Thursday, March 12, 2009

Abenkwan: Ghanaian palm nut soup with foufou

Abenkwan: Ghanaian palm nut soup with foufou recipeGive me head!" I point to a coolbox with freshly cut salmon heads. My fishmonger laughs. "What good is one, take two!" An excellent point. And I am so glad his English is not on the idiomatic level yet.

Even before I get down to cooking, I derive a huge kick from shopping for African ingredients in Brixton Market. Now I only need to buy some garden eggs and okra to fix abenkwan, Ghanaian palm nut soup. It is popular throughout West Africa and known as ngonya mosaka or mbanga in Cameroon, amiedi or obey-ekpo in Nigeria, moambé in the Congo, banga in Sierra Leone and nyembwe in Gabon.

The main ingredient that defines the flavour of abenkwan is palm nut oil. Without the oil you end up with a generic stew. It is squeezed out of boiled fruit of Elaeis guineensis. I go for convenience and buy ready-made one. It is imported from Ghana, so as authentic as it gets.

I have been fascinated with the cuisines of the Cradle of the Humankind ever since I heard a song by a New Yorikan poetess Dana Bryant. It was titled Food, an ode to home-made meals that trace their lineage back to "five thousand years of history on the Nigerian countryside". The tastes and flavours of the places I have never been to, what can be more exciting! So here we go, abenkwan soup with foufou! Yeeppie-ho!

The recipe is simple:
  1. Fry 3 tablespoonfuls of palm nut oil in a pan for about 10 minutes. Traditional recipe calls for a whole cup but here I prefer to give precedence to post-modern health-conscious trends.
  2. Add one chopped onion and one de-seeded chili and fry 10 minutes on medium heat.
  3. Add meat or fish that you use and fry it until fragrant.
  4. Add okra, garden eggs and tomatoes and stir-fry briefly.
  5. Pour cold water until it covers everything and bring to boil. Reduce heat and allow to simmer 10-15 more minutes. The traditional recipe requires a whole day of sitting on hot coals but I think in the olden days it was more about food safety.
  6. Mix foufou flour with water: half a cup flour with 3/4 cup water. Knead well. Make dough balls the size of a regular meat ball. Add to the simmering soup. Cook 5-8 more minutes.
It comes our robust, unctuous and flavourful. Thank you, Mama Afrika!

Here is some nice music to accompany this gorgeous meal:


  1. you are so wrong.Ghanaian palm nut is very different from what you described. Abenkwan requires you to boil the palm fruits from the palm tree. The boiled palm fruits are pounded so that the skin separates from the nut.Water is the added,mixed together and sieved to get the juice. Now the juice is ready to be added to steamed fish or meat or both and brought to the boil for about 45 minutes depending on the amount of soup or until a layer of oil covers the surface. And don't forget to add vegetables- tomatoes, pepper, onions, okra etc. Your abenkwan (Ghanaian) is ready to go with fufu,yam rice,kenkey or banku

  2. I'm trying it tomorrow! Thanks man!

  3. Unfortunately, this recipe is not Abenkwan at all! Palmnut soup is prepared differently. What you describe here is more like palm oil stew. The description in the previous comment is quite right. Now Ghanaian Fufu is derived from pounded cassava, mixed with plantain, pounded yam or "Mankani" Cocoyam. You peel and boil any of these and pound in a mortar with a pestle. Once it gets soft and well mixed to your desire, you make into balls and eat with your palm nut soup. Wish you well.

  4. omg this is soo far from what abenkwan and fufu is... what is that? Looks gross, i'm sorry but whoever u learned this from couldn't be ghanaian...