Why are Ghanaian snacks so hard to find?

Friedyam Ghanaian Food A Ghanaian snack, fried yam with shito

Thu, 5 May 2022 Source: Nico van Staalduinen

Why Are Real Ghanaian Snacks Hard To Find, don't they exist, or do we just ignore their existence because it's not "high class" enough?

I love my local food, especially local street food, I love snacks and always try any local and other food I have never seen or tried before.

For someone like me, who grew up helping my father in a hotel/restaurant, who worked in several great restaurants in Europe, and studied hotel management, it was already hard to find food I never tried before.

So when I started travelling around the world for almost two decades as a trader and importer of exotic (but legal) meat, my plate was extended with many hardly known dishes and rarely found foodstuffs in particular meat of different animals, seafood, insects, etc.

As a kid, I got in contact with friends and neighbors, and their food from Indonesia, China, Italy, Turkey, Morocco, Suriname, Spain, etc. So I was, at a young age already exposed to many cuisines.

Another great find was Ghanaian food when I met my wife and started coming regularly to Ghana and Togo with her. I always loved spicy food so all Ghanaian food was very accessible to me.

When my wife, who is a fantastic cook, opened her Ghanaian restaurant in Amsterdam in 1993, I spent a lot of time with her in the kitchen and was able to extend my taste and knowledge about Ghanaian food.

But when I had to help my wife to create a menu for her restaurant we had a problem. In general, Ghanaians are not used to eating starters and deserts, whilst Europeans visiting a restaurant are used to ordering a starter and often take a dessert. So we had to create some Ghanaian starters.

During the last decade, I visited many events, cocktails, receptions, etc in different local and international capacities. But I always noticed one thing: the lack of local snacks at these events.

Post Covid-19, diplomatic cocktails and national day celebrations are back on the agenda just like local events.

Every Embassy and International organization wants to showcase some of their local food and add the most common but not so Ghanaian spring rolls and samosas.

I can see the Dutch people enjoying their “bitterbal” and Herring and the South Africans their “boerewors”, and our local Ghanaians are eating them.

But listening to most of my Ghanaian friends hardly anybody really enjoys them. I am a Ghanaian of Dutch descent and I enjoy the raw Dutch Herrings, I eat a spring roll when it's passing by, I love our local peanuts, I never touch the raw celery and carrots, and hardly see any of my countrymen and women touching it, that's obviously too foreign for us.

I am a promoter of Local Food and ask myself; Why are there no real tasteful local snacks served?

As I wrote earlier, we don’t have a culture of eating starters, and starters are a great basis to create snacks. So why not serve them as snacks?.

Let me start to give the most obvious examples followed by some more creative ones.

Mini khebabs – Chicken or Beef khebab served with our spices

Snail Khebab – cocktail stick (toothpick) served with its stew and green pepper

Octopus Khebab – garlic marinated served with shito

Beef Paprika/Green pepper khebab – steamed beef, fried with paprika, served with stew

Kose – slightly saltier than your morning koose is a great snack

Tatale - be careful it can be slightly fatty but it’s a great snack

Wagashi – served with khebab spices is a great snack

Grilled plantain – served with spicy peanut butter sauce

Avocado/smoked fish/ Shito – served on a slice of tea bread.

Kenkey balls – mini kenkey balls stuffed with fried fish and shito paste

Stuffed eggs – half egg stuffed with a paste of yoke onion and green pepper

Chicken wings – fried in palm oil served with dry pepper

Domedo – grilled and served with dried pepper

Tubaani – served with onion and gravy and pepper

Kelewele – served with peanuts or peanut sauce

Fried Yam – served with shito

Ghana has such a wide range and variety of food that we can prepare almost anything we want with a little creativity.

Do you know that it's quite easy to create snacks based upon our favorite Waakye and Jolof in snack form?

My wife and I “invented" Kenkey Balls. And it's so simple we can all do it:

Buy readymade kenkey and separate it into small pieces. Fry your fish and mush it in your blender with shito. Hold a piece of kenkey in your hand palm and put the pepper/fried fish paste in it, close it well so you don’t see the paste, and roll it into a small ball.

Roll the ball through egg white and after that in bread crumbs. Fry it in hot oil until it's nice light brown and serve with a cocktail stick.

My local guacamole is even more simple: clean a piece of ginger and 2 cloves of garlic. Clean a not too dry smoked mackerel, make sure there are no bone pieces left. Clean 2 avocados, and put them all in your blender. Add some salt, green pepper, and onion, and add your smoked fish. Mush it until you have a nice smooth paste and serve it on warm tea bread slices.

The secret of a snack is simple: Any food that is easy to eat in one or two bites and is tasteful is in principle a snack. Some of our local products are ideal snacks and on some others, we just need to be more creative.

Let's see if next time I visit a cocktail, reception, or other events you and I can enjoy more local snacks instead of just foreign and too common snacks.

My question goes to MFA, all governmental institutions, and the Government, don't you think we should promote our local Ghanaian food just as much as our investment climate, tourism, export possibilities, etc?

And remember all Ghanaian snacks are best served with our Ghanaian beer, palm wine, and our national drink Akpeteshi or local cocktails made of it.

Let's make Ghana proud.

Columnist: Nico van Staalduinen