Tilapia has often been known as the aquatic chicken, and it’s perfectly reasonable. It is often the most elaborately dressed (garnished) fish I see. Round circular cuts of red onions and small chunky cube-like tomatoes seems to be the most popular. Dig deeper than the garnish and you’d discover an intricate formulation of authentically Ghanaian spices and vegetables all mixed and blended. Every craving crevice of the tilapia is filled to satiety.
The BBC once invited me to take part in a series about cooking and the London Olympics. They wanted a representative of 12 countries taking part in the London Olympics to create a local dish. The Americans went for Apple Pie, the Indians went for Curry and guess what, I decided in my wisdom, to elevate Kenkey and fish! Not just any fish but tilapia. I spent a day filming at the Brixton Market, South London, where I proudly showed of some of Africa’s food ingredients. Filming then moved onto a local restaurant where the chef had opened his restaurant a few hours than scheduled, to accommodate the film crew and moi – the ravishing star.
However, something shocking and interesting happened as the grilled tilapia was wheeled in and I was expected to tuck in – fingers et all; no cutlery! The demeanor of the film crew and my handler changed. My handler had spent all day encouraging and infusing me with such confidence I thought nothing could ever burst this life’s most optimist’s bubble. But the bubble did burst!
It wasn’t until she asked me “Are you gonna eat that as it is” that the cause of the change in demeanor began to dawn on me. These folks saw a cleaned whole fish with its head, teeth, fins and goodness knows what else and they freaked out. The mixture of the shock on their faces and trying very hard – the English way – to be polite or keep that stiff upper lip firmly stiff was amusing to say the least. Whole fish may be how others prepared their fish, but in England this was considered somewhat of an anomaly.
Suffice to say, not even a bulldozer would have made me squeamish about what I was about to devour. True grilling should be confined to open fires, but failing that an oven should be near enough good substitutes.