The spicy plantain meal that’s going places

It tastes good when it is spicy; even better when it’s hot! A whole meal sometimes. For others, a starter; a three-course dinner or large-set buffet for some others.

As far as I recall; it sells on street corners, busy junctions and nightlife hangouts. Few meters from where I live at Adenta Barrier, Maame Dufie sells it and even though I have not tried those sold in other neighborhoods, it’s safe to declare the Kelewele at Adenta Barrier, the best.

For the ones made in the bourgeois areas, like East Legon, Trassaco and the like, you would probably require a different set of taste buds to sample. I would not mind much what you think about it, but it is what it is.

The discovery

Let me tell you about the magic food crop; plantain. In Ghana, in its ‘green state’ that’s when it is ‘unripe’, it forms a basic ingredient of the popular Fufu meal. Fufu is common in some parts of Ghana, in West and Central Africa; Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire just to mention a few. The boiled plantain slices are pounded, or ground in some instances into a fine soft morsel, taken with all manner of soups. My favorite is the Abunuabunu Nkwan… mmm, I’m salivating already, hahaha! Others also have it boiled and taken with a variety of stews. But Plantain is believed to have originated from South East Asia. It is less sweet; not like sugar on the tongue, starchier and almost equivalent to banana. Unlike bananas which are often eaten raw, plantain is almost always cooked in one way or the other before eating.

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Nutritious in all its forms 

Plantains are exceptionally nutritious, in whichever form they are consumed: whether boiled, fried or flaked – there is something in it. They contain lots of carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. They’re also a rich source of fibre, Vitamins A, C, B6 and minerals like Magnesium and Potassium. They are easily digestible. Feel free to have it anywhere and anyhow you want it, just like I could kill a fly for my Brode3 Apesi and Asanka mu maku (stew grinded in earthen ware bowl).  For those who have heart-related and weight issues, it is one of the foods you should add to your diet plan.

The making of Kelewele

I am not talking about making small flakes and frying it into what we see along traffic intersections and major high-density areas, popularly known as plantain chips. I am talking about when it ripens, chopped into small immaculate pieces, spiced and fried. It is called KELEWELE! All you need to have a kelewele meal – ripe plantain, a host of spices, like anise, cinnamon, cardamom pod, and nutmeg.

One thing that makes it special is that, it is sold at odd hours, and the closest it is to the road side, it is believed, the nicer it is. My kelewele experience at Adenta Barrier still leaves me with beautiful memories. My taste buds yearn for them many times. With just a little over GHȻ3.00, I sorted for myself a kelewele meal with peanuts. In the last few years, we have seen vendors give consumers varieties to choose from. Kelewele with gizzard, sausage, pork and even vegetable salad.

Hajia Rabihu is a Kelewele vendor at Adenta Barrier where she has been in active service for almost six (6) years. She tells me that the sale of Kelewele isn’t a thing of today as she could recall how she used to assist her mother with the grinding of spices for its preparation. Through the sale of Kelewele, her siblings and herself were put through school till Senior High School level.

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After sometime, and getting enough skills, she took up the management of the business as a result of her mother’s ill-health which kept deteriorating. She does not attribute the situation solely to the business but believes her age plays a vital role. Starting her day is the preparation of her gizzard, sausage, pork which she makes before going to the street.

For her, she doesn’t necessarily have to go to the market for her plantain because with the help of “Abbosey Okai macho”, her dealers usually connect with her. It takes emergency cases alone for her to go to the market. Hajia Rabihu tells me again that since what we take in can make and unmake us, she prides herself in newness and freshness. She prepares everything the same day and sells it all before going home. She doesn’t refrigerate her ingredients because she believes refrigeration extracts the nutrients from the ingredients and most importantly takes out its original taste.


Some are quick to say Kelewele is sold at odd hours and sometimes in obscure places. I have seen vendors around corporate offices, football parks, bus terminals, high-traffic markets, and many other places among others. Talking about odd times, these vendors position themselves in prime locations to also capture a certain market. Just imagine a busy place like Adenta Barrier where 5 roads intersect and you find yourself and tools at an epicenter as this. Yeah, your thoughts are as good as mine.

My old school mate once said to me that he can vouch for Kelewele anytime and anyday because of how he can eat the food days he is broke as a whole meal and and eat it as snack when he is loaded with cash: this he likes to explain as ” time makes you measure the worth of Kelewele.” Haha funny though!

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It is not uncommon to find Kelewele vendors during the hot sunny afternoons at Adabraka or Dzorwulu, suburbs of Accra. Those who capture the night market also, have their target customers. Whether day or night, same food, perhaps only different oomph. And see, I know a few people who would choose ‘Apem’ known for cooking what is called ‘Brode3 Apesi’ and the ‘Apantu’ for the preparation of Fufu. The reason is simple! This is because some varieties are delicious, succulent and have tasty juice when they ripen. But for some people, the size matters and so would definitely go for apantu.

Kelewele going places

Beyond New town, Dansoman, Nima and Alajo, Kelewele is going places. In virtually all the regions, there is a spicy jerk! And beyond the shores of Ghana, it is making waves elsewhere. And our friends living out there are not missing it for anything. Afterall, it is for us!

By Annoh Enyonam Leonora||Ghana