July 22 2014 - Cuisine in Ghana

One reason Tomato Jos is based in West Africa is that people in this region eat a LOT of tomatoes. Many popular dishes cite tomato as a main ingredient, and tomato paste is often used alongside, or even instead of, fresh tomatoes.  Tomato paste is popular because it is available all year long and much less expensive than out-of-season tomatoes. Good quality tomato paste also adds a rich texture, a sweet taste and a vibrant red color to the dish.

Thinking back on our first two weeks in Ghana, it is a genuine struggle to remember a single evening meal that did not have some tomato product added to it. One dish that stands out as a favorite is light soup with fufu. This meal has some rituals that are worth sharing - but first a bit about what fufu is.

For the uninitiated, fufu is typically made from a combination of boiled cassava, plantains and yams, which is pounded using a giant, wooden mortar and pestle until all the glutens are released and it reaches a doughy consistency. Once the mixture is completely smooth, it is shaped it into smaller balls and served up in a bowl with soup and meat. Fufu to Ghanaians is like tea to the British, pasta to Italians, or potatoes to the Irish. It forms a vital role in local cuisine and accompanies many dishes.

In our case, the fufu was served with goat and “light soup,” which is made from tomato paste (though when asked directly, no self-respecting Ghanaian cook will tell you that paste is the main ingredient) and pepper sauce.

As is customary in many African countries, the proper etiquette calls for eating with your right hand. So before eating, two bowls of water are placed in front of you with liquid hand soap. One bowl is used to wash your hand before dinner, and the other bowl used to wash your hand once you’ve finished.  The act of using only one hand to wash itself is truly a marvel to behold.

After washing, your next job is to tackle the fufu. To do so, first break off a small piece of the fufu and roll it into a small ball. Keeping it in you fingers, close your fingers together to form a scoop.  Now collect some of the soup into your makeshift “spoon,” and then place this mix in your mouth. One last thing: you should never chew fufu! It is meant to be swallowed whole, and in fact, it is often referred to as “swallow” rather than as fufu. Congratulations - you are now eating delicious fufu!