Although Waakye is more popular in northern Ghana, it is also consumed throughout the country and is also known in Nigeria and Benin. Waakye is a dish with rice and red beans (or black-eyed peas) cooked in an infusion of millet leaves. Those millet leaves bear the name of the dish, i.e. waakye.
Today we shall head to Ghana for a unique recipe called waakye, awaakey, waatchi, or ayimolu.
Waakye (pronounced waachay) is a Hausa word, which means beans. It is actually an abbreviated form of the full name shinkafa da wake which means “rice and beans”.
Waakye is one of the most popular street foods in Ghana. Many families prefer to stock up on waakye from a popular street vendor rather than cook it at home, most likely due to a long time it takes to prepare it with dry beans.
Waakye is very similar to the West Indian version of “rice and peas”. It is prepared using common methods but without any additional spices or herbs that are typically used in the West Indian version. The eating of rice and beans together is actually a common phenomenon in many cultures in the Americas, India, and other West African countries.
HOW TO MAKE WAAKYE
The dried millet leaves must first be boiled to bring out the rich burgundy color associated with waakye. Then you have to take the time to soak the beans and cook them before finally cooking the rice with the waakye leaves and its water.
Waakye is often boiled with an effervescent additive that is known as kanwa (also called kaun, akaun or ikaun). It is a type of naturally occurring sodium-based salt, also known as potash in English. Potash is actually a generic name for minerals or inorganic compounds that contain potassium. It is made from the ashes of burnt wood in an iron pot. The name is actually derived from the process (“pot” and “ash”). Kaun helps soften the beans, so you do not have to soak them overnight.
Waakye can also be prepared with dried sorghum leaves. Sorghum is a close cousin of millet. It is a cereal and forage grass called “great millet” or “Indian millet”.
In Ghana, waakye is widely recognized as the breakfast and lunch of choice for people who do not want to spend too much money on a filling meal.