Our Asanka: the Ghanaian Eco-friendly Bowl

A brown version of the usually blackened asanka.

A LITTLE HISTORY OF ASANKA

Ghanaian asanka, also known as apotoyewa in the akan language of Ghana, is a traditional grinding and cooking clay bowl with ridges made in them for better grinding effects. In English, one can call it an earthenware bowl or grinding bowl. Every ethnic group in Ghana has its own local dialect name for this most used utensil with the tapoli as its grinder. But we are most familiar with the Ga people as Kaaa or Kaŋ and the Ewe people as Vegba or  Vɛgba . Kindly share with us how you call asanka in your Ghanaian mother tongue in the comment and we will be happy to learn!

 

COMPOSITION OF ASANKA

Asanka is made of dug clay and normally low fired, from which it also gains its famous black characteristics. It is also relatively heavy in nature makes it last longer as it takes longer to ware out if carefully handled. Asanka must always be accompanied with a tapoli or wooden pestle, that is used in grinding vegetables.

 

USES OF ASANKA

In Ghana, asanka is mainly used for the preparation of meko; (spicy Ghanaian pepper sauce  made of fresh tomatoes, chilies and onions), abomu; (traditonal stew of steamed or boiled vegetables, ground together and finished off by placing the asanka on a stove or coal-pot to heat up) , for blending vegetables for stew/soups and most importantly, used as an eating utensil.

A collection of traditional and modern asanka ‘bowls’being sold by the roadside in Ghana.

POPULARITY OF ASANKA

Many Ghanaians love the asanka for the unique and smokey flavors it adds to foods when used. It also reminds most of the humble village lifestyle as these clay bowls are widely used in the country sides than in the busy cities. Also, one would find most restaurants and local chop-bars in Ghana, using asanka to serve out traditional foods such as fufuo, banku, tuozaafi, akple, ampesi, omotuo to name a few. Asanka is used for cooking, serving out foods, as a salad bowl and even for decorative purposes. Not to forget that, even for certain traditional uses like herbal medicines, one must only use the asanka in preparing them.

CLEANING AND MAINTENANCE OF ASANKA

An asanka plays an important role in Ghanaian cuisine and that is why we are very passionate about it. To maintain an asanka for durability, do not wash with too much soap or kitchen detergent in washing them. Just the littlest amount of soap with some warm water is enough to clean up the asanka without leaving behind food tang. Preferably, use warm water and salt to wash them after a slight use.  Most households in Ghana, after cooking, will put the asanka over a warm coal-pot after washing so absorb the heat and dry faster. Also, because asanka is made of clay, it has the tendency to grow mold if you do not allow them to air dry properly before storing in a dark/cool place. If this happens, do not panic. Here is a maintenance link to watch and keep enjoy using your trusted asanka/apotoyewa/Kaaa or Kaŋ/Vegba or Vɛgba. Do not stand water in them for long hours as the clay starts to soak up the water and your asanka might break apart on you in the middle of using it one day, wink*.

 

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