Going native in Ho - Hillview Chop BarWritten by:Zoe on: June 26, 2013
Banku and I have never really gotten along – I have always regarded it as a stodgy, sticky, gooey mess. For some reason I can eat Kenkey all day (okay, not all day) and enjoy Fufu now and then for leaving a carb footprint but Banku–Nah. That was until I got to Ho in the Volta Region where Banku is their regional favourite (as Fanti Kenkey is in the Central region among Fanti’s, GA Kenkey to Ga’s in Accra and Fufu is among Ashanti’s in the Western region so Banku is to the people of Volta – a staple) and you can’t sample an authentic local dish in an authentic local chop bar in the Volta without Banku being an accompaniment.
I asked a few people in Ho to recommend a good chop bar: a taxi driver, a woman in the market and the local staff at Kick Start Ghana all said without hesitation “Hillview.”
It being a chop bar you need to check ahead to see what’s on the menu if you have specific dietary requirements. One of our party that evening didn’t eat fish or fufu or banku (tricky one in this region) and this being Ho you can’t call the chop bar so you have to drop in. My companions did as much and were told that among the usual banku’s and tilapia they would have goat, chicken and rice. Everyone was happy. I was even excited because I’d heard such great reviews.
Hillview is on the outskirts of Ho as you head out of town a little on the Ho Hoi road northeast – Ho is pretty small so it really isn’t that far – less than a five minute taxi ride from central Ho at a cost of – wait for it – 70 peswhar! Less than 1GHC less than 50p!
As we drew up in the taxi there was a dim flickering lighting coming from the very well stocked bar area facing the road and it looked busy – busy for Ho at this time of year and so early in the evening at 7.00pm on a Friday night. I could smell Tilapia grilling on an open BBQ as I stepped out of the car and the sound system was out and up but not too loud. Perfect. I was very happy so far.
A thin stretch of buzzy light was visible from the kitchen as we walked around to the open dining area but otherwise it was pretty dark – so dark that when the food came we couldn’t really see it. This is quite normal in Ho and also in some bars in Accra – a ploy to deter mosquitos perhaps?
“What will you take?” This is what people ask you when they ask what you want for dinner.
“What’s on the menu?”
“Banku and Tilapia, Banku and Smoked Fish, Banku and Okre Soup…”
Wait – Okre soup – another dish I’ve been resisting for a long time because I don’t like okre (ladies fingers to some)
Okre is a slippery little sucker that leaves a gooey trail behind its tender green sleeve – if only it wasn’t so slippery inside.
If Banku is the region’s favourite carb, Banku and Okre Soup (Fetri Detsi – Ewe for Okre light soup) is the regions favourite dish. I decide I have to try this combo because it’s two of my least favourite things on a plate in a place renowned for serving good versions of it. When in Ho…
The rest of the group ordered fried rice and chicken bar Dan who ordered fufu – another local favourite after Banku. My food came out in less than ten minutes and the waitress announced that there was no goat, no chicken or rice and they’d run out of cassava to make fufu. The table slumped while I peeked at (searching for floating okre) and inhaled my fragrant Fetri Detsi which I was eager to tuck into to. In the end Dan and Dave decided to catch a taxi down to The Whitehouse and pre-order a meal for later – that’s where we were headed for after dinner drinks (you can’t call ahead) while Katie and the other Dave both ordered Banku and Tilapia.
Unable to wait any longer I dove into a heavenly surprise – “it’s so nutty” I exclaimed, “and not slippery at all.” “It’s spicy too!” Until this point I had been remarkably surprised by the lack of heat in dishes other than the customary side of Shito. I greedily slurped it up like a born-again and went in search of the chef – Antoinette (pictured below).
The banku was firm, fresh and also delicious – also made by Antoinette.
Antoinette ran through the ingredients and instruction on how to prepare the dish (very quickly) but it looks pretty straightforward. When I asked how much Palm Oil to use Antoinette replied “1GHC” to signify the size of the bag bought – it’s about 2 cups full. Antoinette generously offered “come tomorrow and I will cook it, show you— you can take plenty picture.” Sadly I was leaving for Accra via Ho Hoi so couldn’t take up this wonderful offer.
All negative preconceptions blown away and a new dish for my menu at home. Boom!
Antoinette’s Ewe Fetri Detsi (pronounced fedree-ditchi)
Okre, Onion, Garlic, Green Kpakp Shito Peppers, Ground Pepper, Prawn Maggi Cube (I would replace this with a stock made from powdered shrimp), Smoked Herring and Mackerel for base sauce, Chicken on the bone, Spinach or greens of your choice, Palm Oil
Fry, roast or grill your chicken as you like it. While this is cooking, dice the onion and garlic, peel the garlic, wash, trim and slice the okre.
Add the okre (go light if you’re not a fan) to a pot of boiling water – just covered.
Add a bunch or two of roughly chopped spinach or greens
Add prawn powder stock – half cup
Add smoked herring and mackerel (optional)
Grind in a mortar: salt, green kpakpo shito pepper, ground pepper, garlic, ginger and onions and add to pot.
Add two small cups of palm oil
Fish out (excuse the pun) the mackerel and herring and keep for another day or serve instead or as well as chicken.
Add the chicken when cooked and let the palm oil cook out for about an hour.
Voila! That’s tasty.