat sometimes.  The dried okra must first be pounded before it is put into a soup.  Served with banku or tzet.

alefe and bito stew- a thicker soup made from these two leafy greens.  I have eaten this only with tzet before, but I'm sure it is served with banku too.

zoom koom- flour water.  I still don't quite see the point of drinking water with flour in it.  Very plain; tastes better if pepe is added to it.  I have tried this in my village, and it is commonly seen in Bolga.

ginger beer- a drink made from ginger and lots of pepe.  Very spicy, but I think it is very delicious.  I sometimes by this from a vendor in Bolga as I'm waiting for the Kongo tro to leave the station.

Things I can find in my market right now:  pepe (fresh and dried), tomatoes, onions (red and green), alefe, bito, oranges

Things I can find in Bolga: cabbage, lettuce, carrots, green peppers, yam, potatoes, tomatoes, onions, alefe, bito, pepe, oranges, apples, bananas, pineapple, papaya, and we are now getting into MANGO season!

Common meats: chicken, guinea fowl, sheep, goat, fish, donkey, dog, bushmeat (i.e. rat).  I think my favorite meat in my village is donkey.  There is a woman who prepares the donkey in a light soup (a simple broth with pepe and tomatoes) at the pito place we regularly go to.  Whenever I go to Bolga, I get some sort of street meat- usually beef or liver or sausage.  There are is also a vendor in Kongo that cooks up whole chickens on market day, the closest I will get to barbeque, and it is also my favorite meat in town, but too expensive to buy very often.  I have also had rat before; at first I was slightly disgusted by the idea, but I tried it, and it was actually very good.  I know several volunteers who eat rat on a regular basis in the Northern Region.  And I will admit I have had dog before.  I thought I would never knowlingly eat it, but I did, and it is surprisingly good, it reminds me of another type of meat that I can't quite put my finger on.  I have not had cat though, and I think that's where I cross the line.

1 comment:

  1. This post was awesome! I can't wait to wine and dine you when you get back. Love the last line: "and I think that's where I cross the line" meow meow.