Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Pamonha: Brazil in Ghana

Just before we left Ghana in July, one day we dropped in at the Brazilian Embassy to chat with the wonderfully friendly and helpful staff there. When one of them learned I like Brazilian food, he insisted that I accept a packet of a steamed cornmeal delicacy.

I'm embarrassed to say that I misplaced the scrap of paper on which I scribbled both his name and that of the wonderful snack he gave me. I had to email my pictures to someone in Brazil to help me out, and learned that the name of the dish I enjoyed is pamonha. The one I had was a sweetened ground corn paste that had been boiled, but my friend in Brazil said he especially likes it made with cheese. Apparently they can be either sweet or salty/savory. Though wrapped in corn husks and boiled, it's very unlike Ghana's kenkey, which is heavier and fermented. Still, in the 1970s my sister-in-law Afua in Ghana used to love iced kenkey, a sweetened drink from crumbled or mashed kenkey mixed with evaporated milk and sugar (though we had no refrigerator to chill it and thus the word "iced" always seemed kind of silly).

I understand for pamonhas milk is added to the ground corn, or sometimes coconut milk. It is said that the word pamonha comes from the word for "sticky" (pa'muña) in the Tupi language. As soon as I relocate that slip of paper, I'll be sure to thank the embassy staff for their generosity.

It excites me to continue to learn about Ghana and Brazil's history of friendship and cooperation. I have already said that I would love to see more explicit culinary sharing between the two countries, from Ghana's palmnut soup to the Brazil's tapiocas.

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