When people asked what I was most excited about when preparing for my semester abroad I replied with "dance, music, and food!"
In regards to food specifically, I was looking forward to spice, robust new flavors, and not eating at my college dining hall. Multiple of my friends from various West African countries hyped up the food and told me I had to try as many dishes as possible! I am now about a month into my semester and I have been able to experience a variety of Ghanaian foods as well as learn how to cook a few dishes.
"Typical" Ghanaian Food
During the month I've been here, I've learned that lot of Ghanaian meals consist of various combinations of stew and swallows with other options being jollof rice, fried rice, black eyed peas, chicken wings, fish, goat meat, and plantains all with different ways of preparation. Swallows are grains and/or starches finely ground and then pounded into a dough-like texture. Fufu (cassava and plantain) and Banku (maize and cassava) are what I've seen to be most common and they are meant to be dipped in stew and eaten with your hands. Tomatoes, onion, pepper, ginger, and palm oil seem to be foundational in many of the stews here as well as some indigenous fermented spices. I've also noticed a trend in a lot of spices and ingredients being fermented grains and nuts.
My Personal Experience With Ghanaian Food
To be honest, my experience with food here has been mostly limited to what is available on the university campus. The majority of my meals have come from either the Night Market or Bush Canteen, both of them are considered to be more like "fast food" rather than high-quality dishes. (There are pictures of both places in the gallery). The Ghanaian friends I've made here have been giving me suggestions on which foods to try and informing me what is in each dish. I'm very thankful for the friendly and accepting people I have met who let me ask a million questions about the culture and food! They also tell me I need to go off campus more to get the full impact of authentic Ghanaian food.
My Favorite Dishes So Far
- Jollof Rice: I was familiar with this dish before coming to Ghana and it also feels the most accessible, easy, and well-rounded. I usually get it with plantains and chicken and it's easy to get in a to-go container to eat between classes or bring back to my room or the CIEE center. It's spiced with tomatoes, onions, peppers, and seasonings.
- Gobe (Red-Red): We learned to make this dish as a group cultural experience. It is cooked black-eyed peas mixed with red palm oil, peppers, tomatoes, and onion and served with fried plantains. When I get it at the Bush Canteen I like to add avocado and sometimes a hard egg.
- Waakye (Pronounced wah-chay): Cooked black-eyed peas and rice often served with noodles, pepper sauce, fish sauce, salad, and chicken. It's considered to be a breakfast food.
As my semester continues I am looking forward to continuing exploring new foods during my time here and venturing off campus more to experience different restaurants as well as more "home-cooked" foods!
Disclaimer: I'm only sharing my personal experience with Ghanaian food so far and I am nowhere near an expert so if you want to learn more about the food there are many amazing articles and descriptions of the food online.