Zoe Adjonyoh, a chef and writer, first released her cookbook, Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen, in 2017, bringing a flurry of jollof fried chicken, hot shito, and okra soup into UK kitchens. In the four years since, a lot has changed. Adjonyoh has relocated from London (where she owned a restaurant and gave numerous culinary seminars) to New York, and the book’s American release this autumn coincides with greater worldwide interest in Ghanaian food than ever before.
We got down to discuss the ever-changing food scene in Ghana’s capital, Accra; some of the make-or-break elements in Ghana’s most fundamental dishes; and why some meals should be eaten spicy or not.
The publisher believed, and I agree, that there is a sizable market in the United States for individuals of diaspora reconnecting with their roots and ancestors. It is a time when West African food has made more of a breakthrough. There has undoubtedly been an increase in people reconnecting with their culture—particularly cooks and chefs—and embracing their lineage as a method to express their talents.
There are a lot of intriguing things going on. Accra has a plethora of innovative food options. Ghana celebrated the Year of Return a few years ago. There was a strong appeal from the diaspora to return to Ghana. That brought a lot of money, investment, and riches, but there were also an increasing number of individuals, most of whom were probably second-generation Ghanaians, who had returned to create enterprises. It’s the time synchronisation. Chefs like as Selassie Atadika, Nana Araba, Kess Eshun, Fatmata Binta, and Eric Adjepong have all been earning prominence in their own planes, which is motivating to many budding cooks and chefs.
When I returned to Ghana in 2018, after the book ‘Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen’ was published, I was startled to find that I had admirers there. People knew who I was, and they were huge admirers of the book ‘Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen’ cooking from it and launching enterprises inspired by it. I’m not sure if this is a good or negative thing, but fusion cooking is all the rage in Accra right now. Everyone wants to do fusion food—celebrating Ghana but presenting it in a more Western style—when you go to any of the local cafes. I’m not sure if it qualifies as fusion.
Tilapia is popular in the United States, but it was not so in the United Kingdom, where it was mostly available in African or Indian grocery stores. That, I believe, is becoming more widely available and accepted.
Perch is a fish that I’m not a big lover of, although it’s fairly common. It’s similar to catfish. They’re not my favourite fish, but they’d be more difficult to get because they’re more regional.
Perhaps a barracuda. However, the seafood was frequently smoked and preserved. On the shore, it is eaten fresh, but for preservation concerns, most fish is promptly smoked and dried. So you can eat all the herring and barracuda you want in New York.