Tuesday, December 15, 2015

On finding West African ingredients

It's exciting to see North Americans (and Europeans) embracing West African food! Unfortunately, many of us do not live in large urban areas where we can easily locate some of the unfamiliar ingredients. Last week I made a trip to our local international market here in State College, Pennsylvania, for a spontaneous, quick runthrough of some items locally available. I was rushing, and missed many things (like cream of palm fruit aka palm butter) in the store and also cannot believe some of the words that came out of my mouth, such as saying "coconut paste" when I meant "groundnut (peanut) paste," and holding some Ga kenkey and saying it is fermented corn dough rather than that it is made from steamed fermented corn dough (with a bit of cassava dough, too). I spoke about "dried fish powder" when it would have been better to say "dried flaked fish/shrimp."

Still, I hope you find it helpful, especially if you are exploring recipes from The Ghana Cookbook.

And remember, too, that as North American tastes are changing, it is getting easier and easier to find many of these ingredients in local supermarkets, from millet flour to fresh coconut to red palm oil to taro (Ghanaians call it "cocoyam") to plantains or fresh papaya. I find many of them in our local Wegman's, Giant, Trader Joe's, Weis, or even Wal-Mart.
(Hint: there's a recipe in the book that calls for smoked turkey, which is only available around here at Christmas, so this time of year might be a good time to try it out!)

Note: Thank you to students Nick Weis and Jessica Stefanowiz, both from Happy Valley Communications for running video and helping set up, respectively, and for owner Jin Zhou for allowing us to film in The International Market

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