Kokonte: One of Ghana’s loved foods, though publicly denied

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Face-the-wall, Lapiiwa, and Opolatsaa are some of the funny names given to Kokonte, one of Ghana’s loved foods, though publicly denied by some others. 

The face-the-wall and lapiiwa names depict how some people hide kokonte when eating it and the style in which they consume the food, while the Opolatsaa (to wit sweating) signifies the sweat it generates in its consumers.

These names always draw mischievous smiles from the public, though they secretly savour every moment they consume it.

Even though it is publicly rejected by many, it is always the first food to get finished at functions. The question then is: Why do people pretend they do not like kokonte?

Many Ghanaian ethnic groups eat kokonte; however, the Ga-Dangmes are known to be the ones who savour it the most.

What is Kokonte? 

Kokonte is made from dried cassava. It is produced by cutting the cassava into pieces and dried in the sun for some days until it becomes crispy, which is then milled into fine flour. This method was mostly used in the immediate past by households though some still adopt it.

Currently, however, Kokonte flour is produced commercially. Instead of sun drying for days, ovens are used to dry the cassava, giving it a pure whitish colour compared to the brownish colour it used to be.

Mrs Evelyn Addo, the operator of Evelyn’s Joint at La-Kaklamadu in the La Dadekotopn Municipality of the Greater Accra Region, took the Ghana News Agency (GNA) through the preparation of Kokonte or ‘dziji’ as the Gas proudly call it.

To get a good-textured Kokonte, she said water must be boiled while the cassava flour is then loosened by sieving to break any lumps before pouring into the boiling water.

This is then skillfully stirred, vigorously and consistently, to avoid the formation of lumps. The process continues until the mixture turns into a deep brownish colour. This is the traditional “Ga-Dangme method of preparation.

She, however, noted that those who find it difficult to prepare the “Ga-Dangme way” can adopt the simple process of first mixing the cassava flour with water into a paste and pouring it into the boiling water, then stirring consistently as it is done in the’banku’ preparation process.

Accompaniment 

Kokonte, just like any other Ghanaian food, is eaten with soup, especially palm nut, peanut, okro, or a combination of two soups.

The Ga-Dangmes, however, also take it with specially prepared pepper.

Mrs Victoria Mamle Nunoo, a kokonte lover, told the GNA that eating it with pepper is one of the best things to happen to a Dangme, explaining that the pepper sauce is different from the pepper normally eaten with kenkey or banku.

This is mostly prepared with red dried chili, onions, and fire-roasted tomatoes grinned together (it must be noted that more tomatoes are added to this sauce).

To make the pepper tasty, a well-roasted fermented salted fish (Momoni) and shrimps are grinned into it, plus the person’s choice of fish and some koobi, pressed into the pepper for a mouth-watering sauce to accompany the kokonte.

 

Kokonte Lovers 

Mrs Addo, who has sold Kokonte for over 18 years, said in the past, it was a little difficult to sell the food as people saw it as “a poor man’s food and, therefore, made derogatory remarks about it, making some people shy away from patronising it”.

Currently, however, Kokonte is the first food to get consumed in no time among the other dishes she sells, indicating that it takes her less than two hours to sell a size 10 cauldron (dadesen) full of the food daily.

Mr Benjamin Nanor, another Kokonte lover, said he would choose the meal any day over rice, fufu, banku, and omotuo (rice balls), adding: “I can’t stay a day without eating kokonte.”

“This is not to say that the foods I’ve mentioned are not delicious or nutritious.”

Mr Nanor said even though most people claimed Kokonte was good for the stomach, he ate his for the love of it and all the other benefits came as a bonus.

“All I need is my kokonte with groundnut soup, with a dash of okro, accompanied by tripe (intestines) from my favourite spot called Efie Aduane in Tema Community One.”

Mrs Bethelinda Osabukuor Abbey indicates that Kokonte is light and digests faster, making her full and satisfied whenever she takes the meal.

“Kokonte is easy to swallow, especially when accompanied by okro, making it a preferred choice for both the elderly and babies, unlike fufu, which she described as too heavy and takes a longer time to digest,” she said.

Nutritional Values 

Ms Joyce Asare Kissi, the Head of Nutrition Unit, Tema General Hospital, said cassava flour, which is used to prepare Kokonte, contains a lot of nutrients, making the food a nutritional pack.

“Cassava starch is very rich in vitamin C, which is good for collagen formation. Collagen is known to be vital in the wound-healing process. Therefore, the perception that the consumption of Kokonte helps heal stomach wounds has some truth to it.”

“It is also high in fibre, so it aids in weight loss, as you will feel full throughout the day, and then you won’t need any food at intervals.”

Eating Kokonte also helps regulate the blood sugar level, as research has revealed that cassava starch helps control the body’s sugar.

“Its high fibre content also helps with cholesterol levels as it takes the fat out of the body,” the nutritionist said.

Conclusion 

Given the nutritional benefits of kokonte and the need to consume traditional Ghanaian foods to ensure a healthy life, there is no gain saying that Ghanaian gastronomy will rise above any continental dish if put to the test.

“Let’s consume our local foods, even though some may be delicacies, it is always worth the effort to get a good Ghanaian dish, like kokonte, to derive the maximum health benefits.”

A GNA feature by Laudia Sawer

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