If food is a sure path to a person’s hearts, Experiencing Naija sincerely hopes to be endeared to our reader on this blog post because we are going to be discussing Nigerian food!
Food is an integral part of a people’s culture and although sub Saharan Africa and the entire continent of Africa have similar food palettes and tastes, Nigerian food is in a league of its own.
From sweet to savoury there are some delicacies very unique to the country. Some Nigerian snacks for one may have an intercontinental origin with a Nigerian twist. For instance, the Meat Pie found in most Nigerian food vendor shops have various similarities to a Cornish pastry, a Shepherd’s pie and an Empanada while maintaining its uniqueness. Traditional Nigerian food like most indigenous food, emanated from the countries cultures and recipes were passed down from mother to daughter and friend to friend till modern day times where most Nigerian recipes are just a click away.
Nigerian food is very versatile. A lot of the crops cultivated around the country yearly can be used in various ways to cook different meals for example yam and beans which can be made into pounded yam, yam porridge etc and moi moi, akara, agoyin respectively. Similarly, cassava can be processed into fufu, garri etc.
We decided to broadly divide our discourse into sections for a more cohesive introduction to Nigerian food. In this post we shall discuss Nigerian drinks, snacks, traditional and continental foods and soups unique to Nigeria. This does not mean that these dishes are all that is obtainable in the country as we definitely will not be able to cover all the foods that the country has to offer. This also does not mean that intercontinental dishes are not obtainable in Nigeria as that is very far from the case.
Even we at Experiencing Naija must include what we will term a “Spice Caveat” for people who have never had Nigerian food and are not used to a lot of spicy food or simply don’t like spice need be warned because most Nigerian food can get very spicy. Apart from the fact that we love to indulge in a lot of ata rodo, ginger and all types of peppers
Beans are largely cultivated in Nigeria and we have learned several ways to process it to a host of very delicious meals across the country. It can be prepared on its own or turned to porridge served with various other things, ground into paste or powder, boiled or fried, beans is delicious. Nigeria cultivates various species of beans and a lot of studies have been carried out about the nutritious value of beans. Meals that can be made from processing beans include agoyin, moi moi etc
Every Nigerian knows that once upon a time, rice used to be the darling of Nigerian meals etc eaten at only Christmas and special occasions because a lot of people did not have access to good rice due to cost. Currently, rice is in abundance in Nigeria and Nigerians have found several ways to prepare it. Jollof rice is one of the country’s greatest exports and infamously the cause of intercontinental debate on who makes the best Jollof. But there is also fried rice, curried rice, coconut rice and rice and stew etc. In the Northern part of the country, rice is processed to serve as a dense and elastic pudding called tuwon cincafa which can be eaten with a host of soups. In addition rice and beans is a really great pairing mostly eaten on its own with ingredients or with stew.
Swallow & Soup
Across Africa and especially in Nigeria, starchy crops are processed, heated and prepared to dense and elastic puddings called by several names but generally as Swallow which are eaten with traditional Nigerian soups. Variety abounds as cassava is processed to starch, eba, akpu etc ; yam is processed to pounded yam, amala; maize to tuwon masara; rice to tuwon cincafa; wheat to semovita, wheat etc. All regions have their preferred swallow and soup and usually referred to by the specific kind of swallow and soup desired. There is no doubt that Swallow & Soup is nationally loved.
A tuber cash crop grown in the country and one of Nigeria’s biggest exports, yam is one of Nigeria’s most versatile foods. Cultivated in varying species, yam can be eaten on its own boiled or fried and processed into a wide array of foods including porridge, pounded yam, amala etc.
Another popular tuber and viable cash crop, Cassava is another popular food. Garri is one of the by-products of cassava, a popular Nigerian delicacy that can be cooked into Swallow or drank like flakes.
If you don’t know what small chops are by now, it is a much loved and popular arrangement of several finger foods and meat served as a snack. A pack of small chops usually includes bite sized snacks such as samosa, spring rolls, puff puff, meat/chicken and a wide array of other snacks like moussa or small sausage rolls or meat pies depending on the assembler
Made from bean paste spiced and fried, akara is a popular breakfast or dinner food choice among several Nigerians. Served with a wide array of pap and traditional drinks, akara can be eaten on its own or with bread or other choice food.
Chin chin is a polar Nigerian snack made from wheat flour combined with milk, eggs, butter, leavening agents, sugar etc. into dense dough which is rolled out and cut into small cubes and fried. Chin chin is a popular occasion food and an even greater snack. If you like chin chin, you should try kuli kuli which is made from ground peanuts and spices.
Made from bambara nuts processed to paste and mixed with various spices and oil, okpa is a very popular Nigerian snack popular in the middle belt region and south eastern part of the country. Similar to moi moi, it is prepared in various forms and an ideal breakfast option.
Suya is made from really spicy meat roasted on sticks over open fire. Similar to suya , there are other Nigerian snacks made from spicy dried meat such as balango, kilishi, danbu etc. Suya originated from the Northern part of Nigeria and is usually prepared towards the evening time and served in newspaper or other paper and nylon bags. Other Nigerian snacks that are served in newspaper or other paper include awara, massa, buns, puff puff, akara/kwosai etc. It is usually served alongside a chilled drink and massa and sliced vegetables such as onions, cabbages, tomatoes and extra spice
Kunu & Akamu
Fura da Nunu
Egusi soup is one of the most popularly served Nigerian soups. It is made from deshelled melon seeds, and a meaty stock with added vegetables. Like other soups on the list, it can be paired with any swallow of your choice. Technique differs from cook to cook but this soup looks and tastes amazing.
Ogbono soup is made from ground ogbono seeds mixed with your preferred meat stock and vegetables to a usually thick and elastic soup. it is usually served with swallow
In light of the fact that our little introduction to Nigerian food cannot be exhaustive, we would like to encourage robust participation to the conversation on the topic of Nigerian food and drinks. Please comment and share your views and opinions on Nigerian food especially what Nigerian food you will like us to discuss next. Your opinions and recipes will be greatly appreciated.