Pinned between Cote d’Ivoire, Togo and Burkina Faso, Ghanaian cuisine has evolved to reflect not only the country’s history but also its West African climate. Arrivals to capital Accra will quickly discover that the key staples are starchy – corn, cassava and plantain are favourites – which are then liberally seasoned with peppers and hot spices; these don’t just create the sensual spectrum of flavours that transform Ghana’s dishes, ranging from hot-and-spicy to savoury sweet appetisers, but have a practical purpose too, keeping the food from spoiling.
The Ghanaian menu has remained rooted in rice or tubers for centuries, often accompanied with precisely-seasoned soup or stews. There have been some additions: Rye bread, for example, was introduced by European gold miners in the 15th century, at the start of 500 years of colonisation before independence (from Britain) was achieved in 1957. Visitors will also find variants of West African dishes such as Jollof rice, the sensitive subject of one of food’s rowdiest debates, with a number of countries – especially Nigeria – furiously laying claim to make the best.
Ghanaian food holds families and communities together – shared mealtimes are lively, social affairs – while street vendors continue to be popular with locals, with pop-up shops found across the big cities; just follow the queues. If you’re looking to sit down, some world-class restaurants have sprung up, such as Azmeera in Accra, offering the best of Ghana as well as from across the continent. But if anyone offers you Jollof rice, diplomatically remember that the Ghanaian’s do it best.