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Eat Ghana- Celebrating Ghanaian Foods


Hi folks! Happy new month! I love that the month of March has been dubbed Ghana Month in celebration of our 61st independence anniversary. So in line with the “Eat Ghana” campaign, today’s post is about a very common food in Ghana which is an august member of the association of Ghanaian street foods. Trust me there’s no corner in Ghana where you won’t find this food. It is loved by many, though originally associated with people living along the coast of Ghana. I am reliably informed that it is best enjoyed when eaten with a group of people. The usual suspects that come with this meal are fresh ground pepper, shitor (black pepper sauce), assorted fried fish and other sea food, fried egg, avocado, etc. (drooling yet?). Ladies and gentlemen, let’s give it up for almighty KENKEY!! Big shout outs to my fellow kenkey-lovers :).

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Kenkey is a meal prepared from fermented corn which is steamed and wrapped in corn husks. It is the traditional meal of the Ga community in Ghana and it is said that until a Ga man has eaten kenkey, he hasn’t eaten at all. There’s also the Fante kenkey which is prepared similarly to the Ga kenkey but without salt and wrapped in plantain leaves instead of corn husks.

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It’s quite a heavy meal and used to be a breakfast option for people of lower socio-economic class because it could last them till supper time. These days, kenkey is eaten by all, regardless of their socio-economic class. It’s therefore not a rare occurrence to find corporate people in suits, waiting in long queues at their favourite kenkey joint. Kenkey can also be enjoyed with soups and stews or in a mashed form with sugar, milk and/or groundnuts.

The Ga word for kenkey was originally known as otim but is now called kormi. The Akans also call it dorkono.

There are 3 theories for the origin of the Ga word kormi. It is believed that kenkey used to be prepared very hard so that fishermen who ate it did not go hungry quickly when at sea. Because of its hardness the kenkey had to be bitten and swallowed. In Ga kor ni omi means bite and swallow and so over time it was shortened kormi and hence the new name.

The 2nd theory is that corn used for kenkey used to be ground between two stone mills until the British governor of the then Gold Coast (now Ghana), Sir Gordon Guggisberg, introduced a corn mill machine to grind the corn. So now with 2 ways of milling the corn, some locals when buying kenkey preferred to know which method was used in grinding the maize…i.e. stone mill or corn mill. The pronunciation of corn mill became adulterated to kormi, referring to kenkey from the corn mill.

The 3rd is that the British colonial masters described kenkey as corn meal since corn was the main ingredient in its preparation and that also became adulterated to kormi.

How is it prepared?

Kenkey takes a number of days to be ready. Below are the steps:

The maize grains are soaked in water for three days and allowed to soften.
They are then washed in fresh water and sent to the corn mill to be ground and made into dough.
The milled corn is soaked in water for about 3 days so as to ferment. This is what gives the kenkey it’s unique sour taste and smell.
After soaking, the dough is kneaded until it becomes slightly stiff. The dough is split into 2 halves.
Water and salt are added to half of the fermented dough and cooked for about 45 minutes. This mixture is called aflata.
The aflata is then thoroughly mixed with the remaining uncooked dough. For the kenkey to have the right soft texture and consistency a.k.a. ‘well-behaved’ kenkey, a lot of corn dough needs to be added. This is the step where some “cheat” and add cassava dough to achieve the desired texture and softness.
The mixture is then moulded into balls, wrapped firmly in corn husks and boiled between one to three hours, depending on the size and thickness of the wrapped dough.

Aflata being prepared Source:

Nutritional info

Since kenkey is made primarily from maize it serves as a good source of energy. A ball of kenkey (about 400g) provides about 550 calories (Source: Ghana Food Tables). This is equivalent to skipping for 42 minutes. Yeah.

Kenkey is also a good source of fibre (refer to fibre post) which helps one feel full and also prevent constipation. It contains minerals such as phosphorus which helps to maintain normal growth, kidney function and bone health, and magnesium which aids in regulating the heart rate.

Fermented foods such as kenkey are rich in probiotic bacteria (‘good’ bacteria) so by consuming kenkey you are gaining beneficial bacteria and enzymes which will improve the health of your digestive system and enhance your immune system.

The water residue after boiling the kenkey also known as otimshinu in Ga (literaly translated as kenkey under water :0) is used in the treatment of jaundice and helps to flush out toxins from the liver.

Kenkey is however low in protein and fats.

So with this knowledge, I hope you’ll appreciate your next meal of kenkey much. Tell us any other things you know about this historic Ghanaian meal. This month try and eat as many local dishes as possible, especially those you’ve never had before. Don’t forget to share pictures of your local dishes with us on Instagram with the hashtags #eatghana #knowyourchow.

Have a great week and Happy Independence Day in advance!

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