Welcome to The Storied Recipe! This Kelewele recipe came from my podcast guest, Adjwoa. These spicy fried plantains are the staple dish at every gathering that acted as a bridge between her communities in Ghana and America. I invite you to listen to her story while you make this popular Ghanaian street food.
Oh Kelewele, where do I start with your praises? Let's start with the gorgeous golden brown color... That glowing, golden, earthy tone is just so inviting, you'll love Kelewele before you even take a bit. Next, you'll bite through just a hint of a crispy batter fried in hot oil. The resulting crunchy exterior is pure FLAVOR - ginger, cayenne pepper, onion, salt and pepper.
While you fire up your fryer and chop your plantains, I urge you to listen to my podcast guest, Adjwoa telling us all about her tips for making Kelewele while musing on the differences between Ghanaian and American culture and sharing heartwarming & hilarious stories about her fiery, entrepreneurial grandmother
Listen to Adjwoa's Story
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- This traditional dish relies on fresh ingredients - the main one being, of course, plantains.
- The plantain is marinated in a mixture of Kelewele seasoning made from various spices like ginger, garlic, and red pepper.
- The combination of spices and natural sweetness of the plantain creates a perfect balance of heat and sweetness.
How ripe should the plantains be?
- Adjwoa advises us to look for ripe plantains - gold with a few brown spots.
- Of course, you'd choose green plantains for a firmer texture or opt for slightly riper plantains if you prefer a softer kelewele.
- Boiled peanuts - called groundnuts in many countries - are a common pairing, especially from the street vendors in Accra and other Ghanaian cities
How to peel & chop the plantains
- Peel the plantains from bottom (opposite the stem) to top.
- Using a sharp knife, slice the plantains lengthwise.
- Quarter each slice, including the ends of the plantain.
- Chop the four quarters into small cubes, about the size of a thumbnail.
Steps to preparing the spice blend
- Roughly chop the fresh ginger and onions, then combine in a food processor with some water and other spices.
- Let the plantains sit and marinate for a few moments before frying
How to fry
- Heat cooking oil in a deep pan or pot over medium heat until it reaches frying temperature.
- Carefully add the marinated plantain cubes into the hot oil, ensuring not to overcrowd the pan.
- Fry the plantain cubes until they turn golden brown and have a crisp texture, stirring occasionally for even cooking. This usually takes about 4-6 minutes.
- Once fried, use a slotted spoon to remove the fried plantain cubes from the hot oil, allowing any excess oil to drain back into the pan.
- Transfer the fried kelewele onto a plate lined with paper towels to absorb any remaining oil and to achieve a lighter finish.
- If you prefer a darker finish, you can fry the kelewele for an additional minute or two, but be careful not to overcook and burn the plantains.
Fresh Ingredients vs. Dry Spices
- There is absolutely no doubt that fresh ingredients - especially fresh onion and ginger root - is the authentic and traditional approach
- Fresh Ingredients also create more vibrant and aromatic flavors.
- However, dry powders are more convenient and quicker. If you choose to use them, use the following proportions:
- One tablespoon onion powder or 3tbsp dried onion flakes to replace one onion
- One teaspoon ginger powder
- Omit the water
Which kind of pepper?
- Adjwoa calls for Cayenne Pepper powder
- For something spicier and easily available in American grocery stores, go with Scotch Bonnet or Habanero
- If you can make it to an African market, the following peppers are native to Ghana:
- Akosombo Chili: This is a popular local pepper variety in Ghana, known for its moderate heat and fruity flavor. It is often used in various dishes and sauces.
- Nsukka Pepper: Also referred to as the "Uziza pepper," this pepper is native to West Africa, including Ghana. It has a unique flavor profile that combines spiciness with a hint of citrus and is frequently used in soups and stews.
- Shito Pepper: Shito is a spicy black pepper sauce that is a staple in Ghanaian cuisine. It is typically made with a blend of local peppers, including the indigenous "Kpakpo shito" pepper, which adds a fiery kick to the sauce.
- Kantosey Pepper
- You'll find many similar but different recipes, each traditional to the many other countries that make spicy fried plantain
- Some countries, like Nigeria, make an almost identical dish but they cut plantains a different way - thicker and more crescent-shaped
- "Tajadas" are a similar dish found in South America found in countries like Venezuela and Colombia
- The Ivory Coast boasts an almost identical dish called Alloco - usually super spicy and not always including ginger
- For a low fat version of popular ghanaian dish, roast the Kelewele in a pan.
- Deep Fat Fryer or Large Nonstick, Non-Toxic Fry Pan deep enough to submerge plantains in the hot oil
- Large Slotted Spoon for frying
- Street vendors and home cooks would be appalled by the suggestion there could be any leftover kelewele 😉 It is absolutely best enjoyed fresh.
- If you must store it, I'd suggest freezing it after it is *completely* cool. Reheat in an air fryer or oven to regain some crispiness
History & Meaning
- Fried plantains have a rich history that spans across various cultures and regions, with their origins believed to be in West Africa, where plantains are native.
- Plantains have been a staple food in West African cuisine for centuries, and the practice of frying them has been a traditional cooking method passed down through generations.
- Over time, fried plantains have gained popularity worldwide, not only in West Africa but also in Caribbean, Latin American, and Asian cuisines, where they are enjoyed for their unique flavor, versatility, and cultural significance.
Other Fried Plantain Recipes
- Haitian Fried Plantain Cups - Super fun plantain chips in shape of bowl. Fill with avocado, pineapple, pork or anything else for a fun and festive party food
- Again, Kelewele is a popular street food often enjoyed on its own as a finger food or perfect snack
- However, if you'd like to serve it as a side dish, these main dishes would be an excellent choice
Frying foods carries a small inherent risk. Here are a few tips to minimize the danger:
- Use a deep-fryer or a deep pot with sufficient oil capacity.
- Monitor and maintain the recommended oil temperature using a thermometer.
- Handle hot oil with care, using appropriate utensils and protective gear.
- Avoid overcrowding the frying vessel to prevent spills and maintain control.