Glad you asked! Here’s the crash-course intro to delicious Ghanaian food that I have gotten over the past ten days. Dig in…
1. There will be banku!
On your table, you will see (pictured, left):
a) A ball of soft corn/cassava/yam dough of clay-like mush-ability.
b) A bowl of water with liquid soap so you can wash your hands.
To eat, do the following:
a) Raise your right hand (not your left because that’s rude and unclean!) and swizzle it in the water.
b) Pinch off a chunk of the white dough and smush it into an oval.
c) Dip the dough into the stew, and slurp it into your mouth!
d) Repeat, until dough and stew have been happily consumed.
“You really are undergoing trial by fire, here,” chuckled Dan when he took me to eat banku on my very first afternoon in Sogakope.
We were sitting at a table overlooking the Volta River and the wind was sprinting straight at us. The Cisneros riverbank restaurant is the coolest place in Sogakope, temperature-wise! As the waiter brought our food, the fat bottled water I ordered flew off the tray in a particularly forceful gust of wind.
The waiter shook his head as he placed the banku in front of me. “Beware the wind,” he boomed dramatically.
Um, yes. By the end of my hour attempt at eating, my fingers, arms, and bright blue shirt were coated with flame-orange strings of the chicken-okra stew. It was delicious, but it was also a total disaster. (See the “after” photo of the plates to the upper right!)
Needless to say, now I’ve just accepted that I’m a wimp and currently eat my banku by plopping the dough right into the stew bowl and eating it all with a spoon.
2. Some of Ghana’s food will remind you of the Caribbean and Brazil.
The other day I did an elated jig of joy when I saw lunch: fried sweet plantains, beans in tomato sauce, and yellow rice (pictured, right)!
Ahh, my inner Dominican was so happy! Frijoles! Platanos!
The African diaspora did a good thing in spreading its scrumptious cuisine across the ocean.
3. Cassava Yams are GIGANTIC.
“You have never seen a yam before?” Millicent asked.
“The yams I know don’t look like THAT!” I exclaimed in awe.
Millicent went on to explain that there are various different sizes of yams here, some sweet, and some starchy.
She tossed the white chunks of cassava into a boiling pot of water, and an hour later we were eating steaming white happiness with vegetable-fish stew!
4. Poofy yellow loaves of bread are everywhere in Sogakope.
Sogakope has a booming bread trade. The semi-circle humps of mud ovens dot the countryside, and bread workers burn sticks of wood inside until the temperature spikes, then pull the wood out and shove the bread in.
When everything is cooked, they slide the bread out and leave it to cool in piles. Then they ship it off on wheelbarrows to the various bread hawking meccas.
Want to buy this sweet, fluffy bread at any time of day or night? Head to the military checkpoint right before the Volta River bridge. The second your vehicle slows down to less than ten miles per hour, hordes of enthused youngsters will hurl themselves at your windows, sticking the wrapped loaves under your nose and trying to make a sale.
5. There is a Ghanaian chocolate spread like Nutella.
It is called: “Choco Delight”
Mmm… enough said.
It will be a tough task, but I promise to keep investigating worldwide food and bringing reports back to you. Please start a penny collection to fund my gym membership upon return.