West African Fish Stew with Alaskan Fish

West African Fish Stew with Alaskan FishAs the name implies, this recipe has been inspired by the cuisines of Ghana, Nigeria and other West African countries. It’s important to note the use of true yam for this dish. In the US we often times have two sweet potato varieties that are marketed as sweet potato, the pale colored sweet flavored potato, and yam, the orange colored sweet flavored potato. As you may know, potatoes are a New World food, hailing from South America and then spread throughout the world thanks to the Colombian Exchange. Both of the sweet flavored potatoes that are commonly sold in American markets are actually cousins of the potato, and titled ‘yam’ or not, they are both just sweet potatoes. The true yam, however, is an African staple; born and raised. (Well, that, and there is also a white skinned Asian yam.)

African YamJust like the potato of the Americas, the yam is a tuber, but one that can grow to the very impressive size of nearly 50 feet in length! It has dark brown skin with lots of little ‘hairy’ roots and ‘eye’ dots. Unlike that American labeled sweet potato ‘yams,’ African yams are not really very sweet. In fact, if you were to make a replica of this recipe it would be more proper to use regular potatoes than it would be to use sweet ones in place of the yams.

West African Stew with Smoked Salmon and Salted Cod

Now, for the fish in this stew, I wanted to bring an amount of authenticity to this dish, and with such I used smoked salmon, pretty readily available here in Alaska, and cod fillets that I salted myself. I’m guessing that smoke mackerel and salted tilapia (koobi) might be a local choice if you where in Ghana. I, of course, wanted the have the base of tomato, as this is so common in West Africa. (Even if it is a new world food.) And speaking of, they most commonly use scotch bonnet chilies in the area, which have a very high spice index, similar to your basic habanero, but I am using Thai chilies simply because that is what I have available. I also often use serranos. As spice in a dish is really up the the personal tastes of the consumer, use whatever chilies you prefer or have available. If you don’t have any smoked fish you can also use smoked paprika to bring some of the same flavor to your stew.

The last part would be the choice of spices. Some folks prefer to use a curry powder, but I like to have more control than that. I’ve used some local favorite flavors, including ginger, garlic, bay, and nutmeg. I’ve also chosen to use the West African specialty, grains of paradise, instead of pepper. This spice is similar to pepper but with extra undertones similar to coriander and allspice. If you don’t have it, no fretting. The dish is just as good with simple back pepper.

West African Yam Stew with Alaskan Fish

By: Semiserious Chefs
Serves: 6-8


  • 1 salted cod fillet (about 16 oz fresh cod)
    • depending on how firmly salted and dry your fish is, you may need to soak in changes of water it for as long as 24 hours to get to a palatable stage.
  • 8 oz smoked salmon
  • 8-12 inch yam segment; peeled and cubed
    • OR 5 medium potatoes
  • 2  28 oz cans crushed tomatoes
  • 2 yellow onions; diced
  • 2 large carrots; cut into 1/4 inch medallions
  • 2 cups broth*
  • 3-6 Thai chili peppers; more or less to taste
    • OR one scotch bonnet chili
  • 1 1/2 T grated ginger
  • 6 large garlic cloves; minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 1/2 T ground coriander
  • 1 t ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 T ground grains of paradise
    • OR black pepper
  • sea salt as needed**
  • olive oil

*Seafood broth seems ideal, but chicken or vegetable is fine, and I have even, very successfully, used beef broth.

**Add the salt after you add the salted fish. For obvious reasons.


  1. In the bottom of a large pot, using generous olive oil, saute the onions and garlic until translucent and aromatic.
  2. Add the tomatoes, carrots, broth, and spices, and simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Add the yams and fish and simmer for another 10 minutes.
  4. Serve with fufu or crusty bread for dredging in the sauce.

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