The essence of culture lies, to a great extent, in the way one put their meals together. The flavours, ingredients and spices of different regions showcase their culture and bring to life the produce of the place. Cooking methods and the way people feed themselves reflect in deeply embedded traditions, beliefs and habits. Sure, you can check out the popular festivals or maybe even stay in one of the best huts in Ghana to fully experience the local culture, but by delving into the local cuisine of Ghana, not only can you taste delicious dishes, but you will also experience what Ghanaian culture is all about. Traditional Ghanaian food is made from tropical crops that are harvested in this region. Grains like beans, corn, millet and plantains and cassava make up the base for most traditional dishes. Here are some of the most traditional foods in Ghana that you can find easily.
1. Hausa Koko
Hausa Koko is a traditional Ghanaian food and popular street food in Ghana as well as several other African countries extending from Sudan to Nigeria. It’s basically a millet porridge with a distinctive taste with a bit of sourness to it due to the fermentation of the ground corn or millet. The taste is even made more distinctive by adding several spices including ground cloves, ground ginger, and hot chili powder.
Hausa Koko is usually served with an accompaniment of fried bean fritters called koose or a bean cake called akara.
2. Omo Tuo
This traditional dish is one of Ghana’s most popular staple food. The name literally means ‘rice ball’ in the Akan language and that’s exactly what it is. It is made by cooking glutinous rice with a bit more water to make it softer. The rice is then pounded and shaped into a ball that’s a bit bigger than a golf ball. It is often eaten with a peanut soup, palm nut soup, or a baobab leaf and dried okra soup.
3. Tuo Zaafi
Tuo Zaafi is a popular food in Ghana. The word ‘tuo’ means stirred and the word ‘zaafi’ means hot in the local dialect. It’s basically a sticky and starchy dumpling made from maize—a bit similar to banku minus the fermentation process. The dumpling is typically served with either an okra soup, ayoyo soup, or a tomato meat stew from which the dumpling is dipped. You can find and enjoy the dish in most local eateries and households.
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4. Oto (Mashed Yams with Red Onions)
Oto is another popular Ghana typical food, especially during celebrations. It’s a simple dish made out of mashed yams, palm oil, caramelized onions, minced garlic, fresh thyme leaves, bullion cubes (shrimp or chicken would do), and salt to taste. It is then topped with hard-boiled eggs and torn cilantro leaves before serving. Despite its simplicity, it’s actually a special dish often served traditionally at special events including birthdays, coming-of-age ceremonies, weddings, and other celebrations.
5. Tubaani (Bean Pudding)
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Tubaani is a favorite Northern Ghanaian dish that can be eaten as a snack on its own or as an accompaniment to meals. The dish is not only tasty but is known for its health benefits as it contains vitamin B9, proteins, iron, and soluble fiber.
This tasty and healthy dish is cooked by steaming a dough made from black-eyed peas flour and water wrapped in Thaumatococcus daniellii leaves, banana leaves, or corn husk. It is then served with gravy and sauteed onions.
6. Waakye (beans and rice)
Since rice is freely available in Ghana, it is used in many creative ways in different dishes. Waakye is an example of such creativity. It is a mix of beans and rice and can have a range of flavours and textures that are brought about by adding friend plantain or cassava to it. Some also incorporate flavours like avocado into the dish.
7. Banku and Tilapia (fish and cassava)
This dish comprises two main elements- fish and cassava. The tilapia, which is a succulent freshwater fish, is marinated in a spice mix and grilled. It is served with a dough made of cassava and corn, mixed with some tomato, hot peppers and onions. This dough is fermented and steamed to form a bread-like base. This dish can be found anywhere in Ghana although it is most popular along the coast.
8. Red-Red (bean broth)
Red-red is a broth made out of boiled cowpea beans. This dish, unlike most Ghanaian dishes, does not have a lot of spice and mostly gives the flavours of the main ingredients. Red-Red is served with sides of palm oil and fried plantain to give it some variations.
9. Fufu (soup)
Fufu is a dish that originated from the Akan tribe of Ghana. It is made with goat meat and boiled cassava and plantain. The soup has a spicy tomato base that lifts its flavours. In some regions of Ghana, this flavour-bursting dish is also made with yam.
10. Kelewele (fried plantain)
Kelewele is a well-known and regular side dish of most Ghanaian meals. Seasoned with peppers, ginger and garlic, soft plantain is fried, to make this dish. The dish is a good balance between sweet and sour making it a favourite of the locals. It can also be eaten as a snack. The fried plantain gives the dish the crunch and texture to take it to another level.
11. Kenkey (corn) and fried fish
Fried fish, crabs and octopus seasoned with a hot pepper sauce is usually served with a staple called Kenkey. Kenkey is made from fermented corn dough, that is shaped into balls. These balls are then wrapped in corn leaves and boiled. This dish is a delicacy for the Accra people. It may seem to be a little weird to think of all the flavours of the fish along with corn and a pepper sauce, however, they work beautifully together to make up an unforgettable dish. This dish can be purchased from local vendors all around Ghana.
12. Jollof (rice)
This dish is a bowl of rice marinated with a tomato-based sauce and can be served with a side of fish or meat. This dish originally comes from Senegal but is now a favourite in Ghana and is served by restaurants and street vendors. The rice in the dish is orange in colour, as it soaks in all the flavours from the tomato sauce. The vibrant colours of this dish combined with the extravagant flavours that it has, give your taste buds an extraordinary experience. Simple but hearty this meal is a quick solution to those hunger pangs while in Ghana.
Enjoy your time in Ghana through food!
Every tourist should sample the local food at their tourist destination in order to experience the true culture of the place. These are a few local delights that Ghana has to offer. Enjoying the different sites that Ghana has to offer along with some of the street food along the way, is a sure shot way of getting the entire experience of being in Ghana. Some delicacies are best left to the wanderer in you to explore and discover on the streets. Make sure to take time to walk through these streets and captivate your taste buds with these popular local dishes in Ghana!
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