Food/ Recipe/ West African Food

Kelewele, A Spiced Plantain Snack

There is something special that emanates from the streets of Accra as you wade through the various streets with roadside hawkers and market stalls. The scent of freshly fried kelewele, a spiced plantain snack from Ghana is immediately recognizable.

The Unmistakeable Smell of Kelewele

There are very few places where I have smelled the familiar scent of kelewele frying in the streets. I am not entirely sure whether it comes from simply the smell of plantain frying, or what that infuses into the oil. There is a sweetness and slight muskiness to it. It takes me to a place where life was all about checking whether you had eaten enough or wanted more. It has been several years since I meandered through the streets of Accra. Particularly Osu, Newtown, and the environs near where George Bush motorway meets Mallam Junction.

I am not sure whether I would be able to retrace my steps. However, I only have to follow my nose and kelewele is within arm’s length. The only other place I have caught the true scent of kelewele, in my interpretation, was Nok by Alara. Nok is an upmarket restaurant that specializes in African cuisines in Victoria Island, Lagos, Nigeria.

Kelewele, A Uniquely Ghanaian Plantain Snack

Kelewele is something that no other country can boast to have, in my humble opinion. Many West African dishes appear to be one variant or another of the same thing, aside from fried plantain. I can’t say I have ever come across anything similar to kelewele elsewhere. It is a true Ghanaian treat. These are fried plantain bites marinated in a ginger, onion salt, and chili paste. Today you will find a variety of recipes, but the recipe I will share with you today comes from my very own mother.

How To Serve Kelewele

On the streets of Accra you will find this served wrapped in a newspaper or banana leaf, with a sprinkle of roasted peanuts. At home, simply serve in a presentable bowl with some roasted peanuts. You could also try wrapping up in a green moinmoin leaf or some brown baking paper just for a touch of the street food life. The sweet and gingery bites are absolutely delicious. I can totally see this going down well with a cold glass of cider or beer. To this day I am not sure whether we have similar variants across West Africa, but if we do, I would love to hear about it.

Kelewele, A Ghanaian Spiced Plantain Recipe

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By Freda Muyambo Serves: 4
Prep Time: 5 minutes Cooking Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 3 to 4 ripe plantains (the riper, the better, for maximized sweetness)
  • Marinade
  • 1/2 a medium-sized onion
  • 2 inches of ginger 
  • 1 scotch bonnet pepper 
  • A generous sprinkle of salt to taste
  • Roasted peanuts to serve

Instructions

1

1. Peel the plantains by using a knife to cut the tips off each end. Make a slit along the length of the skin. Tease the skin off from the opening.

2

2. Cut the plantains into chunks. To get them to the right proportions, slit them down the middle so that you get two mirrored halves.

3

3. Cut across the width of each half at an angle such that you don't end up with short pieces. Do this by slanting your knife as much as possible, to cut out the longest pieces you can get from each half. Set these aside.

4

4. Peel the onion, scrape the skin off the ginger with a spoon. Chop lightly then put them into a blender. along with the scotch bonnet pepper. 

5

5. Blend the ingredients to a paste, using as little water as possible.

6

6. Pour the gingery marinade over the plantain pieces and mix to coat well. Season with a generous amount of salt.

7

7. Heat up cooking oil for deep frying. To check whether the oil is ready, drop a piece of onion into the pot. If it sizzles and rises up immediately, the oil is ready. 

8

8. Fry the marinated plantain pieces in the oil until golden brown. Remove from the oil and allow to drain.

9

9. Sprinkle the kelewele with roasted peanuts and serve.

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