The most important tip I can give you on Ghana  local food, and the only one that will make you elevate from being a tourist to becoming a real traveler immersed in the local culture, is “Stay away from McDonalds“. When visiting Ghana, there is awesome local food to try. Head to the local eateries too, and go where the locals go. For me, the food, wine and and even the water is part of the travel experience.

What to Eat in

Ghana foods photo

Photo by benketaro

Traditional food is fun to try and easy to enjoy. Fufu, the most widely served traditional dish, consists of pounded balls of yam, plantain, or cassava served with soup, and a side of goat meat or fish. Soups are typically made of groundnuts, palm nut, okra and other vegetables. “Light soup” is a tomato-based soup.

Banku is a fermented corn version of the dish typically eaten with grilled tilapia fish or okra soup. Omo tuo is a version made from pounded rice, although it is only served on Sundays in many restaurants. These dishes are eaten with your hand by dipping the dough into the soup, and you are given a bowl of water with dishsoap to wash before eating (note that Ghanaians eat only with their right hands). A delicious alternative to the starch-and-soup combination is red-red, a bean stew served with a side of fried plantains.

Rice dishes are also common, but not considered a “real” meal by many Ghanaians, males especially. Jollof rice is a dish as varied as its chef, but generally consists of white rice cooked with vegetables, meat pieces, spices in a tomato based sauce. Waakye (pronounced “WA-chay”) is a mix of beans and rice, typically served with gari, a powder of ground cassava. Often rice dishes are served with shredded lettuce, cucumber and tomatoes on the side with a dollop of Heinz salad cream or mayonnaise.

Plantains, yams, and sweet potatoes are prepared in various ways and serve as small snacks. Kelewele, a spiced fried plantain snack, is especially delicious. Fresh fruits such as pineapple, mango, papaya, coconut, oranges, and bananas are delightful when in season and come when applicable by the bag for as little as 10 pesawas. A great African meal in a restaurant can cost as little as GH?3.00 to GH?7.00. For instance, a lobster and shrimp dinner can cost a mere GH?6. Many of the above dishes can also be found very cheaply at “chop stands” and from street vendors (as little as GH?1.50 to GH?2.50), although short-term travelers who are wary about possible contamination may prefer to eat at restaurants. There are also a number of Western and Chinese style restaurants available especially in Osu, a trendy suburb of Accra.

What to Drink in Ghana

Drinking water from the tap is not generally considered to be safe, so choices include plastic bottled water (eg. Voltic, 1.5 liter, appx. GH?1.00), boiled or filtered tap water, and “pure water” sachets.

These sachets are filtered and come in 500 ml. portions. At least one study has suggested bottled water to be the safest choice. Although “pure water” sachets are more easily accessible and very cheaper (10 pesawas each), 2.3% of sachets tested were found to contain fecal bacteria. If you want to play it safe, stick with carbonated beverages or bottled water. In Accra’s expat visited bars, a beer will usually cost between GH?4.00 and GH?8.00. Fruit juices GH?1.50, water GH?1.00 to GH?1.50.

Star and Club are two of the more popular beers served. For a more interesting and rewarding experience, visit a “spot,” a bar signified by the blue and white stripes on the outside of the building. These spots are prevalent in every city and even smaller towns. They are cheaper (beer often between GH?2.00 and GH?4.00) and you will undoubtedly be able to meet some local Ghanaians as well as hear the newest hip-life songs. Soft drinks such as Coke, Fanta, 7UP (called “minerals” by locals) are widely available for GH?0.80.

Be aware that the bottles that minerals or beer is served to you in are owned by the bottling company-if you do not return it to the seller, they stand to lose GH?0.50 — more than you most likely paid for the drink. If you are not going to consume the drink at the “spot” or at the roadside stand, make sure you let the seller know. Often, you will be asked for a deposit which will be returned upon the return of the bottle. Palm wine is a drink common in various parts of Africa, and is made from the sap of palm trees. It is best if you can find it somewhere where it has been freshly tapped.

Other local foods, or drinks that you recommend? Please add and comment.