What is kenkey?
Kenkey is a typical Ghanaian dish made from fermented white corn, which is widely consumed throughout the country by Ga people from southern Ghana.
The Ga tribe calls it komi. The Fante tribe who lives in the center of the country calls it dokono. Kenkey is often accompanied by fried fish throughout West Africa where fishing is widely practiced and where fish are generally eaten fresh and fried or dried or smoked for better preservation.
People also add shito, a sauce made from smoked fish and raw vegetables such as fresh peppers that bring a lot of freshness. This makes a fairly complete dish.
The acidity of kenkey goes very well with fried fish. It can be prepared in advance because it takes a long time to complete. This dish is emblematic of the cuisine of Ghana, it is consumed throughout the year. It is also the main fermented food of Ghanaian cuisine.
Kenkey is so popular in Accra, the capital of Ghana, that there is even a kenkey festival held once a year where you can taste kenkey in various ways with fries, stews and salads.
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How to make kenkey?
The preparation of kenkey requires two days of fermentation, the preparation time in the kitchen is also important and therefore requires a little organization, so it is often prepared with the family.
White cornmeal is combined with cornstarch. Water is gradually added at 100 F, until a smooth and homogeneous dough is obtained. The kenkey dough is then covered with a cloth and must ferment for two days in a warm place.
The dough can then be divided in two and one of the two pieces will be cooked in a large pot of salt water brought to a boil. It is essential to mix it regularly to prevent the dough from sticking to the edges of the pot. The second piece of dough is incorporated until the whole mixture is homogeneous.
The kenkey dough can then be divided into portions and these can be rolled into balls and placed in dried corn leaves. The leaves must be tied together with a string to prevent them from opening under the effect of heat.
The rest of the cooking consists in steaming for an hour and a half. The cooking water can also be consumed separately. Thus prepared, kenkey balls can be stored for a few days in the refrigerator and simply be steamed or placed in a microwave oven, or even frozen to be consumed later.
What are the versions of kenkey?
If kenkey is usually prepared from white cornmeal, it can also be made with dried corn kernels that are first soaked in water for several days to soften. They are then transported to a flour mill where they will be milled and processed into dough. It is this dough that will be fermented. In Accra, there are merchants selling it everywhere.
The Fante people do not use dried corn husks to wrap kenkey but rather use plantain leaves.
Kenkey is also popular in neighboring Ghana countries, such as Côte d’Ivoire, Togo, and western Benin, but it was also exported to Jamaica, where it is called dokono, and Guyana, where it is called konkee. In Trinidad, it is called paime. In korkey cuisine, it is generally used as an accompaniment to vegetables such as squash or plantains.
In Ghana, kenkey can also replace bread to serve with stews of meat, fish or vegetables. It is excellent with an okra stew.
- 3 cups white cornmeal
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 3 cups warm water (at 100 F)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Dried corn leaves
- Pour the cornmeal and the cornstarch into a large bowl.
- Add warm water and stir until a smooth dough is obtained.
- Cover the bowl with a cloth and put it in a warm place for 2 days.
- Divide the formed dough in half.
- Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a large pot, add salt and reduce heat to medium.
- Place half of the dough in the water and mix.
- Cook for 10 minutes, stirring regularly.
- Remove the pot from the heat, stir in the rest of the dough and mix well.
- Divide the dough into 3 or 4 large portions, form balls and place each ball on a corn leaf.
- Wrap the corn leaf around each ball by tying it up with a string.
- Steam as follows:
- Pour a large amount of hot water into a steamer.
- Place the packaged kenkey in the steam basket and bring the water to a boil over high heat.
- Reduce to low heat and steam for about 1 hour and 30 minutes.