Ghanaian Cuisine: Aprapransa

Aprapransa, originally known as ‘Akplijii’ or ‘Akplidzi’, is a traditional Ghanaian GaDangme (or Ga) dish created by combining roasted corn flour with a sacred GaDangme soup called ‘Palm Nut Soup’. This dish holds great significance as ‘Palm Nut Soup’ is an ancient and revered soup among the GaDangme people. It is traditionally prepared alongside another sacred corn flour meal known as ‘Kpokpoi’ or ‘Kpekpele’ during the ‘Homowo’ festival, an Ancient Religious Hebraic Harvest Festival. The GaDangme people introduced these culinary practices to ‘Ancient-Ghana’ and shared the knowledge of preparing the delectable ‘Palm Nut Soup’ with other tribes, similar to how the ‘Akans’ shared their soup called ‘Abunebunu’ or ‘Ebunuebunu’.

It is worth noting that outside of Ghana, other tribes such as the Yorubas, Igbos, and so on in Nigeria have their own distinct method of processing ‘Palm Nut’ into a soup called ‘Banga Soup’, which bears similarities to the Ghanaian version. As time passed, the preparation of ‘Palm Nut Soup’ in Ghana became more widespread and lost its sacred status. However, it is fascinating to know that the GaDangme people have utilized the palm tree in various sacred ways since ancient times. These practices include preparing ‘Palm Nut Soup’, burning dried figs as incense for spiritual cleansing and warding off evil spirits, and constructing new houses each year using fresh palm tree branches.

Akplijii or Aprapransa, a variant of the dish, holds a special place as it is served on significant occasions. Sadly, there is a concern that this cherished dish may gradually disappear from our culinary heritage. It is not commonly found on the streets of Ghana or prepared regularly in households. Instead, it is primarily served by the Akan tribe during momentous events like marriage ceremonies, naming ceremonies, birthday celebrations, and family cookouts. The name ‘Aprapransa’ originates from the fact that it is a wholesome meal where the soup or stew is integrated, allowing one to simply wipe their hands (prapra wo nsa) and enjoy the dish in its entirety.

Ingredients for Apapransa (Without Palm Nut Soup):

  • 1 cup roasted cornmeal
  • 3 onions, chopped
  • 1 tomato
  • 2 chili peppers
  • Momoni (fermented, stinky, or stockfish)
  • 3 teaspoons powdered shrimps
  • 1/4 tablespoon deboned herrings
  • 1 smoked salmon
  • 1/2 cup palm oil
  • 2 to 3 precooked crabs
  • Seasoning powder
  • Salt to taste

Directions to Prepare Apapransa (Without Palm Nut Soup):

  1. In a cooking pot, heat the palm oil over medium heat. Add the fermented fish and fry for about 2 minutes.
  2. Add sliced onions to the pot and fry until they become translucent and soft.
  3. Blend the pepper and remaining onions until smooth, then add it to the pot. Stir and let it cook until the water evaporates.
  4. Dice or slice the tomato and add it to the pot. Immediately add the deboned herrings. Stir and let it cook.
  5. Add the smoked mackerel, shrimp powder, crabs, seasoning salt, and adjust salt to taste.
  6. Allow the stew to cook for 10 minutes, stirring continuously.
  7. Remove the crabs and scoop some of the stew into a separate bowl and set it aside.
  8. Add 1/2 cup of water to the stew remaining in the pot. Cover and bring it to a boil. Set aside a portion of the boiled mixture.
  9. Gradually add roasted corn flour while stirring continuously with a wooden ladle.
  10. Alternately add the flour and the reserved stew (a bit of corn flour and a bit of the sauce at a time) until well incorporated. Cook for about 10 minutes.
  11. Add the crab and extra stew that was set aside. Serve.

Ingredients for Apapransa (Using Palm Nut Soup):

  • 1 cup palm nuts
  • 1/2 kg meat (any meat of choice)
  • 5 pieces crabs (optional)
  • 2 medium fresh tomatoes
  • 1 smoked salmon
  • 3 large onions
  • 5 medium-sized garden eggs (optional)
  • 5 bonnet chili pepper
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1-inch ginger root
  • Seasoning powder or cubes
  • Warm water

Directions to Prepare Apapransa (Using Palm Nut Soup):

  1. Wash the palm nuts thoroughly with clean water in a large bowl.
  2. Place the nuts in a large cooking pot and add enough water to cover them. Boil under high heat for about 20-30 minutes until they are soft and tender.
  3. Drain the water from the cooked nuts and transfer them to a mortar. Pound the nuts with a pestle until the outer covering of the palm nuts falls off.
  4. Pour the pounded mixture into a bowl and add enough warm water to mix. Take the fibrous part of the mixture and squeeze out the liquid bit by bit.
  5. Using a colander, drain the liquid from the fiber and nuts. Set the liquid aside.
  6. Wash the meat and cut it into smaller pieces. Place it in a cooking pot.
  7. Peel and wash the ginger, garlic, chili pepper, and onions. Blend these ingredients together until smooth.
  8. Pour the blended mixture over the chopped meat. Add seasoning and salt. Cook the meat for about 10 minutes. Add crabs if desired.
  9. Add fresh tomatoes, garden eggs, and one onion to the cooking pot. Cover with a lid and allow them to cook until soft.
  10. Pour the palm liquid over the meat and gently stir.
  11. Remove the cooked tomatoes, onions, garden eggs, and pepper. Blend them and add the mixture to the soup. Adjust the salt.
  12. In another saucepan, pour some of the palm nut soup and add crabs and herrings.
  13. Stir in the roasted corn flour into the palm nut soup using a wooden spoon and stir consistently for some time.
  14. Cook for about 15 minutes.
  15. When ready, remove from the heat and set aside.
  16. Serve the Apapransa by dishing some into a bowl or on a plate.

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Sophia Celestina Apenkro

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