Akla (Koose, Akara or Beans Fritters)
As breakfast, street foods and snacks go, koosé or akla is one of my absolute favourite. Growing up in Accra, I thought this was a purely Ghanaian or perhaps more specifically a Hausa breakfast snack until I learned in multi-cultural London that Akla (as my household called it) or koosé (as others, mainly the Hausas in Ghana called it) was somewhat universal. In fact some of its names included accra, akara, binch akara, bean balls, kosai, koose, kose and kwasi and even though it draws its origins and popularity from West Africa, notably Nigeria, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Mali and Gambia it managed centuries ago to find its way into Brazil where it is called Acarajé.
Akla is made out of the black-eyed beans (peas) and apart from its enjoyment at the breakfast table it doubles up as a side or as an afternoon snack.
One of my favourite descriptions of Akla is that of Wole Soyinka in the novel Aké: The Years of Childhood.
His poetic description of Akla or Akara (as Nigerians pronounce it):
“The flavors of the market rose fully in the evenings, beckoning us to a depletion of the oniniand halfpennies we had succeeded in saving during the week. For there they all were, together, the jogi seller who passed, in full lyrical cry beneath the backyard wall at a regular hour of the morning, followed only moments later by the akara seller, her fried beancakes still surreptitiously oozing and perfuming the air with groundnut oil. In the market we stood and gazed on the deftly cupped fingers of the old women and their trainee wards scooping out the white bean-paste from a mortar in carefully gauged quantities, into the wide-rimmed, shallow pots of frying oil. The lump sank immediately in the oil but no deeper than an inch or two, bobbed instantly to the surface and turned pinkish in the oil. It spurted fat globules upwards and sometimes beyond the rim of the pot if the mix had too much water. Then, slowly forming, the outer crust of crisp, gritty light brownness which masked the inner core of baked bean paste, filled with green and red peppers, ground crayfish or chopped.
Even when the akara was fried without any frills, its oil impregnated flavours filled the markets and jostled for attention with the tang of roasting coconut slices within farina cakes which we called kasada; with the hard-fried lean meat of tinko; the “high” rotted cheese smell of ogiri; roasting corn, fresh vegetables or gbegiri … ”