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from: Western Africa | cooking method: various

Banku & Kenkey

Banku and Kenkey are two more Fufu-like staples from Western Africa, served with a soup or stew or sauce. They are particularly popular in Ghana. Both are usually made from ground corn (maize), as are Sadza and Ugali, though Banku can also be made from a mixture of maize and grated Cassava tuber. Unlike Ugali, making Banku or Kenkey involves letting the maize (or maize and cassava tuber) ferment before cooking, as is done with cassava tubers when they are made into Baton de Manioc. Banku is cooked in a pot; Kenkey is partially cooked, then wrapped in banana leaves, maize or corn husks, or foil, and steamed.

cacao, source of cocoa and chocolate, is a cash crop in western africa

What you need

What you do

Note: ready-to-use fermented cornmeal dough made especially for banku and kenkey may be available at African import grocery stores and should be prepared according to package instructions.


Thomas Astley

The first thing they take care of

Between 1745 and 1747 Thomas Astley published four volumes titled A new General Collection of Voyages and Travels; consisting of the most esteemed relations, which have been hitherto published in any language; comprehending everything remarkable in its kind, in Europe, Asia, Africa, and America (London: 1745-47, printed for Thomas Astley). This publication brought together travel writings from various sources and languages and is generally recognized as one of the best sources of African travel writing of its era. This excerpt describes processing corn (maize or other grain) as a staple food.

The first Thing they take Care of, in the Article of Diet, is to make the Bread. In the Evening the Women set-by the Quantity of Corn thought necessary for the Family the succeeding Day, which is brought by the Slaves from the Barn or Granary without the Village, though some have their Storehouse at home. This Corn the Women beat in the Trunk of a Tree, hollowed for that Purpose like a Mortar, or in deep Holes of Rocks allotted for that Use, with wooden Pestles. Then they winnow and grind it on a flat Stone, as our Painters do Colours. Lastly, they mix it with Flour of Millet and knead it to a Sort of Dough, which they divide into small, round Pieces, as big as a Man's Fist, and boil in a large Earthen Pan full of Water, like Dumplins.

This sort of Bread is tolerable, but very heavy on the Stomach. The same Dough, baked on very hot Stones, is much better. The Mina Bread is esteemed the best on the Coast, the Women there being more expert at making it.

They make also a sort of Biscuit of this Dough, which will keep three or four Months. With this they use to victual their large Canoas, which trade to Angola. Besides they make a Sort of round twisted Cake, called Quanquais, which are sold in the Markets, and are agreeable enough.

Though the Way of beating and dressing their Corn be very laborious, yet the Women perform it chearfully in the open, scorching Air, many having their Children at their Back.

[Vol. II; Sect II -- Of their (i.e. the Gold Coast Negroes) Buildings, Furniture and Diet]


Other African gastronomical excerpts


Richard Francis Burton

Kankie is native bread

Richard F. Burton, the 19th century traveler, writer, and translator, describes Kankie in his Wanderings in West Africa (New York: Dover Publications, Inc, 1991 "Two Volumes bound as One"; originally published by Tinsley Brothers, London, 1863). Webster's defines triturate as crush, grind or to pulverize and comminute thoroughly by rubbing or grinding.

I can name and describe the qualities of the dishes to which we paid more particular attention, but their composition is complicated and tasteful enough to puzzle the brains of the lady who writes the cookerybook. "Kankie" is native bread: the flour, at first not unlike the "yaller male" of the Land of Potatoes, must be manipulated till it becomes snowy white: after various complicated operations--soaking the grain, pounding, husking, triturating, and keeping till the right moment, it is boiled or roasted and packed in plantain leaves. It is as superior to the sour, brown, sodden mass tasting of butter-milk--like palm-wine and mildew, used by the Europeans on this coast and called bread, as a Parisian roll to the London quartern loaf.
(Volume II, Chapter IX, A Pleasant Day in the Land of Ants [Accra])



Buchi Emecheta

The best agidi she had ever seen in her life

In The Slave Girl (New York: George Braziller, 1977) Nigerian novelist Buchi Emecheta describes agidi, a staple much like Banku and Kenkey. Elsewhere, agidi is described as "cornmeal mush" or "pap" and it is evidently made from fermented cornmeal. The agidi from Accra must be especially good.

"... buy ... a piece of agidi from those people from Accra. Have you eaten their agidi before? It is very nice"
Ojebeta nooded once more; she had tasted "agidi Akala", as her dead mother used to call it. Onthe days her mother used to go to Onishta she would buy one large piece, and Ojebeta and all her friends and her father would sit up and wait for her to come home from Otu, just to have their little bits of Accra agidi. In those days it had beed a real delicacy for her; and now she was once more going to have some to eat, he mouth watered like a dog's.
. . .
Chiago soon arrived with the corn dough steaming. It was the first time Ojebta had seen it hot, for the agidi her mother used to buy was always cold by the time she reached home from the market. She watched Chiago peeling the leaves off and putting them into another white bowl.
"Do you want pepper on it?" asked Chiago then.
Ma Palagada, who had seemed to be unaware of the goings on, intervened: "Let her do it the way she wants. Give her the pepper and salt. She can spice it herself."
So Chiago handed her Ojebeta the whitest and the best agidi she had ever seen in her life.
(A Necessary Evil)


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African Proverbs

Igba dodo li agbado igbani. (Yoruba) : Indian corn is the true support of the people.
  (from: Wit and Wisdom from West Africa, Richard Francis Burton)

Akasu babba ekko. (Yoruba) : Akashu is the father of other loaves. N.B. -- "Akashu" is a large lump of the native bread, called Agidi at Sierra Leone, and in Yoruba, Ekko. The saying means that he laughs at scars that never felt a wound. (ibid)

Igbako sanno, eleko ko sanno, igbako iba si, awamu eleko ko je. (Yoruba) : The spoon is liberal, the pap-seller is not : the spoon would have given plenty. the stingy pap-seller would not let it. N.B. -- A taunt to the miserly. (ibid)

Other African proverbs

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