When you hear ‘vegetarian African food’ do you think of the same cuisine all over Africa? If you do, it’s time for some enlightening. Not through a boring hour long lecture about the differences, but through the use of ingredients and some cheffing it up in the kitchen. That way you can taste the differences. Today we will specifically be looking at traditional Ghana foods. The Abenkwan recipe. Also called the Palm nut soup recipe. Ghana recipes are part of Western African recipes, and you know what comes to mind when you think Western Africa? Apart from Jollof rice, and Fufu! Since our African food exploration has landed us in Ghana, we will have the debate: Banku vs Fufu. Stay tuned and make your pick in the comment sections. Subscribe to our newsletter to keep on track with our journey!
Traditional Ghana food: the West vs others
Like we said, not all African food is the same. There are so many different cultures and languages that make this impossible. Ghana itself has about 50 indigenous languages. Yes, you may find that a food popular in one country is found in others, possibly even under a different name. But influence and adaptation never hurt anyone. When it comes to vegetarian African food that is. Sharing is caring after all. But we can still trace back which Ghana recipes came from Ghana directly. And Abenkwan is one of them. It is Akan (Ghanaian native language) for Palm nut soup. But you may also find it under the name Banga, which is Nigerian.
Spices that make this Palm nut soup recipe
This Abenkwan/ Palm nut soup recipe has baseline ingredients; onion, veggie cube, tomatoes… simple everyday spices. (You can find their values here.) But it can also have Pekesse/Prekese spice. What’s that? Prekese spice is found in many Ghana recipes, made from the dried fruit of the Prekese tree. It goes by many names, which is expected since it is native to West Tropical Africa. Some of these names being Effu, Galbanum, Uhiokirihio, and Aidan fruit. Botanically, it is known as Tetrapleura tetraptera. This is a soup dish not stew. You can add so much to it to give that burst of flavor that will make your taste buds tingle. Or you can keep it simple and still reap nutritional benefits and flavor from the palm nut cream.
What does Prekese taste like?
Prekese spice brings a sweet yet acidic taste. It has a sweet aroma and will bring a different type of kick to your vegetarian African food. Just like in this Palm nut soup recipe. This along with the palm nut in the Abenkwan gives the soup a creamy texture, slightly sour flavor thanks to the tomatoes and Prekese. You’ll also smell the sharp-sweet lingering aroma of the prekese which is very faint in flavor. So not only is it hearty and warm. But it is nutritious and flavorful. You might get stuck wondering what to eat it with though as the banku vs fufu question debates in your head. Too hard to pick? Try the Abenkwan with some rice and let your mind rest.
The study linked here said Prekese has a strong flavor but that is not true. In my experience of eating Prekese/aidan fruit in palm nut soup, the spice flavor is faint. I had to add two (2) before the aroma gain momentum of how I wanted it. According to studies, prekese can possibly help manage diabetes. It helps relieve fevers, making it even better in soups. It can also be boiled and had as tea. The pod contains nutrients like potassium, iron, and calcium. These help mothers in postpartum recovery as they help in blood restoration and milk production. Prekese isn’t the only spice used in tea, try this Chai ya mkandaa, meaning black tea in Kenya.
Palm nut cream benefits
Now onto the benefits of the star in this traditional Ghana food. That is Palm nuts. Palm nut is commonly turned into Red palm oil, used in stews and soups. But it can also be used in cakes and biscuits. You could try it in this Juicy Liberian Rice Bread Recipe. Like we said in our dry rice recipe, Palm oil is a great source of vitamin E and vitamin A. Vitamin E helps in cell function while vitamin A is good for your eyes. But, it is fairly high in saturated fat, so if you’re worried about bad cholesterol levels, make sure your palm oil is processed.
The great debate: Banku vs fufu
I’m sure you’ve heard of fufu, but you may be wondering what banku is. It is a popular traditional Ghana food that you can eat with the Palm nut soup recipe. Banku is made from slightly fermented and cooked corn and cassava dough. Once formed into a ball, it is cooked in hot water. It may look like fufu but it has a slightly sour taste and it is thicker. Fufu is made from cassava, yams, or plantain fufu flour. Both are said to be originally Ghana recipes, and are perfect for vegetarian African food. Both are swallow foods, and you know what that suggests… eating with your hands! You’ll find that this Traditional Ghana food etiquette/expectation somehow makes the food go down better.
So which one is better? We will let you pick in the comments. I personally think it comes down to thickness preferences and what ingredients you have ready.
DISCLAIMER: Palm nut soup splatters as it thickens, so do not wear white or light colored clothes when you cook it. They have stain removers for red wine, but not for red palm oil.
Vegetarian African food is not limited
Once again, we have seen that Ghana recipes can be suited for the vegetarian lifestyle. Abenkwan is no exception. We have also seen the differences between banku vs fufu and possibly come up with individual picks. Whatever you decide, try it with this Palm nut soup recipe. And try not to take a super long nap from the satisfaction and fullness in your belly. Curious about a no-animal-meat food lifestyle? Check out our Instagram page for real-life inspirations 😊.
- 2 Cups- Palm Nut Cream- (Not entire Can)
- 3 Cups- Water
- 2 Medium whole tomatoes
- Half of large vege cube
- 6.05 OZ- Plant proteins (wheat gluten and soy based)
- 1 tsp- Salt
- Quarter Onion diced
- 2 Prekesse (dried Aidan Fruit)
- 3 dried pepper
DISCLAIMER: Palm nut soup splatters as it thickens. Do not wear white or light-coloured clothes when you cook it.
In a deep cooking pot, add your desired plant proteins, 3 cups of water, rinsed tomatoes, diced onions, veggie cube, salt and peppers. Cover the pot and allow to boil on medium heat for 8 mins. For your Abenkwan, we need fresh tomatoes to soften as they boil since we'll mash/puree later.
Meanwhile, use either your oven or an open flame to roast the prekese/ dried Aidan fruit. You want to roast it so it darkens slightly in colour but not burnt. Roast the prekese for 3 mins or until you start to see a shift in its colour. If using an oven, roast at 300 degrees for 10 mins.
Once your soup is ready, remove the two tomatoes. You can blend your tomatoes to puree or mash them in your stone mortar. Note, I only used 2 tomatoes and the soup turned out quite sour. So be careful not to add too many tomatoes or it can cause too much acidity to the palm nut soup.
Next, open your palm nut cream can and measure 2 cups. Feel free to eyeball it if you are confident in your measurement skills. Add the 2 cups of measured palm nut cream to the soup. Add the pureed/mashed boiled tomatoes and your roasted prekese spice to the soup. Stir to combine.
Cover your cooking pot, and cook the Abenkwan for 30-40mins on med-low heat. Check back after 20mins to stir your Abenkwan-palm nut soup- by stirring to scrape the bottom. Plant proteins sometimes stick to the bottom so you want to gather them too.
Taste for salt and pepper and add according to your desired taste. If you like your soup watery, stop cooking at the 30 mins mark. But if you prefer it thicker, cook it longer.
Your Ghanian Abenkwan soup with its sweet-smelling prekese spice is ready for your fufu or banku.
Enjoy your traditional Ghana food!
I decided to use 2 cups of Palm nut cream instead of the entire can because I am the only plant-based person in my household. Please note the Yield amount is subjective; it can be 4 servings for some people, but for me it is 8 (an entire week worth).
Also, I think the palm nut cream is large and you can make other Vegetarian African soups out of it if you portion it wisely.