Eating My Way Through Ghana

Having been to over a dozen African nations, I can tell you that Ghana is one of my favorites for food. I’m no foodie, but over the course of three weeks, I think I did well eating my way through Accra. In fact, I made a list and also received suggestions on local dishes to try. Eating Ghanaian food is an experience, and I ate at many restaurants over my time, breaking bread with strangers on numerous occasions. I learned how to eat family style – all hands on deck in the same pot for banku and stew. I was invited to the homes of strangers for not one, but two home cooked meals. Ghanaian hospitality was unmatched and gave new meaning to comfort food.

Ghanaian Must Eats

IMG: Waakye

Waakye

I am still trying to figure out how this dish, Waakye, came to be and why it’s not Ghana’s National dish.  It is so filling and complete with a bit of everything from the kitchen… with rice and beans, spaghetti noodles and salad, topped with sweet plantains, a hard-boiled egg, and avocado, sprinkled with grated cassava and added on chicken or fish if you like. Initially, I was so confused when I first saw this dish, yet I ate every last bit. Do not ask questions, just eat it. The sweet, the savory, the carbs, and the protein all made sense after I woke up from my coma! Waakye is serious comfort food. Thanks to the staff at Olma Colonial Suites Boutique Hotel that walked me to the local Waakye spot.

IMG: Palava and Plantains

Palava and Boiled Plantain

I met an Instagram travel friend during my time in Accra and was invited to dinner at their family home. Her Auntie’s cooking was so delicious. I was lucky enough to have dinner there twice during my time in Accra. Even after my friend left Ghana, her family picked me up from my hotel for dinner.  The palava with boiled ripe plantains and a side of avocado was one of my favorite local dishes. I have no idea how it is prepared and what is in it, but the mix of egusi seeds, greens, dried fish and palm oil eaten with bare hands by way of a ripe boiled plantain was pure yum. Experiencing Ghanaian hospitality through Auntie’s home-cooked meals were the best.

IMG: Banku and Fish Stew

Banku and Fish Stew

Banku is a staple Ghanaian dish.  However, it’s one of those dishes where “You can’t eat everyone’s banku.”  It’s a skill to prepare it, and I now realize it’s also a skill to eat it.  Banku is made from fermented corn and/or cassava into a ball of doughy like consistency. You eat it with your hands with fish or stew.  I had banku a few times while in Ghana, and I definitely haven’t conquered the skill of eating it.

Grilled Tilapia

It seems tilapia is pretty ubiquitous around coastal areas of Ghana.  Unlike those small tilapia fillets, you see in the USA.  The Ghanaian tilapia requires an entire plate by itself. Large, wild, whole fish are perfectly grilled and well-seasoned. It is usually served with banku. However, I usually feasted with a side of jollof rice or plantains.  Accra definitely made being a pescatarian easy.

IMG: Jollof Rice. Charles Haynes. Creative Commons. Flickr

Jollof Rice

By now I think everyone has heard of the “Jollof Wars” of West African nations. From Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal to Ghana… jollof has been a fun hot topic that unites and divides at the same time.  I’m no expert on Jollof, but I definitely enjoyed Ghanaian Jollof.  Jollof is a one-pot rice dish, stewed with goodness. It is rice full of spices, stewed with tomatoes with the addition of different meats as you like.  It is definitely a comfort food.  

Kelewele

Fried sweet plantains sprinkled with spices.  It is savory and spicy yet sweet and a perfect snack.  Kelewele can be a street food or a bar food snack.  Have a cold crisp Club Beer with it.

IMG: Courtesy of Buka Restaurant. All rights reserved.

Accra Restaurants to Try Local Food

Buka Restaurant

I went to Buka a few times while in Accra. Buka has a great ambiance, occasional live music, popular with local business persons or tourist visiting for tasty local food.  Every day is usually a different menu special which makes for fast service.  However, the full menu is also available, just be mindful some dishes may take a while to prepare.  The grilled tilapia and jollof rice here were my favorite dishes at Buka.  Be sure to try Ghanaian Palm Wine in a calabash bowl with your meal.

Chez Clarisse

On the way to Chez Clarisse, I thought the Uber driver was confused. You drive down a gravel dirt road to get to the restaurant. It’s a cozy local spot with a variety of local dishes. You really can’t go wrong with the dishes here.  They have lots of local fare. The grilled fish here gave Buka Restaurant a run for their money.

Country Kitchen

Country kitchen is a large airy, spacious restaurant with an old-school family feel.  Good hearty local meals like beans and stews.  Try the Red Red beans for a more local fare. It’s like black-eyed peas stewed with palm oil. The beans here were on point.

IMG: Tawala Beach Restaurant

La Tawala

I really enjoyed this spot on the beach.  A large open air and breezy restaurant and bar with island vibes and good music. Have a cold local Club Beer with whole fried fish while listening to the ocean waves and music. Gratitude and good vibes abound here.

Jamrock Restaurant & Grill

If you want to change it up a bit.  Try Jamrock, in East Legon area of Accra. Owned by a Jamaican and Ghanaian couple, it only makes sense to bring Jamaican food and irie vibes to Accra.  You can enjoy Jamaican food and Ghanaian food here, all while listening to Afrobeats, HipLyfe, and Reggae. Check out DJ Makqash on the weekends.  Jamrock is definitely a vibe.

In the end, what I came to realize about Ghanaian food, was that I love anything with fish, plantains and palm oil.  I loved it all… the grilled fish, the stews, and the beans. Comfort food is the perfect welcome food for a culture known for its hospitality!

 

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