What is tatale?
Tatale is an authentic pancake style food in Ghana, made with plantains and mostly eaten as a side dish for bambara beans or aboboi, in other terms. It is also called the “golden pancake” because of its rich, yellowish color and as a reference to the old name of Ghana, the Gold Coast.
Tatale is a district in the northern region of the country, but the world knows it as a staple food, nowadays a street food of the Ghanaian cuisine. It’s a very easily made pancake, from very ripe, blackened plantains. This food was obviously invented because of economic reasons, considering that people in the old times found ways to use over ripe ingredients. It is said to be eaten warm as an appetizer with all kind of beans, cooked, fried or even better, as a stew.
What is plantain?
It’s aptly called cooking banana and easily perceptible from the banana we normally consume as a fruit. Plantain is cultivated in many places apart from Africa. It is widely used in Central and South America.
Cooking banana has a firmer flesh and its sugar content is much lower, hence quite starchy when green or under ripe. In that stage, it’s suitable for grinding for flour and deep fried for crisps. When ripe, the starch in transforms into sugar. Plantain has to be over ripe when used for tatale, so it can get finely mashed.
Plantain is used in many West African dishes, like the Nigerian mosa. It’s a deep fried, walnut sized ball made with cooking bananas and eaten as a snack.
How to make tatale
Apart from cooking bananas, tatale is based on corn flour, or fine cornmeal. Its principal spices are ginger (fresh or ground) and hot red pepper. Onion and fresh lemon juice are also important and add a lot to the flavor.
There are versions with a few grains of selim, ground in a mortar in substitution of freshly ground black pepper. Ground cloves, nutmeg, cayenne or habanero peppers and garlic can be also found in different recipes. Fresh herbs, like rosemary or oregano provide freshness and work well with its spices.
There are two versions with different names. While tatale is pan fried, there is kakro, which is deep fried. However the batter is the same, we can get different foods by preparing them differently.
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Plantain should be mashed with a potato masher and never with a hand held blender, because the starch in it makes it too mushy and changes the texture to a texture that is not appropriate for this recipe.
As a staple Ghanaian food, tatale is consumed mostly with bean-based dishes. Be careful with the cooking time of bambara beans, which is quite long. Soaking warm water is a great solution. All you need to remember is soaking them in the water well before you need the beans to be cooked.
There are some important steps to make the best tatale. After mashing the plantains and adding the corn meal and the spices, the batter should rest, covered in the fridge for half an hour, so the corn meal has time to absorb some liquid and provide a homogenous batter.
The frying pan has to be really hot, so the pancake keeps its form and gets a truly appetizing color and crunchiness while keeping its soft texture inside.
A metal spatula is the best for flipping the pancakes halfway through cooking. Keep them warm until spooning the bean stew onto them, then serve immediately. For a truly decadent experience, you can drop a spoonful of sour cream on top of the pancakes.
- 2 yellow plantains (very ripe)
- ½ cup corn flour (fine corn meal)
- 1 onion , chopped
- 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
- 1 small lemon (freshly squeezed)
- ½ teaspoon red pepper powder
- ½ pinch salt
- Vegetable oil (for frying)
- Slice the plantains, place in a large bowl and immediately sprinkle with lemon juice.
- With a fork, mash the plantains and add the onion and ginger.
- Add the corn flour, chilli and salt and mix well with a wooden spoon.
- In a deep skillet, heat a large amount of vegetable oil over medium heat.
- Maintain the temperature of the oil around 340 F during frying.
- Form balls the size of a ping pong ball, flatten them slightly and fry on both sides until they are golden brown.
- Serve immediately.
In Ghana, the tatale are served as an appetizer or with beans called "bambara beans".