This article was written for the Spring/Summer 2009 issue of “Destination Ghana“, published quarterly by FotoMagic Publications in Accra. This magazine is available  on Lufthansa and Virgin Airways flights originating in Ghana. It is also available free at the Silverbird Bookstore in the Accra Mall.

What does it take to make a man or woman happy for the day? Well, in my case, happiness is a large cold Star beer and a meal of fufu!

While fufu is the staple for many, it should not be mistaken as a poor man’s food. Rather it is a meal of many choices and combinations, capable of satisfying a broad spectrum of discerning palates. Having said that, fufu is also an acquired taste and is not for everyone. It takes experience to learn to distinguish between soups that are prepared well, and each individual has his or her preference of fufu consistency.

Chop bars (so named because the manner of eating fufu is to “chop” it with the thumb and two forefingers and then place it in the mouth, taking care to swallow without chewing) are another matter of personal preference. Over the years I have found some favourites and I am happy to share my choices.

Bamboo chop bar3reduced

I was first introduced to fufu when I arrived in Ghana in 1971 for a two year teaching contract. When I travelled away from my home village, I would sometimes take a meal at one of the local chop bars but did not particularly enjoy the food. I met my wife some time later and she began preparing soups and fufu. It was only then that I began to fully appreciate well prepared soups – there is nothing quite as good as a meal prepared at home with the love and care that only one’s wife and family can offer.

Having said that, our lifestyle does not allow us to take all of our meals at home. Sometimes we have to eat out and now, armed with the experience of home cooking, I am better able to discern the best places to eat.

I am a “country boy,” much happier in a village setting than in the city. Perhaps that is why my favourite chop bars are in rural settings. When we returned to live in Ghana in 2001, we were surprised to see many changes had taken place in the traditional chop bars. Individual wash basins and soap brought to the table replaced the communal wash basin and the bar of Key soap that had been common. Cloth napkins were also offered along with toothpicks. All of these changes were new to us, and I often jokingly referred to each of these features as a level of “Star” rating for each location where we ate.

Chairman's Base

A tip to the unsure – if you want to find the best places to chop fufu, ask the taxi or lorry drivers. They always know the best places and their recommendations have never failed me. One of my nephews is an accomplished driver and he has directed me to two of my favourite places. One of these is located on the highway between Accra and Kumasi, in between Anyinam and Nkawkaw. It specializes in “bush meat,” both akrontae (grasscutter) and antelope. The soup is a light soup, always served hot and with the correct amount of  flavour.

In recent months, my son introduced me to a chop bar located on the Accra-Cape Coast highway midway between Kasoa and Winneba Junction. The owners opened for business in 2002 and have gradually built from a humble thatched shelter on the side of the road to a solid block structure with a high ceiling that remains cool even on the hottest of days. For those who prefer natural shade, there are tables set up nearby under trees. Grasscutter is usually available as is aponkye (goat). The name of the chop bar is Sua Papa Yeε. Auntie Faustie explained to me the meaning: the best gifts are given willingly without expectation of return and these are the best blessings. What a wonderful thought to consider as one dines on the great meals that she and her staff prepare.

Sua Papa Ye

My wife and I spend considerable time at her home village near New Edubiase in the Ashanti Region. The road to Obuasi passes by two popular chop bars. “Chairman’s Base” is set beside the road and offers conventional fufu and soups along with an assortment of refreshments. Once again there are trees to sit under, or if you prefer, an open dining area shaded by a terra cotta tiled roof. The latest popular music blares from the bar, and it is not uncommon to see “big men” enjoying their meal in the company of lovely young women.

Several miles from there is the place that receives my “5 Star” rating for the chop bar with the best food and the best ambiance. A small stream meanders beside crude benches cut out of the bamboo which grows in that area. The benches are located under the overhang of a very large bamboo clump. Occasional breezes cause the bamboo to sway gently overhead, ensuring that it is always cool. It is an idyllic setting, and one that attracts a steady clientele of diners from all walks of life – the ubiquitous lorry drivers, market women moving back and forth to the local market towns, professionals and civil servants as they go about their business, and business men and women who have discovered this place and make sure to time their travels so that they can stop here to eat. The choice of food is limited to either grasscutter or antelope – both will delight the palette – and it is not uncommon to see diners packing away enough for two because the food is so good!!

Of course, once in a while, even country boys are forced to go to the city. In Accra I have checked out a number of places. Asanka Locals in Osu (they also have an outlet in Medina) is a very popular eating spot. It offers a wide range of meals including fufu. Another well known option is the Heavy Do Chop Bar with three locations; Mile 7, Kokomlemle, and Abossey Okai.

When I travel to Kumasi, my usual meal time destination is Friend’s Gardens. The owners, Charles and Comfort, are always gracious, and the food is consistently great. My favourite is smoked beef in a soup seasoned with seeds from the prεkεsε tree, (which is used as a traditional remedy for the treatment of high blood pressure.)

Bamboo chop bar5

Any time that we are passing through Cape Coast, we stop off at HomeStyles for a visit with our good friend, Auntie Jo, and of course we also take in a meal of fufu. Light soup with goat meat is our usual choice, along with an opportunity to compare notes on business. HomeStyles is located across the highway from the East Gate to the University of Cape Coast and enjoys a steady patronage from that institution’s faculty and staff.

Frequently business takes me to Takoradi for the day, and of course, what better excuse for a meal of fufu. There are several dining choices, and each offers a great chance to watch people. God is Love Chop Bar is usually packed with diners from various walks of life – business men and women anxious to eat and return to work; civil servants in no hurry to go back to their desks; students from the nearby technical institute enjoying a break from institutional food. Fufu is the only choice on the menu and a local FM station plays popular high life or reggae music, depending on the time of the day. Akroma Plaza serves meals outside under thatched roof structures as well as inside a large air-conditioned dining room where you can watch Nigerian movies on a wide screen television on one side or listen to American country music on the other side. The clientele are usually well-heeled professionals, high ranking civil servants and successful individuals from Takoradi’s business community. The menu offers a wide selection of continental food for those who do not want to take fufu (although as a fufu lover, I cannot imagine why anyone would not want to do so!!)

Well, there it is – my take on one of the world’s best meals – FUFU, a feast fit for royalty. When next in Ghana, make sure to enjoy the experience. As we say here, “you are invited!”

Advertisements