Spicy Fried Plantain Cubes

Kelewele

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Easy

  • Makes

    4 to 6

    servings

Appears in

The Ghana Cookbook

By Fran Osseo-Asare and Barbara Baëta

Published 2015

  • About

Kelewele is one of my all-time favorite snack foods from Ghana. It is generally described as something like “spicy fried plantain cubes,” but that description is like calling a sunset “beautiful.” Western cookbook versions I’ve seen are anemic versions of the best kelewele as prepared in Ghana, where it is often served accompanied by dry roasted unsalted peanuts. The sweet, spicy, and chewy plantain is a perfect counter to the mild crunchy/creamy flavor and texture of the peanuts. Years ago my husband and I used to go for walks in the evenings in Ghana to the roadside vendors whose lamps and candles flickered in the night and where the women neatly wrapped our hot, freshly cooked kelewele in clean newspaper.

Kelewele and peanuts go well with ice-cold beer or a drink like Ginger Beer or Hibiscus Iced Tea (Bissap). The following recipe is a U.S. adaptation of Flair’s version.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped yellow or red onion
  • 2 to 4 ounces fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 slice or more fresh red habanero or Scotch bonnet or other red chili pepper, seeds removed for milder flavor; or dried red pepper flakes or dried ground red pepper to taste (if you are new to chili peppers, begin with a small amount, such as 1 slice or ¼ to ½ teaspoon dried ground red pepper and add more gradually until the desired heat is achieved)
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 1 teaspoon anise seeds
  • teaspoon finely grated calabash nutmeg or regular nutmeg (optional)
  • 3 or 4 sticks hwentia (optional)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • 4 large slightly over-ripe plantains (somewhat black and soft, but not completely), peeled
  • Vegetable oil for deep-frying

Method

Directions

Prepare seasoning mixture

  1. Place the onion, ginger, chili pepper, cloves, anise seeds, nutmeg (if using), and 2 or 3 tablespoons of water in a mini food blender or processor along with 3 or 4 broken inch-long pieces of hwentia (hwentia adds a nice spicy, peppery, but not hot, flavor). Coarsely blend (it should not be completely blended and still have small pieces of cloves, aniseed, and hwentia).
  2. Pour the seasoning mixture into a small bowl, stir in the salt, and let it sit while preparing the plantains. (If desired, squeeze out the fibrous strings and use mostly the seasoned liquid left behind in the blender, discarding the large coarse fibers and broken spices.)

Prepare plantains

  1. Cut each plantain in half lengthwise, then cut each half in half lengthwise again, and slice each quarter on a diagonal into diamonds, or at 90 degree angles into small cubes. The size of each piece may be quite small (such as ½ inch or a little larger, depending on your preference.)
  2. Sprinkle a few tablespoons of the seasoning mixture over the cut plantains and stir well to coat. Taste the mixture and adjust seasonings as necessary. Let the coated plantains sit for several minutes while preparing oil.

Fry plantains

  1. Heat oil in a deep fryer or heavy-bottomed pan to about 350 degrees F. Make sure the oil is shallow enough that it will not bubble over when adding the plantains.
  2. Using a long-handled slotted spoon, put some of the seasoned plantain pieces into the hot oil, stirring to make sure they do not stick together. When they are nicely browned on all sides, remove and drain them on paper towels. Continue cooking the remaining plantains in small batches.

To serve

These are best eaten immediately or soon after cooking, preferably with dry roasted unsalted peanuts.