While there I found out the owner is from Ghana and immediately started research on Ghana plantain recipes. I found this is an African spicy and sweet snack, commonly sold as a street food, called “Kelewele” (kay-lay-way-lay) or “Aloco”. It is bite sized ripe plantains coated and marinated with Ghanaian spices and deep fried to a golden brown.
There are many versions of this recipe claiming to be the authentic recipe, but one of the key spices, Grain of Selim (Hwentia), can’t be found in Costa Rica. A little research revealed that Selim, or Hwentia, is a type of pepper, frequently used in tea and Touba coffee. I decided to substitute some fresh green peppercorns from my Kampot Pepper vine and found it to be the perfect substitute. Here is my version of “Kelewele”.
- 3 Well Ripened Plantains
- ½ Small Size Red Onion (White Onion or Shallots are also good too)
- 1 Medium Habanero, Panamanian, or Scotch Bonnet Chili Pepper ( adjust for your taste)
- 1 inch of fresh Ginger
- 5 whole Cloves
- 5 whole Allspice berries
- 10 fresh green peppercorns
- ¼ teaspoon Chinese Five Spice
- Juice from ½ lemon
- Salt to taste
- Chili pepper flakes to taste
- Oil for Shallow Frying
- Using a mortar and pestle (or blender), grind the chili pepper, cloves, allspice berries, Chinese five spice, and green peppercorns together. If using a blender, pulse just until you have a rough textured spice mix.
- Finely mince the onion and ginger into a paste, and combine with the spice mix.
- Add lemon juice and mix well. Set aside
- Cut the ripe plantains lengthwise and then in half-moons about ¾ to an inch thick.
- Coat the plantains with the spice mixture and add salt to taste.
- Let the plantain sit for about 30 minutes, or longer, so that it absorbs the flavors from the spice mixture. I like to marinate for a couple of hours in the fridge until ready to fry.
- Heat up the oil until hot, about 350°F. Fry small batches of the plantains. If the plantains were refrigerated, let them come to room temperature before frying.
- Fry the plantains until they are golden brown and crisp. You may have to adjust the oil temperature to make sure the plantains cook all the through without burning.
- Drain the Kelewele on paper towels to absorb the oil.
- Sprinkle with a few chili pepper flakes to taste.
- Serve the Kelewele hot with chopped nuts, fried or roasted, and a side of sour cream for dipping.