After all the excitement of my last Ghana street food post on turkey tails, what can I possibly say about Ghanaian street snacks that would impress you?
Well, probably quite a lot.
I could marvel at the scary woks full of boiling oil at about toddler height, where street sellers deep-fry meat pies, yams, koosé.
I could mention how if researching etoh (pounded yams with palm oil and peanuts) you will enter into the realm of things that are hard to find on Google. I wondered if it’s because I don’t have a Twi keyboard to spell it correctly? I believe it should be ɛtoh. (I stole that character). But no, now impossible to find. (Oh wait, I just made it possible, hehe …. so to add value for Googlers, apparently you can find a recipe in this book.)
I could try and evoke the smell of white corn roasting over charcoal, or boiling in big cauldrons by the road. AM wasn’t supposed to eat it when he was little as DadaK thought it would give him diarrhoea. Pity. Easy food for western kids.
I could recap on the snacks that double as breakfast or lunch that I’ve written about in the earlier installments of my street food series, like koosé (fried bean fritters), or chicken gizzard kebabs.
I will tell you that boiled peanuts are actually available in Australia in Vietnamese grocery stores.
I could recommend the hard boiled eggs arranged in concentric circular piles on big enamel trays, peeled on the spot and sold with (optional) chilli paste, as an excellent easy option for people with unsettled tummies – or culture shock – who need time to adjust to Ghanaian food.
I could write a whole extra post about sweet things. It would be short. After bofrots (sweet deep-fried dumplings) condensed milk sweets, Fan frozen yoghurt and ice-cream (sold from eskies by young men), and fresh fruit, there’s not a lot to say. Ghanaians don’t seem to have much of a sweet tooth. Indeed, DadaK once told me that they believe sweet foods are ‘not good for men’ – if you get what I mean.
Although sugar obviously hasn’t done these men any harm.
And if you believe this ad, Essien is also a fan of Fan. So it’s obviously ok.
But where was I … oh yes:
I could list all the family’s favourites:
- Obaapaa loves grilled plantain with peanuts.
- 50 Cedis likes deep fried yam with chillie paste
- Abrantie likes sour-sweet milet porridge (koko) …
… Except I am completely distracted by the discovery that you can now buy pre-packaged koko in Accra – still apparently from street sellers but in a styrofoam cup with a lid, not decanted into a plastic bag from a roadside cauldron. I love the internet. Check this video out. It also shows some koosé frying.
If you liked the video you can find out more here.
I could embark on an educational lecture about yams: Did you know that 94% of the world’s yams are grown in West Africa? I bet you didn’t. And that annual consumption in West Africa is 61 kilograms per capita? No, thought not.
The boys and I would often contribute to that statistic by buying fried yams after our excursions to the local internet cafe. Sometimes they were good, sometimes bitter. If you go to Mexican or Peruvian restaurants you can get an approximate idea of what they’re like by ordering cassava chips.
I think fried yams are my own favourite street food snack from Ghana, but the ones I liked the most were what I was told were water yams, and they’re not something you find on the streets everyday. In fact the only time I had them was when visiting DadaK’s village in the rainforests west of Kumasi.
A woman from an even smaller village came and set up her cooking pot at the side of the one and only road (3 – 6 cars per day) to fry slices of the marbled pale purple yam in palm kernel oil – adwengo. That’s pronounced ajungo, with the ‘u’ sound as in ‘put’. Adwengo gives the yams a lovely smoky flavour. As with so many West African flavours, there’s really nothing else like it. It’s also good in stews. Which is why I once smuggled a bottle back in my suitcase – at great risk to my clothes!
Adwengo is also a bit hard to find, probably because it is so labour intensive – and messy. You have to crack the kernels open (they’re hard as rocks) and burn them to get the oil. According to this article it’s a bit of a dying industry. That would be a shame. Not just because of adwengo’s amazing taste but because it provides employment for poor and marginalised women. This video shows widows making adwengo.
I could do a lot of things, but I think I’ve finally come to the end of my stories. So that’s it for my Ghana street food series. I’ve had fun reminiscing and researching, and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading and imagining.
To thank you for sticking with me, here’s some food for the soul, a feast for the eyes: dancing on the streets of Ghana (and make sure you check out the helpful young man at around the 37 second mark).