Ghana’s popular steamed fermented corn dough ball is commonly called kenkey (or dokono, dokon, kokui, tim or komi.) Kenkey is Ghana’s challenge to polenta and comes in numerous versions. Most common are the Ga and Fante styles. I first lived in Nungua along the coast of Ghana where Ga kenkey predominates, so that is my preference. In contrast, Fante kenkey is unsalted, steamed in plantain leaves rather than cornhusks, and shaped differently. Ga kenkey is made from a starter dough like that used for banku. However, while banku is very soft, kenkey is steamed (or sometimes boiled) to make a much firmer ball that can be sliced or served whole.
Ghanaians abroad often substitute aluminum foil or plastic wrap for the corn husks, but the foil and wrap do not allow the balls to steam properly and you lose the wonderful delicate flavor imparted by the corn husks.
Makes about 4 servings (4 balls).
- 3 cups of corn flour fermented into corn dough
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 8 to 16 (depending on size) dried corn husks for wrapping the dough (available where Latin ingredients are sold)
Prepare corn husks:
1. Before preparing the dough for steaming, put the dried cornhusks in a bowl of warm water to soften for about 30 minutes or until they are pliable. Push them under the water to make sure they are covered.
Prepare the "aflata":
2. In a 3-quart saucepan mix 2 cups of water with half of the dough and the salt. Cook the mixture over medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly with a heavy wooden spoon or paddle, being careful not to scorch or burn it. The dough will thicken in about 5 minutes, and by 10 minutes will be quite thick. If it gets too thick and hard to stir, add a little water around the outside of the pan to warm, and then stir it into the dough. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the uncooked portion of the corn dough, mixing them together well.
Shape and wrap the balls:
3. To form the balls of dough, Ghanaians would just hold the dough (about 1/4 of it) in one hand and expertly shape it into a ball by repeatedly tossing it up a little and turning it in moistened hands. For the rest of us it is easier and safer to wet one's hands and use both to shape the ball.
4. Place the dough ball on top of a good-sized softened corn husk with no tears or holes, with the "fat" end facing the bottom. Holding the dough ball and softened corn husk in one hand, place another corn husk over the uncovered part of the dough ball, making sure that it overlaps at least 1/4 inch over the previous husk. Repeat the process with additional corn husks if necessary until the ball is covered.
5. Twist the narrow ends (at the top) of the corn husks together tightly and poke a hole in the topside of the dough by pushing the corn husks apart at a place where they overlap, then push the twisted end into the ball of dough and cover it with the soft dough and return the corn husks to the overlapped position. Do the same thing for the other end (this is trickier because the husks are thicker). Repeat with remaining dough and corn husks to make four kenkey balls.
Steam the kenkey:
6. Put a steamer insert into a stainless steel pot with boiling water beneath it and place the balls in the steamer. Steam them for about 60 minutes, adding a little water as necessary. When removing the balls from the pot let them cool slightly before unwrapping them, to avoid scalding yourself.
To serve: Kenkey is best served warm. Classic accompaniments include Stuffed Fried Fish (Kenam), Fresh Pepper Sauce, and/or the classic Shito. Kenkey and a stew or fried fish and pepper sauce is a great meal to eat with your hands, but kenkey is also served sliced as a side accompaniment to a stew.
It is also used to make Iced Kenkey.
Make ahead: Kenkey can be steamed and stored in the refrigerator or frozen and thawed.
More from The Ghana Cookbook:
- Fermented Cassava Dough Recipe
- Fermented Corn Dough Recipe
- Banku (Stirred Fermented Corn Dough) Recipe
Cover courtesy of Hippocrene Books
Excerpted with permission from The Ghana Cookbook by Fran Osseo-Asare & Barbara Baëta (Hippocrene Books, 2015).