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Diasporian News of Thursday, 12 October 2006

Source: Jamacan Observer

A taste of GHANA In Jamaica

"We eat to be full," says Tim Dzamboe, an editor at The Daily Graphic, pulling the spicy, rubbery, chicken gizzards off the wooden, kebab stick with his teeth. Gizzards seem to be to Ghanaians what the hot dog is to New Yorkers; sold on every corner from small, wooden cases with a glass front, balanced atop the head of skilful men and women.

But all around, the air is rife with smoky, fiery aromas, as the streets are lined with street-stalls offering up their daily delicacies. Picture Faith's Pen, complete with Reggae music blasting from towering speaker boxes - Ghanaians love Reggae - but instead of jerk pork, the words akpele, fufu, abolo litter hand-painted signs above chop bars (roughly constructed wooden sheds where women dole out mammoth portions of rice, yam, and meat on uneven, wooden tables). It is here on the street where the combinations of maize, yam, cassava, plantain, having been boiled, pounded, fried and injected with spice, are offered up to willing, adventurous eaters. It is here on the street, where a visitor to Ghana will get a taste of true, authentic Ghanaian flavours.

Ghanaian food varies from region to region, for example, those towns along the coast or the Volta River, will have a diet rich in fish and seafood, while those further in land will depend on different meats for their protein. But like most African countries, their diet is heavy with starches like rice, cassava, and yam, eaten with stews, soups or heavy sauces. One such sauce, palaver sauce - reminiscent of mackerel rundown - is a combination of fish, yam leaves and tomatoes cooked down. One thing you will find across the country is fufu (yam, or a mixture of cassava and plantain, which is pounded until it takes on a dough-like consistency).

Fufu is usually eaten with a light soup of chicken, or goat, sometimes with okra or eggplant. Although eating fufu offers an incredibly unique culinary experience (imagine eating raw dough with your hands), the spices in the light soup are reminiscent of Jamaican cooking. Kpakposhito (similar to the Scotch bonnet pepper) floats on top of the soup, as the essence of ginger, garlic, onions, tomatoes, and thyme emanate from the soul-warming soup. It takes time too, like many Jamaican dishes, with meats cooked slowly over a few hours until they are soft and tender, bursting with taste.

While most people do not visit Ghana for the food, it would be a mistake not to taste Ghana as well as hear and see it. From jollof rice (red, spicy rice) to red red (fried plantain served with a mixture of black-eyed peas and tomato) it is sturdy food that will fill you up, and leave you with the subtle remnants of spice, aroma and tradition.