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Another school break… another set of travels.  I had three weeks off between quarters at school and was fortunate enough to spend the first week on the annual Kellogg ski trip in Breckenridge and the bulk of the last two weeks in… Accra, Ghana!  Given that the weather in the Midwest is so crappy, I would love to be back in Ghana! (and also because Ghana is awesome).

I was beyond excited to visit Ghana.  I had never been to Africa before, so that was huge.  Plus, being Jamaican, I’ve always had close connections to many Ghanaians as there are a lot of connections between the two cultures.  Finally I was excited for the food!  Before coming to Kellogg I had never had Ghanaian food, but thanks to my friends here, I’ve been fortunate enough to try it a few times.  Usually from Grace’s African Restaurant and enjoyed it every time.  Needless to say, I was excited to visit Ghana and learn a lot more about Ghanaian food.

In total there was a group of about 15 of us Kellogg (and Kellogg-affiliated) folks in Ghana for various reasons during the break.  It was a good mix of some of my besties, some people I didn’t know at all and some in the middle.  Hanging with friends was great as we were able to do a lot of exploring and get a good sense of the nightlife in Accra (which is great, btw).  I stayed with the family of a good friend and that provided some good balance.  Since they are from Ghana we took some day trips that I wouldn’t have been able to take otherwise.  It was a really great way to experience Ghana for my first time.

But, on to the foods…

red-red bean stew fro, jofel in kumasiI quickly learned that when in Ghana, starch is king.  Seriously, I’ve probably never consumed so many starches in my life all at once… and I loved it!  We’re talking beans, plantains, fermented corn, yams, cassava, rice on rice on rice… if it’s starch, it’s happening.  Seriously, the carb monger in me was so happy… although upon leaving Ghana I was craving vegetables desperately.  One of my favourite starchy dishes is what is known as “red-red”.  Red-red is basically a black-eyed pea stew served with plantains and a meat.  It’s called red-red because of the colouring the beans get from the plam oil and because of the orange colour of the plantains.

okra stew from jofel restaurant in kumasi, ghanaPerhaps one of the few times that I consumed a vegetable was in okra stew.  Okra stew is maybe just maybe my favourite Ghanaian dish.   It’s a flavourful tomato-based stew that is spicy and filled with okra.  Basically what we know as gumbo is pretty much an adaptation of okra stew.  Honestly, it was pretty trippy to really understand the impact of slavery from a culinary perspective.  While I’ve obviously grown up learning a TON about slavery it was really interesting to draw such close paralells between cultures.  Oh the power of food. Okra stew is served with a hunk of banku for using as both a utensil and to help fill your belly.  Banku is fermented corn and cassava dough.  You rip hunks of it off, put a dent in it with your thumb and use it to scoop up some stew and eat the whole thing.  It’s similar but different from fufu (which I also had and enjoyed) and also kenkey (which I didn’t try). My first taste of okra stew was at Jofel restaurant in Kumasi.  Love.

grilled tilapia and banku from bojo beach in ghana

Growing up eating a whole fish was a bit of a luxury.  It definitely wasn’t an everyday affair and would occasionally happen on Sundays.  Since it was a rare occurrence I’d always love when we’d have whole, fried red snappers for dinner (but only if my mom took out ALL the bones for me).  In Ghana, however, whole fish is standard fare.  I pretty much had a whole fish every single day while in Ghana with maybe the exception of two days or something.  The most popular type of fish there is tilapia which I don’t particularly like in the U.S. but found it a bit more enjoyable in Ghana.  Here I had a whole fish served with banku while at the beach one day.  Also, beach food in Ghana = great. And that stuff in the red cup? Shito.  Best accompaniment ever.  It’s a peppery sauce made with dried seafood for some brininess.  I need to get some stat.

chicken and rice from papaye in Osu in Accra, Ghana

Rice is also a huge deal in Ghana.  For some reason the only photo I have of rice is from my meal at the popular fast casual spot called Papaye in Osu.  Papaye is known for their chicken which you get broasted and covered with sauce.  On the side you can get fries or, as I chose, the fried rice.  The meal was huge, inexpensive and delicious.  I was stuffed at lunch and finished the other half for my dinner.  Crazy.  Other rice dishes include Waakye which is basically like Jamaican rice and peas, and Jollof which is rice that is red from tomatoes and seasoned.  Both are delicious.  Interestingly enough Waakye is served for breakfast.  On our way to Kumasi I ordered Waakye for breakfast and it came with a whole fish.  It was A LOT for breakfast.

fresh coconuts in ghanaOne of my favourite things about being somewhere tropical is the abundance of coconuts.  Seriously, drinking coconut water right out of a freshly picked coconut is pretty much one of my favourite things ever.

ghana beers - club, star and stoneGhanaians also seem to love beer.  I drank a lot of beer on this trip with meals and it was great.  My preference leaned towards Star beer but I’d also happily drink a Club anytime.  Another favourite discovery is beer made out of cassava.  This stuff (Ruut Extra) was pretty darned good.

fresh papaya in ghanaInterestingly enough, dessert isn’t really a thing in Ghana.  Most places that I went to didn’t have a dessert menu.  To get my sweet fix there was always the option of having fruit later on.  Like this super ripe papaya served with a squeeze of lime.

I pretty much loved ALL of the food that I had in Ghana.  Although one time I had goat and it was way gamier than I’m used to.  I now have my sights set on making Ghanaian food at home so that I can have jollof, waakye and red-red whenever I want.  I should also give a shout out to Buka restaurant in Osu.  Went there twice and really enjoyed it!

I will definitely be visiting Accra again at some point in the future.

ghana at sunset

 

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