A chronicle of Alison and Ron's trip around the world in 2009-2010.

"Not all those who wander are lost"
- Tolkien

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Ghanaian Street Food

We stopped on the street for some “popo” or papaya. The salmon crayola colored fruit was so juicy it dribbled down my chin leaving a sticky streak behind. Beneath the sweetness, lingered the unmistakable taste of the dirty hand that held the papaya while it was being cut. Ewwwww! I remember when I was leaving on this trip and telling people how we were going to travel for so long on so little. I would say things like, “We’ll eat street food” in a slightly smug way, like I had any vague idea what I was talking about. Did you know that street food is made by street people in the actual street?! I must have had wildly nostalgic thoughts of fair food, corn dog stands, falafel huts, taco trucks, and the like.

One night, as I ate a mound of fried rice cooked in overused oil out of a black grocery sack with my hand, I realized my naivete of the situation. In “the street”, there are no takeaway boxes or utensils for that matter. Chicken on a stick comes on a hand sharpened twig from the tree just over yonder, and then wrapped in a printout of some poor guy’s old bank statement. Huh?

A lot of the local food is made from cassava. Whatever that is, some sort of root vegetable I gather. There are a few variations, namely fufu which is mixed with plantain usually found floating in a nut soup. Banku which is mixed with cornmeal and served with various spicy sauces. And Kenkey which has a an awful sour taste and is cooked in a leaf. We had been in town four days and had not tried any local food so headed with our friend Mike to a chop bar (read roadside shack). Ron ordered fried yam with a spicy herb sauce. It was very good, and the safest menu choice besides rice.

I went for the banku which is eaten with your hands (or more accurately your right hand, the left hand is the naughty hand that is not meant to eat or greet with). It had a bland, doughy consistency and the texture of it did not delight my palate in the slightest. I smeared it in some spicy tomato paste which helped for awhile but I was only through half of the two fist sized balls before me when I looked over at one woman cooking over a rusted tire rim and another mixing maize in a bucket with her bare hands, all I could think over and over was "dirty hands". I immediately felt sick, the upchuck rising in my throat. Mike was worried, what’s wrong? I took a deep breath and snatched one of Ron’s yams, jamming it in my mouth to dispel the taste. No more banku for me, please.

Of course, we loved the fried foods: fried rice, fried chicken, fried yam, and our personal favorite: fried coconut. And for breakfast a yummy dish called “red-red” or fried plantains with spicy beans. If you “fry it up, I’ll take it”…at least 80 pesewas worth, thank you very much. Meda ase.


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