A stroll through the streets of Ghana, any day of the week, one would see a group of people queuing to buy waakye, pronounced waa-chay. Waakye is a street food made with rice and beans boiled with a special waakye leaf that lends its color to the meal. The meal is usually served in plantain leaves. It is a staple in almost every Ghanaian home and can be eaten at any time of the day, either for breakfast, lunch, or supper. It is undoubtedly Ghana’s favorite breakfast.
The beauty of this dish is, it can be packed with so many accompaniments, according to the consumer’s preference. The combinations are simply endless. You can get a “simple” waakye with spaghetti or you can dig deeper by adding a boiled egg, meat and or fish, wele (cow skin), avocados, coleslaw, gari (finely grated cassava), and fried ripe plantains. You can top these with black pepper sauce or shito and stew.
Waakye originates from the northern region of Ghana although it cannot be directly linked to any ethnic group or tribe. The taste is basically the same everywhere except for slight variations depending on where it is prepared.
The different cultures in the country lend to the uniqueness of the accompaniments served with the Waakye by each group. Some prefer more beans to rice, while others love more protein and spicier shito.
An authentic Waakye, much like the Caribbean version rice and peas, is made with black-eyed peas or cowpeas.
The Jamaican version of waakye is rice and peas made with thyme, scotch bonnet, onions, and coconut milk. Guyana has cook-up rice also made with rice and beans mixed with the protein and fresh herbs and spices. O arroz com feijão or “the foundation” is the Brazilian version of the dish — the rice and beans is a staple served with other meals with meats and vegetables. These variations came about due to the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade.
Ghanaians love Jollof and claim to make the best one at that but Waakye can simply take on the mantle of the Ghanaian national dish hands down since we are yet to meet a Ghanaian who has never tasted Waakye or who does not love this delicacy.
Waakye is served at almost every event venue and on special occasions. It is sold in restaurants as well. However, if one wants to enjoy the best Waakye, then the street vendor down the road is the best bet.