Ghanaian Local Foods: Rices & Doughs

Plain and simple, Ghanaians love carbs. They are the main component in a local diet, and I have yet to have a single meal that doesn't feature them.

This list will be updated as I discover more foods to add.

Rice Dishes:


[easyreview title="Plain Plain Rice with Stew" cat1title="Taste" cat1detail="Ghanaian stew is made of tomatoes, tomato paste, and onions. Although at first I saw this dish as boring, I now see the simplicity as refreshing and I enjoy it – despite eating it nearly every day. When made with local brown rice, it is fantastic – the brown rice has a rich, earthy taste." cat1rating="3" cat2title="Texture" cat2detail="Ghanaian white rice has a similar texture and taste to that of white rice in the U.S., but the local brown rice is 'something else'. It is plumper and more moist than brown rice in America, and is absolutely delicious. Beware: if the rice is not washed carefully by the cook, you'll end up eating stones with your rice." cat2rating="3" cat3title="Overall Appeal" cat3detail="Rice with stew is the perfect 'go-to' dish. It's decent when eaten with white rice, but with brown rice it is refreshingly delicious. Top it off with a nice piece of wagashi* (see below) or fried plantains, and you have yourself a perfect lunch." cat3rating="3"]

Local brown rice with stew and wagashi* (deep-fried cheese)


[easyreview title="Jollof Rice – rice cooked in tomato stew" cat1title="Taste" cat1detail="The taste varies widely based on the chef. Some jollof tastes strongly of stew, while others have a mild taste of stew and a strong taste of smoked redfish. I see it as nothing special, but a decent meal nonetheless." cat1rating="2.5" cat2title="Texture" cat2detail="Similar to that of Spanish rice, but drier." cat2rating="2" cat3title="Overall Appeal" cat3detail="Jollof rice is a 'safety' – a food I can cheaply buy on the street, and know that I will leave satisfied. It's nothing spectacular." cat3rating="2.5"]

Jollof rice


[easyreview title="Waakye* (pronounced 'wahche')" cat1title="Taste" cat1detail="When making waakye, local brown rice and 'beans' (black-eyed peas) are cooked together to create a delicious combination that must be tasted to be truly appreciated. Local black-eyed peas taste  far superior to canned ones in America – and much more like dirt. That is – the most delicious dirt in the world. The mild flavor and earthiness make waakye one of the dishes that I can't wait to bring to the United States. Even though it's usually served with stew or shito (a black pepper/dried shrimp sauce), the subtle flavor cues of the rice and beans are enough for me. " cat1rating="2.5" cat2title="Texture" cat2detail="The whole is greater than the sum of its parts – when properly prepared, the plumpness of the rice combined with the 'melt in your mouth' beans is stunning to behold. But be careful when ordering; if not washed properly, the stones and dirt overwhelm the dish." cat2rating="4" cat3title="Overall Appeal" cat3detail="My favorite of the rice dishes, waakye is nothing short of spectacular. When the dish is properly prepared, the local Ghanaian ingredients elevate the dish to the highest of highs." cat3rating="4"]

Waakye with fried plantains: This photo does not do it justice.

Waakye wrapped in ganye


The Doughs:

[easyreview title="Tuo Zafi* (dough made of powdered corn or cassava/semovita flour)" cat1title="Taste" cat1detail="The dough is very bland – the flavor comes from being dipped into soups and stews. This is the only non-fermented dough eaten in Ghana that I know of, and is nice because of how plain it is. When made of corn it tastes like unsalted grits." cat1rating="3" cat2title="Texture" cat2detail="When very fresh, tuo zafi is either soft and spongy, or smooth and doughy. Though the texture varies widely, tuo zafi is always enjoyable. " cat2rating="2" cat3title="Overall Appeal" cat3detail="Tuo zafi is likely my favorite type of dough, primarily because it is paired with great soups and doesn't have the sour 'fermented' taste.'" cat3rating="3"]

Fresh tuo zafi

[easyreview title="Banku (dough made of fermented corn powder)" cat1title="Taste" cat1detail="Despite being made of corn powder, I don't really taste the corn – only the fermentation. There's enough fermentation to taste it strongly, but not so much as to make the dough unbearable. When paired with a nice pepper sauce or some okra stew, it is enjoyable." cat1rating="2.5" cat2title="Texture" cat2detail="Banku is firmer than its counterparts, and seems to be more 'filling'.  " cat2rating="3" cat3title="Overall Appeal" cat3detail="While I prefer tuo zafi or riceballs, banku is 'by far' my favorite fermented dough. It's okay by itself, but fantastic when paired with freshly grilled tilapia.'" cat3rating="2.5"]

[easyreview title="Fufu (pounded cassava and unripe plantain)" cat1title="Taste" cat1detail="The unripe plantain overwhelms the cassava – making the fufu dough unpleasantly sour. Although many of my friends have grown to love it, my host family and I can't stand it." cat1rating=".5" cat2title="Texture" cat2detail="Locals say the 'trick to eating fufu is to swallow it whole rather than chew. While swallowing does make finishing a serving quicker, the overwhelming starchiness brings me to the point of gagging. " cat2rating="0" cat3title="Overall Appeal" cat3detail="If I was forced at gunpoint,to make the decision of eating fufu daily for the rest of my life or being shot, I would have a very difficult decision to make.

Hyperboles aside, fufu is a traditional Ghanaian food that is an acquired taste. It's just a matter of asking, 'Do I really want to eat enough fufu to start enjoying it?'" cat3rating=".5"]

My host-dad relieving some stress by pounding fufu.

A '*' signifies that this dish is primarily eaten in Muslim households.