Sesame Soup with Poultry

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Preparation info

  • Makes

    4 to 5

    • Difficulty


Appears in

The Ghana Cookbook

By Fran Osseo-Asare and Barbara Baëta

Published 2015

  • About

Sesame soup is popular in Northern Ghana. While in Tamale shadowing Mrs. Comfort Awu Akor, we went to the local outdoor market for ingredients to make ours, including guinea fowl and sesame seeds. Comfort wanted two specific types of seeds, but we had to settle for what was available. Preparations were quite labor intensive. Our Muslim driver Abdul did the honors of slaughtering the guinea fowl—cutting its head off after saying a prayer. We boiled water to clean the fowl and remove its feathers, and cut it into serving pieces. To prepare the sesame paste we rinsed the seeds, dried and toasted them, and pounded them into a smooth paste in a mortar. I have been unsuccessful in duplicating that process using either a coffee grinder or blender, even with the addition of sesame oil. Therefore, this recipe substitutes tahini.


  • 4 pounds guinea fowl, Cornish game hens, chicken, or pheasant
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped onion (red if available)
  • 2-inch piece fresh ginger, coarsely chopped
  • 3 or 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 to 3 chili peppers, or to taste (jalapeno for milder, cayenne for hotter, and habanero for very hot), seeded and stems and membranes removed to decrease heat, if desired
  • teaspoons salt or seasoned salt (or to taste)
  • 6 small-to-medium peeled tomatoes or half a 28-ounce can tomatoes
  • 1 cup tahini



Prepare the poultry

  1. Rinse the poultry (if desired, cut off the end of the tails and the tips of the wings) and remove any extra fat and loose skin. Keep the neck but discard the liver. Cut each fowl into serving pieces: for a quinea fowl or chicken, 8 to 10 pieces; for the game hens, quarter each (or cut into more pieces if serving to a crowd, in which case, be fearless and whack away at the bones with a heavy butcher knife).
  2. Put the onion, ginger, garlic, and chili peppers in a blender. Add just enough water (a tablespoon or two) to grind them into a paste.
  3. Put the poultry pieces into a large heavy pot with a lid, along with a ½ cup of water and the ground seasoning mixture. Rinse out the blender container with a little more water and add that, too, along with the salt. Stir to mix, cover the pot, and heat on high heat, then reduce to medium to steam the poultry for 10 to 20 minutes.

Prepare tomatoes

  1. If using fresh tomatoes, first drop in boiling water for a couple of minutes, then in cold water (this loosens the skins). Remove the skins and then puree the tomatoes in a blender. If using canned tomatoes, simply drain and puree, adding about half a cup of the juice from the can as well.

Assemble soup

  1. Once the poultry is steamed, place a strainer over the soup, and add the pureed tomatoes, straining out the seeds. Add 2 cups of water, pouring it through the strainer, too, to get the last bit of tomato in the soup. Add an additional 2 cups of water, bring to a boil, then lower the heat to simmer the soup while preparing the sesame paste.
  2. Mix the tahini (sesame paste) with 2 cups of the soup’s hot broth in a small saucepan. Cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the oil begins to separate. Pour mixture into a blender, using a spatula if necessary.
  3. Remove the poultry pieces to another pot and strain the broth into the new pot with them.
  4. Blend the sesame mixture in the blender with a little more broth if needed. Stir the sesame paste into the soup, rinsing the blender with broth from the pot, and scraping the dregs in with a spatula. Adjust the seasonings to taste.


  • Use tomato sauce or paste in place of fresh or canned tomatoes.
  • Substitute vegetables for the fowl (use mushrooms, eggplant, etc.).
  • Use less tahini for a milder, lighter flavor.
  • Serve as a first course and garnish with parsley, grated hardboiled egg, or minced green onions.
  • Instead of using tahini, toast and grind sesame seeds and blend them with 1½ cups water in a smoothie maker.