Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Ghanaian Breakfast

Because I've never lived in the UK, and my only visit there was to see a Ghanaian who did not feed me the english breakfast in the mornings, I wasn't quite sure what is meant by the term english breakfast. So yesterday I googled it. Here's what I found:

Once I'd started googling, I followed that by googling "american breakfast". The photos that came up confirmed the idea I had of it from my college days when we were fed pancakes, scrambled eggs, french toast, hash browns, waffles, toast, fruit salads, etc for breakfast. The photos are below:

So guess what I did next? Yup, you guessed right. I googled "ghanaian breakfast" and found Oto with eggs, and a cut tuber of yam as shown in the picture below. For real?! Which dadaba ( a kid with a rich father; rich fathers are dadas) or egyaba (kid with poor father; poor fathers are egyas) eats ɛtɔ for breakfast? Shiee!

So I asked myself, well, what does a traditional Ghanaian breakfast look like? Hmm. What did I expect? Milo and sugar bread with blue band margarine spread on it? Hausa kooko and koose? Auntie Azumi's waakye that the masons used to eat in the mornings? They used to call it "concrete" or Daavi's yor ke gari that I would sometimes buy when I was in kindergarten way back in the day at Aboso in the late 80s, or Nkyekyerewa?

Aboa bɛn so ne Nkyekyerewa (tr: What kind of animal is Nkyekyerewa you ask?) Hmm, some animal I bought in traffic this morning so I could write about one traditional Ghanaian food that can be had for breakfast. I had it for the first time a couple of weeks ago, when out of curiousity I bought the suspicious-looking food wrapped in leaves. Just the fact that its main wrapping is biodegradable is enough reason to buy it.

The seller put it in a plastic bag and gave it to me. See photo

When the plastic holder is removed, you see the Nyekyerewa in all its glory
Then I took off the string and the leaf covering to reveal the boiled and compressed corn and boiled groundnuts (peanuts).

Next I took off everything to reveal the part that's meant to be eaten

Then breakfast begun:)
And ended
There you go. That's a Ghanaian breakfast! How does it taste? Just like corn on a cob, except without the cob. It was warm, and it tasted great to me. If I had my own way, I'd have more groundnuts on it than mine came with but for how little it cost (30 pesewas), what is there to complain about? It was very filling and very tasty. I wonder if it would "go square" (tr: taste great) with a piece of dried kube (coconut), just like boiled corn usually "jɔms" (tr:tastes great) with kube. So maybe it was a bit too high on carbs, and a little too low on the protein, but hey, who is complaining?

What do you typically have in your homes for breakfast? My mother makes a roasted corn+roasted groundnuts+roasted beans mix which she mills into a flour, then mixes with water and boils to make a kooko (tr: someone shd please supply the english name for kooko...broth?) It's brown, much like what people call "Tom Brown" (where did the name tom brown come from?) but she calls it "weanimix". We would eat it with milk (yes, ideal milk, which i found out this morning has no cow milk in it at all...have you read the label?). Weanimix +milk+butter bread (also known as ɛnkɔdaa wɔ fie*) + home-made groundnut paste ( peanut butter)...that was enough to take us through the morning till break time! There was no bacon or ham for us when we were growing up. Speaking of bacon, my little brother Ato Kwamena (he's twelve) asked me the other day..."Maame Esi, what is bacon?" How I laughed!? I laughed because the poor guy pronouced the ba (as in back or barrack) and the con as in (conman). After I'd finished laughing, I told him what bAcOn was, and reassured him that he's several steps ahead of me since I didn't know what bacon was either at his age.

note: ɛnkɔdaa wɔ fie (tr: there are children at home) or maame o dendei (welcome home, mummy) are alternative names for butter bread. The astute bread hawkers invented the names as a marketing strategy to sell bread to travellers. In Ghana, it is common for a visitor (whose visit, by the way, is often not annouced before the person shows up) to bring along a small gift and butter bread is an adequate gift. This is a caution to those who have forgotten; Please don't go to your villages without taking along some benz bread:) lol. I should do a special blog entry on Ghanaian breads:) This is too much fun!


  1. Esi, you've made me hungry...thank God it's lunch time. Since I am very attention detailed; sometimes near obsessive, the second picture of your google search is a duplicate of the first "english breakfast". I guess I don't need to get my eyes checked after all ;o). Your breakfast of Nkyekyerewa looks very familiar, I think I've had it before as a child...I can recall the taste and consistency. The English translation of Tom Brown and kooko maybe equivalent to porridge. My mom, the other day had jollof rice for breakfast; sometimes its komi ke kena, but her usual is brodo and tea with condensed milk. Since we're on the subject of food, I've always wondered what Ghanaian dessert would be, so I assume it would be kelewele and nkati. Anything else?


  2. Thanks,Anon. Change's been made. Thou shalt not strain your eyes. To see the photos in their original size, all you have to do is click on it.

    oh porridge! How did i forget the word! hehe.

    And Ghanaian dessert...does nkatecake count? did anyone else hear people in Ghana talking about "sweet after?" I think that's another name for dessert. lol. Mostly we just had fruits after meals.No fancy cheese cake or anything. We mom we were deprived o!

  3. My favourite Ghanaian dessert is atadwe milk (tiger nut custard?). I am sure that there are more besides kelewele which is actually considered a snack if I remember my JSS Vocational skills.

    As an Mfantsenyi, mi enum y3 mi d3, and so of course we have all the cakes and pudding and such too.

    For breakfast, leftovers from dinner the night before was always my preferred choice.

  4. Errr, I could have just clicked on it...lololol. Yes, nkatecake does count so does rock cake (Ghana's version of a scone, I guess) and totally forgot about the fruits...hmm. Haven't heard of "sweet after" but it does sound very Accra!


  5. You really mean rock buns don't you? I've never heard of rock cake.

  6. not not rock buns, but rock mother used to make it all the time and still does. you can add raisins etc to it you wish. You can check out this link for a picture and recipe.


  7. Africa's DaughterOctober 13, 2009 2:34 AM

    @ maameous...u mean my dad is not the only man on this earth who makes rock buns? i thought it was his original creation....lolololololololol.

    my mom invented and sold 'maame cake' and it was a hit from the start. she's the only one who knows the recipe. Also, both parents always made home bread at the weekends to last us the week and they were a great hit with my caribbean friends here.

    i only hope to attain a bit of their skills & knowledge, so i can also wow my 'hopefully' ghanaian husband one day ;)

  8. This was so interesting, thank you very much! I was researching what different people "take" for their "tea" and since "tea" in Ghana is "breakfast" in America, I found your page wondering what you guys eat in the morning. Now uyou have me curious to try kooko, which sounds like, um, semolina or Cream of Wheat in U.S., Pronutro in SA, a kind of paste or gruel maybe?
    I have an ethiopian cookbook where various pulses are roasted and ground and used to make wots or powder stews(?), have always wanted to try these :)
    Thanks again

  9. Nkyekyerewa?? thats what those things are called?been seeing them in traffic never been attracted to them.@Tweety yea the leftovers of the previous dinner is most times the breakfast. I remember my first morning in the UK when I woke up, went to the kitchen and passed over the fancy cereal to microwave the previous days dinner, my auntie comes downstairs and asks; have you had your breakfast, I'm like yea. She goes like what did you have, I'm like last nights jollof, she goes like thats not breakfast thats leftover.I'm thinking "wow they sure do stuff different here"
    But seriously Full English Breakfasts are the best Cholestrol & Sodium packed, calory overdose I have ever had especially when you buy em cheap from a place like IKEA

  10. Wow! This looks like a good blog. I'm Scottish myself but I have my friend's Ghanaian mother-in-law coming to stay in 2 weeks and was wondering what to cook her for breakfast. This is her first time away from Ghana, and having travelled myself, I know that you can try new kinds of food at lunch and dinner, but at breakfast time you really want something familiar!

    Any suggestions? I'm a newbie at Ghanaian food, and it'd have to be made with ingredients I can get easily here - though I'm near Glasgow where I'm told you can get quite a good range of Ghanaian ingredients.

  11. I love kooko - and also love kose and not sure how you spell it bofruit!? Kooko is like nothing on earth I have had before - it is amazing - it is like a thin soup, maybe a very very runny porridge or ground rice pudding.I wold love a recipe to make this!