Expat Magazine

A Starchy Post - the Mighty Yam and Others

By Holli
I’ve been hiding away in shame for forgetting JOLLOF as one of Ghana’s staples. Jollof is Ghana’s paella, and it is one of the country’s all time favorite dishes – cross tribe and age – Ghanaians love jollof. And who could blame them really.
A guy here once told me “Without rice, no life” – and rice that’s cooked in a savoury tomato/garlic/ginger/onion/pepper stew, that soaks up all the yummy flavours – even more full of life!
So here it is – this has been my tribute to the mighty omnipotent jollof.
A Starchy Post - the mighty yam and others
Yams (not the same as what North Americans eat on Thanksgiving (thanks Alex)). Another staple. Yams are definitely not in short supply in Ghana.
A Starchy Post - the mighty yam and others
A Starchy Post - the mighty yam and others
Yams look like big brown, dry, dusty logs. But they are soon peeled of the rough exterior and a bright white, pure starch emerges – ready for moulding by the cook!
The yam serves the place of the potato and can be fried, mashed, grilled, baked – you name it. Without stew or a drink though, it can be a dry affair. Ahem…
Not much flavour, yam is all about accompaniment and sustenance. Read: It Fills You Up.
Here is some boiled yam with palaver sauce. Interestingly, the word palaver comes from Portugese - and they were the first colonialists to reach the shores of Ghana in the 1400's. The meaning of the word is tedious work, or argument. You gotta wonder how this spinach type stew with dried, pounded pumpkin seeds lends itself to the name? :)
A Starchy Post - the mighty yam and others
Below is a rather nouveau-cuisine representation of yam fries - they are great with the fresh grounded hot red pepper mixture (also has onions and tomatoes). They are also great with ketchup, but then that's just so north American!
A Starchy Post - the mighty yam and others
Fried yam - typically cut in larger chunks than the yam fries, goes as a great accompaniment with everything really - but is shown here with my favorite - tilapia!
A Starchy Post - the mighty yam and others
So, speaking of food that fills you up - every Ghanaian on a budget or in a rush knows about 'kofi broke man', the affectionate name for an amazing Ghanaian snack combination. Ladies can be spotted around the country, with an open fire pot, grilling plantains - turning them slowly to equally brown each side. At the side of her table will be little clear baggies, twisted off, with small portions of peanuts (or groundnuts as they are called in Ghana).
Usually she has torn pieces of old newspaper that serve as the 'plate', and all is packed into a small black plastic bag, called a 'rubbah'. It's a standard ritual throughout the day - from lunch to the afterwork munchies - like the Mars bar of the nation - this snack fills you up for under one Ghana cedi!
And the really great thing about it, is when your colleagues are chomping away at their desks, having indulged in a rushed lunch take out of kofi broke man, the aroma of the two things chewed together is like freshly baked cake. MMMM
A Starchy Post - the mighty yam and others
I haven't forgotten completely about all the Ghanaian porridges - and there are many - whose sellers shout as they walk through residential neighborhoods from 6am "Eko egbeemi!!!" at the top of their lungs... and the children run out into the streets with their coins, for a hot steaming clear plastic bag filled up with the thick beige slop. Ok, that didn't make it sound appetizing at all.
In truth, on the breakfast front, there are porridges for everyone's taste. My favorite is Tom Brown (Who knows how it got that name!) - but it's signature flavor is peanut powder... There is Kooko from the Hausa tribe in the north, with a kick of pepper and some seriously aromatic flavours.
Kooko is prepared from corn or millet flour and eaten with koose (fried bean balls). Here's a generous helping:
A Starchy Post - the mighty yam and others
There are other great filling foods - either to be eaten at breakfast, lunch or snacking with beers - like tatale (delicious fritters) with boiled bambara beans (aboboe) as in the photo below:
A Starchy Post - the mighty yam and others
And last but not least for snacks that I've left out til now - guinea fowl on the grill. I have some very fond memories of sitting under the ink black sky in Tamale, at Bafana Banyana spot, chatting with friends, cold Club beer (the big one!) in hand and chewing on some tender, spiced guinea fowl from the grill, cut up in bite size pieces on a tray for all to share.
A Starchy Post - the mighty yam and others
To all - some akrakro (ripe plantain mashed with spices and corn flour and deep fried), and Club to start the weekend off right!
A Starchy Post - the mighty yam and others
Cheers all! Ayekoo....

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