Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Food in Ghana

In Ghana we had a little bit more flexibility in our eating than in Kenya and Tanzania. So we ate a little bit more like the locals, eating dishes from local food, but we were still eating at a level way above the average person. We were with my cousin and his wife, Russ and Shelley Cannon, who are serving as service missionaries for the LDS Church in Accra, Ghana. They took some time away from their duties and drove us in their car along the Gold Coast from Accra, all the way to Axim. We stayed three nights at the Coconut Grove Beach Resort outside Elmina, right on the coast. Coconut Grove had a nice little outdoor restaurant and we ate all of our meals there, except one. Breakfast was a buffet and came with the room. We ate off a menu in the evening. Service was very slow at our evening meals. It took an hour or an hour and a half from the time we ordered to the time our meals were served, but we had great company and the setting was incredible: we usually sat in a gazebo with the ocean just a stone throw away and the surf pounding on the beach. 

Russ and Shelley have stayed healthy by being very careful about what they eat. For example, they were warned by the church doctor not to eat fish because the local waters are polluted. Judy followed their example and avoided fish. I figured I was there for only a short time, that the fish would be fresh because we were right next to the ocean, and that there would likely not be any long term impacts. So I ordered fish whenever I had the chance.  

Our first evening Russ and I took a dip in the ocean. The water was very warm and  pleasant, but the surf was heavy. A lifeguard waved me in as I started to get out too far - there was a very strong current. For dinner I ordered a fish plate that included spiny lobster, prawns, shrimp, calamari and some sort of fish. The lobster and prawns were overcooked and dry, the calamari was rubbery and not very good, but the fish was quite nice.
Lobster, prawns, shrimp, calamari and fish. 
Some spiny lobsters we saw later at the fish market.
For breakfast the next morning I had a two egg omelette and two other dishes that were quite good. One was made with what looked like black-eyed peas, onions and kind of a curry sauce. It was quite flavorful. But the item I really loved was called "black fish," I believe. I wrote down that it was made with red snapper, onions and spicy and hot peppers. It was very moist, oily, a little fishy and quite spicy.
For dinner that night I got breaded and fried grouper with french fries and cold lobster smothered in mayonnaise with some lettuce and tomato. I liked the lobster much better cold and with the mayo and the fried grouper was great. Judy got a chicken dish in sauce with plantains and rice.
Fried grouper and french fries.
Lobster smothered in mayonnaise.
Plantains, rice and some sort of chicken dish.
For breakfast the next morning I got a couple of eggs over-easy, some of the black-eyed pea concoction and what seemed like a dried, salted and then fried whole fish, like perhaps some sort of perch. It was basically just chewing on salty, crunchy bones. This held no attraction whatsoever for those I was with. The real winner was a spicy red hot pepper sauce that went brilliantly with the eggs. I ended up specifically asking for it again the next morning. We also got some dark juice that looked sort of like grape juice, but I believe may have been made from hibiscus. I believe it was called royal bissap. It was not real sweet, but I enjoyed it.
Very interesting dried, salted and fried fish and hot red pepper sauce.
Royal bissap juice and fruite in a cup (watermelon and pineapple).
As in Kenya and Tanzania, there were not many places we could see while driving around that we would have been comfortable eating at. Cleanliness was always a concern. However, we did eat lunch at another place one afternoon - at another Coconut Grove facility, the Coconut Grove Bridge House in Elmina, very near Elmina Castle. We'd spent the morning touring the Castle and then hiking up a hill to Fort St. Jago. It was very warm and humid and hawkers were everywhere, pushing their wares. I remembered the Bridge House from Trip Advisor as a potential place to stay, so I figured it would be safe. It offered a respite from the crowds, the commotion and the stifling heat. We ate outside, but on a covered patio, and were able to gawk at the fishermen on their boats and people walking by. We were also entertained by a number of agama lizards roaming the patio and I caught one that wandered a little too close to our table to eat some crumbs that had been thrown its way. 
From Fort St. Jago looking down at Elmina Castle (the tall building in the middle back) and Coconut Grove Bridge House (the large square brown building that juts up in front of the Elmina Castle walls). 
Judy, Russ and Shelley on the patio at the Bridge House. 
A male agama lizard on the patio.
The captured agama lizard. I only held him a short time, but he gave us a wide berth afterwards. 
From the patio, looking at Elmina Castle and the fishing boats in between.
Breaded and fried grouper and yam fries.
Judy's chicken dish.
I had fried grouper, the best food I ate in Ghana. I also had a small salad with hard-boiled egg, cucumber, tomato and some lettuce. The grouper also came with yam fries - African yams, not American sweet potatoes that we call yams. I was intrigued to try yams as Captain Cannon, when taking slaves from the Nigerian coast to Jamaica took a huge quantity of yams that he fed to the slaves. The yams were a reasonable alternative to french fries. They were good with catsup. The others had fried chicken which looked like it was mixed with a concoction of black-eyed peas. Judy said it was mediocre. The service was slow, we waited over an hour for our food, but it was a nice respite from the stifling heat, the hawkers and the abject poverty.
After lunch we walked the open air market and saw these yams for sale. These would be similar to the yams that Captain Cannon would have taken on board his ship.
Yams. The yam fries were actually much better than I would have guessed they would be.
Our last morning in Ghana I got a couple of more eggs over-easy, with the wonderful spicy red pepper sauce on top, more of the black-eyed pea concoction and a couple of scones with butter and syrup. I was hoping for some more black-fish, but it was not available.


  1. I enjoyed the food in Ghana a lot--different enough from our usual fare so as to seem "Ghanaian," but with enough similarities that the culture shock wasn't too much. I'm sure what we had was somewhat adapted to the tastes of foreigners, but it wasn't like anything we've eaten before.

  2. Quite a variety of foods. I think the agama lizard is the most beautiful thing in this post (but I wouldn't want to eat him).

  3. Hello Bob,

    The Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA) has developed an educational program for visitors to the museum and for users of its website. ArtStories is an interpretive tool delivered through digital platforms. It was developed as a responsive design website, meaning it may be presented on iPads, tablets, mobile devices, laptops, and desktops. ArtStories is being formatted to provide teachers with an opportunity to learn more about objects and teach it to their students through expanded narratives, contextual materials, and the ability to zoom-in and see new angles.

    The Minneapolis Institute of Arts requests permission to feature the following image in ArtStories: "Some spiny lobsters we saw later at the fish market."

    If you have any further questions about the project, please let me know.

    Thank you,

    1. Hi Paige, feel free to use the picture. Bob