Ghana Stories and Tips

The local cuisine

Unlike francophone West Africa, Ghanaians didn't adopt rice-based meals after colonialism, but stayed rather with their traditional staples: fufu, banku, kenkey and red-red. Normally I find experiencing the local dishes one of the most interesting aspects of any trip, but these staples I found a little hard to swallow.

Fufu, banku and kenkey are all made from ground maize, yam or a combination of the two,which is then boiled and served with a 'saue' a thinnish soup of goat or fish stock.

While all three appear similar to the starches of eastern and southern Africa, bland but filling, they have one major difference - they are completely wihtout texture; smooth, shiny and sticky! The word 'goop' is the most descriptive in my vocabulary!

I spent much of the first two times I tried fufu feeling it slide between my teeth and gums - it was only later that I discovered that Ghanaians don't even try to chew - it's to be swallowed whole (in small mouthfuls of course)!

The proper etiquette is to squeeze off small blobs of the fufu/ banku/ kenkey (having washed one's hands in the water that ought to be provided - if it's not, ask for some); roll it in the fingers until one has made a ball (this takes some practice; it's easier if you have a bit of the 'sauce' on your fingers to stop the starch from sticking to them); dip the blob in the sauce, pop it in the mouth and swallow - DON'T CHEW!

Banku has an extra surprise - it's left to ferment for a while before boiling. While it looks the same as fufu, it tastes sour. You want to be aware of that. Banku - bland, fufu - sour; or is it the other way around?

Red-red consists of deep-fried plaintains and beans. While its not unpleasant, it sits very heavily and is best washed down with a big bottle of beer.

Be warned that it's not easy to find 'continental' food in many of the smaller towns, so if you're inclined to wander off the beaten track you're going to wind up with feasting on these meals.

Bon appetit.

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