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Kelewele is a special Ghanaian snack made of small slices or cubes of fried plantain doused in spices.
Growing up on the streets of Accra, Ghana, kelewele was a treat. Once every month or so I’ll be sent usually by my Auntie Cece, to dart off to a spot near the Kaneshie market to buy some kelewele. It was a round trip that should have taken half an hour but took significantly less . It was a good job I run the entire journey too as kelewele is best had warm. Normally I’d be given extra money to buy dry roasted groundnuts (peanuts) too to have with the kelewele. This was a late evening family dinner affair that brought joy to both adults and children of my household.
The kelewele was typically served in old newspapers and sold by street vendors sitting by large frying pans. Hot oil, fresh ginger and plantain that is just about ripe are the three most important ingredients. The fresh ginger gives kelewele that sweet taste and the plantain should not be too ripe or soft or else it will soak too much of the oil and render the kelewele too soggy.
A Nigerian friend of mine recently narrated how he spent his evenings eating kelewele and roasted groundnut in Ghana. The excitement in his voice and glint in his eyes as he told me all about this snack got me reminiscing.
The basic ingredients are ginger (they have to be fresh), chillies and salt to taste. However, as Kelewele becomes more sophisticated Ghanaian chefs and cooks have began to add their own spices to the basic to vary the flavour. In the recipe below some of the more common additions have been added. Alligator pepper, African nutmeg and cloves have been added. Grains of selim is one other spice that can be added to the spice mix for kelewele.
Kelewele has taken on a stronger social significance in Ghanaian cuisine now. It is not just street food but now served as a side or a meal on its own in some of the finest restaurants and hotels in Ghana. It is as much a party meal served at important functions as it is street food. Kelewele is also a hearty snack to make at home with your own unique spice mix to pass around as you entertain at home. Most importantly is it one of those dishes that will get your guests screaming “Pass the Kelewele” in frustration as they savour this rather addictive combo of fried spicy plantain and roasted groundnuts.