End of last year I spent two months in Accra, Ghana. No, I am not Ghanaian or identifiably West African though my family, like many other Blacks in America, is the descendant of West African slaves. I saw enough people in Accra that looked like cousins, uncles, and familiar friends to reaffirm the trans-Atlantic connection. But let’s get on to the food.
To be honest, I knew in going on this trip that food would be an issue. I’ve previously tried Nigerian food in Houston and I’ve eaten egusi both in restaurants and family homes. Not to start any kind of jollof wars, but y’all! I do not understand the use of dried fish, dried shrimp or crayfish as a seasoning. What I knew before landing in Accra, is that any sort of dried seafood as a seasoning is pungently unbearable, intolerable, and unacceptable. And no matter my personal protests it is a staple seasoning in West African food. But on the flip, there’s no time for being a sour puss when spending two months in another country.
I reviewed the Movenpick Hotel, the only premier business hotel in Accra, and they had newly rolled out a traditional buffet night. Perfect timing. Traditionally Ghanaians do not eat out. Aside from my stay at the Kempinski and Movenpick hotels, eating out was just a laughable experience 100% of the time in Accra. For the purpose of recording this experience, going to the street stalls was not an option. I also do not speak Twi or Ga, so street stall ordering, when I needed one of everything – chale! I did not have the patience for. Then to shuttle the food back to a space that has a generator running long enough to let me get through the setup and recording process…look the Movenpick was a blessing.
Sidenote: If you’re traveling to Accra, I know Kempinski is the shiny new hotel, and all the hotels who have 24 hour hot water running are notoriously expensive, but at least one night at the Movenpick is everything. I stayed for two nights about five weeks into my trip, in a week where my residence had run out of water because the electricity had been off for over 72 hours. And God-o! Movenpick reset me so that I could enjoy the rest of my stay.
Now let’s get into this food. I tried:
- Fufu & Tilapia Soup
- I ate a lot of tilapia in Ghana, even though it’s a fish I refuse to touch in the States. If I’ma eat a dirty bottom eater fish it needs to be catfish. However if you don’t eat tilapia in Ghana, you can basically stay hungry. My tastebuds found delight in Ivorian style tilapia, acheke and banku. Not so much with the tilapia soup and fufu. Look, I already knew the fufu was a nope. But when a green vegetable is nowhere to be found and you’re dying for fiber because digestion, you gots to swallow the fufu. As you see, I was unable because I’m a texture phobe, so I gained about 15lbs of banku on my waist line during my stay.
- Groundnut Soup & Omo tou
- Ghanaians like their starchy balls, literally any starch can be made into a ball and it’s essentially how you efficiently eat the food with your hands. Omo tou is a rice ball and it’s texture is much better than fufu, so I was indifferent to eating it. But let me tell how you how delightful the groundnut soup is! Also known as Peanut Butter Soup, it’s really good, dried fish free and I want to say palm oil free in that my body digested it quickly but in a non-explosive manner. (Ghana Gut is a very real thing.)
- Okra Stew & Banku.
- Okra, the quizzically gooey vegetable that has been the ire and/or culinary joy of so many Black youth from West Africa to the Southern United States. I am middle of the road on okra. Batter and fry it up, best way to have it. In a soup or a stew, ehhhhh….see that texture…it’s just….oh…..nope.
- Cocoyam & Garden Egg Stew
- Garden Egg is what call an eggplant over here. Cocoyam is a root vegetable that in all the ways I’ve seen it cooked, it’s still hard as hell and dry and just not that enjoyable. I was worried about the stew, because dried fish, but this was light on the seasoning and do really like eggplant. The stew I can do, the yam not so much.
- Fried Yam & Shito
- I do not eat steak cut fries, too dense. So the fried yam, it was over the moon in density. It’s not bad, it’s just hard and I don’t care for the texture when it is that desne. Shito, is a spicy sauce that is seasoned with dried shrimp. Girl…we already know why tht is a fail for me.
- Jollof with Grilled Chicken & Kelewele
- LOOK AT GOD ALMIGHTY!! This was just everything that I need in life. Plantain is the salt of the earth, what angel wings are made of. Kelewele is seasoned plantain, typically with ginger and cayenne. It’s so good, so very very good. The jollof and chicken, I eat a lot of that in Houston, so I was already fair. To answer the question from the ongoing jollof wars between Nigeria and Ghana, over who has the best jollof: Senegal. But I did have some amazing jollof at Pa Jon’s in Accra (that dining experience is a hilarious tale for later).
- Sorrel! I love how all the cultures of the African diaspora have used Bissap leaves to make tasty drinks. I drank it out of calabash. Very very tasty.