Burger (it's not what you think)
by Priscilla Addison
If you are a friend or family member of mine reading this, then you already know I LOVE to snack between meals. My favorite pastime, when traveling to a new country, aside from sampling cuisine and beverages that are foreign to me, is finding a local but popular grocery store to scan its aisles for fun, interesting, and delicious snacks to purchase and try. If there are too many options leaving me at odds of making a decision, I find the nearest store attendant for guidance. When purchasing snacks, I have found that seeking local opinion is incredibly important. Clearly, I take my snack shopping very seriously!
I am certain my enthusiasm to try local manufactured snacks stems from my international upbringing. My family moved around quite often, due to my dad's career in international development. As a result, my four siblings and I attended a diverse range of schools: public, international, and boarding. Like most kids, my favorite subject was recess (mom and dad, if you are reading this I'm only kidding). I would use this time to trade small portions of my snacks for items I had never tried. And by the age of 10 (living in Dakar, Senegal and attending an international school at the time), I had sampled Senegalese bissap, Japanese nori, speculaas spiced biscuits and salted black licorice from the Netherlands, kimchi—a Korean side dish, Toblerone from Switzerland, Rugrats fruit snacks from the U.S., and much more.
Fast forward 19 years and not much has changed. When I moved to Ghana from Switzerland two years ago, one thing I noticed immediately was the lack of made-in-Ghana snacks on supermarket shelves. Quite the opposite experience I had in Switzerland. In Ghana, it was all foreign made products from China, India, Lebanon, Korea, Britain, Germany, the U.S. and France.
Little did I know, I would discover one of my favorite Ghanaian snacks on a road trip to Abrui with my two (older and little) sisters. I was hungry and we were sitting in traffic at a toll station with little or no options to quiet the stomach rumblings.
Anytime we are on the road, my sisters are adamant on giving the local street hawkers business. The street hawkers (read: street entrepreneurs, because that is what I believe they really are) sell almost anything, but mostly Chinese imports on the road: grasscutter, toilet paper, onions, shoes, puppies (YES, even puppies), electronics, plastic chairs, art, gum, fizzy beverages and water, books, newspapers and magazines. You name it! They sell it. It's like a convenience store at your passenger window.
With my sisters, how it usually goes is:
"Priscilla do we have enough paper towel at home?"
"Priscilla didn't you say you needed a bathing sponge?"
"Oh look! Priscilla, someone is selling peanuts. How about those?"
Seated in the front seat of our truck, I leaned over to our Ghanaian driver and asked, "Have you tried these peanuts? Are they nice?" After having received the necessary local confirmation from our driver, I made eye contact with the street entrepreneur, and in a blink of an eye he was at my window. These peanuts are in a bright yellow and red packaging and are named Nkatie Burger (Peanut Snack), or simply referred to as "Burger." They cost 1.00 cedis when bought by the roadside, but cost 1.50 cedis in local gas stations and Shoprite, a South African-owned grocery store. Sadly, I haven’t seen them sold in any other major grocery store.
And to be honest, I am clueless as to why they are called Burger, because they do not contain any traces of animal products. My guess is because historically hamburgers are identified as the main staple of the American roadside. And from what I've seen in West Africa (particularly in Senegal, Ghana, Ivory Coast, and Mali), our equivalent is peanuts, also referred to as groundnuts.
What I can tell you is that these peanuts are absolutely delicious. These little gems are generously coated in wheat flour and coconut, with a little hint of sweetness. They are a necessity to include among your list of road trip/travel snacks or serve to visitors with a much needed beer or glass of wine. Also, they are made-in-Ghana!
For those of you who don't have the opportunity to try this snack. Here's a nice recipe and a video from Precious Kitchen to walk you through the process. Do note, (in my opinion) this specific recipe is missing a key ingredient: coconut. I recommend blending dried coconut flakes and adding this to the wheat flour.
I did a little bit more digging and it's clear that this peanut snack is a favorite across West Africa, especially Nigeria and Cameroon. Burger is manufactured by a Ghanaian food processing company called Burger Food Industries (BFI), located in Accra. Also another point to highlight, Burger is a product that gives back through its corporate social responsibility mandate. According to their website they state: "We have invested in education by providing scholarships to several students from junior high school to the university level. In the health sector, our company spent over seventy thousand cedis in 2014 to finance the construction of a maternity wing of Taifa Polyclinic. In the same year, we also invested in the rehabilitation of roads in the Taifa community, where we currently operate."
Hearing about or discovering manufacturers like BFI, gives me much hope for this country, especially because BFI has been around for fifteen years! My wish for the country is to see other local manufacturers in various fields blossom and thrive. Most importantly, I want to be able to walk into supermarkets where made-in-Ghana products line the shelves of every major grocery store in Ghana.
So next time you're in Ghana or looking for a snack, I hope you choose to buy local. Let Burger be among your made-in-Ghana purchases! It's been tested and approved by yours truly.
About the author: Priscilla is a Co-founder of ’57 Chocolate. A lover of dogs and an international snack enthusiast. Her favorite snack is green-tea kit-kats. She is fond of eating a delicious meal in great company and conversation. You can follow her adventures on Instagram here.