The Ghanaian Braised Rice Dish You Should Know

Before the days of tuo zaafi (millet soup) or okro stew (okra stew), the people of Ghana were on the hunt for animal meat, berries, and seeds, per Food by Country. This was their main source of food around 6000 B.C. As the years progressed, the likes of citrus fruits, rice, palm fruits, and bananas helped to aid the economy and provide unique flavors that locals and tourists love in Ghanaian cuisine, especially when it comes to soups and stews.

These are quite plentiful in Ghana, as discussed by The Canadian African, and that's likely due to the variety of tubers, swallows, and spices that are available. The base for these one-pot meals will most likely contain ginger, peppers, and onions, as well as plenty of tomatoes and spicy flavors. Heat levels are often balanced out with other types of spices, such as curry powder, cloves, and coriander seeds, which are then rounded out with legumes, vegetables (like garden eggs and okra), and rice, the latter of which is essential to Ghana.

You'd be hard-pressed to find a Ghanaian dish that isn't served with rice, and we're not just talking about plain rice. There's Ghanaian jollof rice, rice fufu (per Agameals), and angwa mo, among many others. Angwa mo, in particular, is a staple because it's easy and fast to make, via African Food Network. So here's some more insight into the spicy and hearty flavors of the braised rice dish angwa mo.

What is angwa mo?

Angwa mo equates to "oiled rice" because of the unison between rice and oil, according to the African Food Network. At first glance, this might look like fried rice, but the two are completely different. Not only are they from separate cuisines, but fried rice starts with cooked rice, while angwa mo uses uncooked rice as the base.

Its appearance is of a pale white or light brown color with chunks of salted beef and red hot peppers that stand out. And despite the cooking term "braised," there is little to no liquid that can be seen within the finished dish. The liquid in question comes from a mix of water, chicken broth, and some oil (per 196 Flavors) which should be absorbed in its entirety by the rice.

The flavors of angwa mo are sweet from the onions, spicy from the red hot peppers, salty from the chicken broth, and savory from the salted beef. It hits four of the five basic tastes, so there are a lot of elements here that balance each other out. This, in combination with the scents from the fried onions and fragrant white rice, is likely why this dish is such a staple of Ghana.

Some people also like to add hot pepper sauce before eating this. Or, you could serve this alongside a salad for a more refreshing bite. Typically though, this braised rice dish accompanies sardines, meats, eggs, and/or vegetables, via Agameals.

Ingredients used in angwa mo

One might think that angwa mo contains complex ingredients, but that's not the case. In fact, anyone can make it at home.

Most of the flavor is going to come from Maggi chicken broth, salt, onions, and salted beef, which is also known as tolo beef. Food blogger Biscuits and Ladles explains that salt, cloves, grains of selim, and a bay leaf are used to flavor and cure the beef for about 24 hours or more. A slightly simpler method involves using just sea salt and bay leaves to cure either rib eye or sirloin, per 196 Flavors.

Additional ingredients include peanut oil, fragrant white rice, a red hot pepper, some water, and (presumably) black pepper, though many recipes just label this as "pepper." In terms of fragrant white rice, The Kitchn explains that you could use either jasmine or basmati rice. The scent of cooked jasmine rice can be described as butter-like with some flowery notes. Cooked basmati rice is more on the nutty side.

And that's it for the ingredients! You can find many of these at local supermarkets, and fortunately, the following cooking steps are just as simple as the ingredient list.

How is angwa mo made?

For the prep work, all you have to do is chop two onions, dice a fresh red pepper, and wash the fragrant white rice of your choosing. Be sure to drain it and dry it well too, notes African Food Network. You'll be using half of the onions at the beginning and the second half toward the end of the cooking process.

Next, you're going to take a pot and add three tablespoons of peanut oil to it. Turn the heat to medium, wait for the oil to warm up a bit, then add the first batch of onions. After they turn golden brown, add three ounces of the tolo (salted) beef. Fry these two together.

Take one cup of the rice and add it to the above mixture, per 196 Flavors. Stir and continue to cook for two minutes. At this point, the cube of Maggi chicken broth should be mixed in, along with the diced red pepper and some salt. When everything is incorporated, Agameals states to add two cups of water (don't forget to stir) and then let all those flavors mesh together for five minutes. 

Take the second batch of onions and mix them into the rice. After another five minutes of cooking, the rice should be ready to serve. Now pat yourself on the back for a job well done.