Written by Eugenia Manful
With a fascinating historical heritage, rich cultural diversity, extraordinary scenic beauty, and friendly people, Ghana is a charming blend of old and new. Ghanaian cuisine has a wide variety of traditional dishes, such as the popular Waakye (pronounced waachay), a rice and beans combination, which is both delicious and nutritious.
Waakye was earlier popular mainly in northern Ghana but has now gained national status and is loved by grownups and children alike. It can be prepared at home, but, in Ghana, it is more popular as a street food. It is also eaten in Nigeria, Togo, and Benin, where it is prepared in slightly different ways.
Waakye is usually served for breakfast or lunch with a typical Ghanaian spicy pepper sauce. It can be a meal in itself or it can be eaten with boiled eggs and/or with a stew of fish, chicken, beef, or vegetables.
The dish requires about 15 minutes of preparation and an hour and a half of cooking time.
- 2 cups rice
- 1 cup red beans or black-eyed peas, or any kind of beans or peas
- 4 dry sorghum leaves (or 1 teaspoon of baking soda)
- Salt to taste
- 10 cups water
- Wash and soak the beans in water for 3–4 hours.
- Drain the beans and place them in a large pot of water.
- Bring the mixture to a boil and let it cook for about 45 minutes.
- Wash the sorghum leaves.
- Cut the leaves 3 to 4 inches, toss them in with the boiling beans, and allow them to cook together.
- If sorghum leaves are not available, add a teaspoon of baking soda to give the Waakye its characteristic color.
- Remove the sorghum leaves from the beans after 5 minutes.
- Wash the rice and add to the beans in the pot, along with more water.
- Allow the mixture to cook for 15–20 minutes (or until the beans are tender and the rice is cooked and all liquid has been totally absorbed).
- Be sure that the mixture does not burn and keep stirring while it cooks.
- Season with salt.
- Serve the dish with pepper sauce and boiled egg and/or a stew of fish, chicken, beef, or vegetables.
Mrs. Manful lives with her family in Tema, a town located 25 km east of Accra, Ghana’s capital. She works as a chief revenue officer under the Ghana Revenue Authority. She loves to cook traditional dishes from her country for her friends and family, especially for her husband, John Manful, plant breeder at the Africa Rice Center.