Business booms at banku and tilapia joints

There is nothing more delicious on a hot afternoon or cool evening than a ball of soft banku and spicy-grilled tilapia with fresh pepper and shito to kill your hunger.

Like other Ghanaian dishes such as fufu, rice balls, red-red, waakye and banku tilapia has become a delicacy for most Ghanaians, adding to the delicious and irresistible Ghanaian cuisine.

Apart from the mouth-watering nature of a grilled tilapia, its sumptuous taste, coupled with its appetising and attractive sight because of garnishing, has made the meal the favourite of most Ghanaians. Grilled tilapia, mostly eaten with banku and hot pepper, is served in almost all leading restaurants, as well as at some special joints.

With between GH¢5 and GH¢30, patrons of the meal get to enjoy either a small, regular or large size of tilapia fish and banku.

  Enjoying the moment
Consumers of the meal prefer to take it while they are relaxed so that they can enjoy every bit of it, especially its head, which seems to be the tastiest part for many people. Research has also revealed that tilapia contains protein and omega three natural oil, while the banku also provides carbohydrate. 

The tilapia is normally served fully with the head and tail as most people feel cheated without those parts.

“I love banku and tilapia with hot pepper on a hot afternoon because the fish is not fried. But I enjoy the eye of the tilapia than any part of it,” Maafia Agyemang said.

“With the hot pepper, banku and tilapia is just a perfect one,” Obed Ayisi said.

But Franklin Badu seems not to agree with these complimentary remarks about banku and tilapia; saying, “I like it but I find it so difficult to eat because of the bones in the fish”.

Although the sale of banku and tilapia is done mostly by women, some men are also doing a very good job in the field. The business has created job opportunities for many people as many banku and tilapia joints continue to spring up at every corner in the cities.

Spotted at Adabraka just opposite the Aponkye Spot in Accra is the Fresh Inn Catering Services which serve one of the tastiest banku and tilapia. The spot is managed by Mr Samuel N. Teye, who learnt the business from his late mother.  

According to him, he started in 1990 when he used to help his mother with the business at Mamprobi in Accra.

“I took over from my mother because I used to do the grilling while she did the selling. After school, I got a job but the pay was not good, compared to what I could get from the banku and tilapia business so I stopped and took over from my mother,” he explained. According to him, although many people have joined the business over the years, the business is still good. 

“Most people who make orders for occasions in recent times request banku and tilapia as part of their menu, making it one of the most preferred meals at all gatherings, and that is making our business to boom.”

Price of the meal, he added, was determined by the operators but he cautioned that it was always good to take into consideration the area so that the prices were not too high for the residents to patronise.

“I start the business from around 4:00 p.m. almost every day and sell a plate for between GH¢4 and GH¢17, depending on the size of the fish”. 

  The challenges 
Every work comes with its own challenges, and according to Mr Teye, grilling tilapia is very difficult, especially with the exposure to the smoke. He said they were exposed to smoke from the grilling machines, which are fuelled by charcoal.

“The smoke hurts our eyes and we also think inhaling it could have some health implications. I have, therefore, learnt not to stand by the fire for long so that I could avoid the smoke,” he said.

  How to prepare tilapia 
1. Clean, descale and wash the fish
2. Remove the gill covering and hard fins and slit parts of it. 

4.Use your hands or spoon to rub the seasoning mixture all over the fish, including the slits and the inside of the fish. (The season mixture varies from person to person).

5. Leave the marinade on the fish for some few minutes.

6. Brush the grill with oil and place the fish almost directly on top of the coals.

7. Put a little oil on the fish to keep it soft and moist. 

8. After 3-5 minutes, turn over the fish and baste this side with a little oil as well.

9. Depending on the thickness of the fish and the heat of the fire, the tilapia should be ready within 10 to 15 minutes. 

  How to prepare banku
Banku is an indigenous fermented meal of maize and cassava. It is prepared using corn and cassava dough. 

The cassava and corn dough are mixed with cups of water depending on how soft or otherwise one wants it.

It’s then kneaded with the hand until very smooth dough is obtained and cooked very well.

It is then moulded into small dumplings and served with tilapia.

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