I remember, as a little girl, growing up and watching my Mum and Aunties cook local Nigerian dishes. The time and care they took, never in a hurry, fully enjoying the process as well as the outcome. These days, ‘adulting’ feels so much complex and life is a lot more fast-paced and busy. It seems we can’t afford to spend hours making Nigerian delicacies that will be gobbled up in a few minutes. After all, it’s easier to recycle and make food that can be kept in the freezer over time – when you’re hungry you bring it out, warm it and eat and so on.
Thinking about those days can often be filled with nostalgia, so I decided to share a few local dishes that most of us have outgrown, if not for the odd visit to your parent’s/auntie’s house or celebratory occasions.
Ekpang Nkwukwo is one of the Nigerian dishes peculiar to the Efiks and Ibibios. The Cameroonians also prepare a similar dish called ‘Ekwang. It is made of freshly grated or blended cocoyam, then wrapped in leaves and slowly cooked with different types of meat, fish, crayfish, red oil and other delicious spices, depending on your preference. It can take over an hour or so to meticulously wrap the coco yam into loads of small wraps the size of your finger, so this meal is definitely a labour of love and has become one you expect to see only on very special occasions and celebrations.
Okay, so not quite local or old, but Moi Moi or ‘Bean cake’ as we sometimes call it brings back fond memories. In the 21st century, it was another popular dish that is mouth-watering. But it can take a few hours of your day. It’s made from blended beans which are steamed over time. Traditionally it’s wrapped with leaves but it easier to put the batter in little containers. Like baking dishes or foil packs, after which you place in a large pot with water to steam. You can also put egg, or fish or corned beef in the moi-moi as an added culinary surprise for yourself or guests as they eat. This is one of those meals that could possibly become near-extinct for a busy person but it is healthy and nutritious and if you’re determined, you can find the time on weekends maybe, to make this delicacy.
Banga Soup is a Delta/Urhobo favourite, a popular Nigerian Palm nut soup. It is quite the process to extract the palm oil from the Palm-nut. You’ll need to wash the nuts properly to make sure all the dirt is gone. Then boil for about 20 minutes until they soften. After this, you pound the nuts in a mortar until the skin breaks off. Add some hot water and stir then pour in a sieve and extract the palm oil. As I said earlier…quite the process. Thankfully Palm nut extracts are sold in stores now to help those of us who really don’t have the extra time and energy and it cuts down cooking time tremendously. It’s mostly cooked with fish but you can add meat or chicken, whatever your preference. You can also buy mixed Banga spices together. Another lifesaver.
What other Nigerian local dishes do you wish you had more time to make regularly?