Nigerian Dish Series – Jollof Rice
Recently, social media has also caught the Jollof rice bug, especially after Mark Zuckerberg joined the debate during his recent visit to Nigeria. They told Zuckerberg not to compare Nigerian Jollof to that of other West African countries. However, he could not resist exclaiming that the Nigerian Jollof is remarkably delicious. That says a lot. To find out more, please read all about it!
The recent jollof rice war has lingered for about three years in West Africa, especially in Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Cameroon, and others. The reason for this fierce war is for the taste bud trophy of which African Country makes the best tasting version of Jollof rice. As the Editor-In-Chief of www.oaekpost.com, I have only tasted two versions–the Nigerian Jollof and Ghanaian Jollof rice. For that reason, I will be writing primarily about the Nigerian version and comparing it with its Ghanaian counterpart. I may sound a bit partial due to my original roots; however, I think my taste bud awards go to the Nigerian Jollof so far, except any other African chef out there wants to give me a taste of their creation and prove me otherwise.
The exact origin of Jollof rice is not fully confirmed, but research tells us that it came from the country of Senegal and Gambia in the Wolof region of the current day West Africa. Nigeria and Ghana have competed fiercely and continuously in the debate about who is better with the taste and texture of the most popular dish from this part of Africa. This debate has also attracted critics from many places worldwide to judge the famous course as to which country prepares it best, with the primary criteria being service and taste. Recently, social media has also caught the Jollof rice bug, especially after Mark Zuckerberg joined the debate during his recent visit to Nigeria. They told Zuckerberg not to compare Nigerian Jollof to that of other West African countries. However, he could not resist exclaiming that the Nigerian Jollof is remarkably delicious. That says a lot.
The main ingredients needed to make a delicious pot of Jollof are long-grain rice (preferably not basmati rice); stock (vegetable, chicken, fish, or beef) or water; oil (e.g., olive oil or vegetable oil), tomatoes (e.g., Fresh Roma tomatoes or tomato paste); peppers (e.g., fresh poblano pepper, red bell peppers, or habanero pepper); onions (e.g., red or white onions); and spices (e.g., Caribbean/Jamaican-style curry powder, dried thyme, dried bay leaves, and salt). Neither of these ingredients has any saturated fat or cholesterol. As this meal is a rice dish hence, it is a high carbohydrate dish. Chicken, beef, eggs, turkey, or fish stock make up the rich protein content of the Jollof rice meal. The addition of fish stock avails the dish with omega-3 fatty acids, as well as protein. The tomatoes and peppers are excellent sources of antioxidants, dietary fiber, minerals, and vitamins. Albeit high in carbs, it is relatively nutritious and delicious, depending on its constituent ingredients.
Nigerian Jollof Rice
Although considerable variation exists, the basic profile for Nigerian Jollof rice includes any parboiled rice, fresh tomatoes, tomato paste, pepper, vegetable oil, diced onions, chicken or beef stock, sometimes crayfish, curry, and curry and thyme spice, bay leaves, salt, and Maggi cubes. Most of the ingredients are mixed and cooked in one pot. Thus, the first step in making a delicious Jollof rice meal is to prepare the parboiled rice. The next step is to fry the tomato in diced onions with pepper puree and olive oil. This tomato sauce forms the meal base and is mixed with the meat stock and a sprinkle of spices and salt for taste. Finally, pour the prepared rice into the tomato mix, stir gently and cook over slow heat.
Ghanaian Jollof Rice
Though the Nigerian and Ghanaian Jollof rice looks similar, there is much difference between the Ghanaian and Nigerian Jollof. If you watch various videos on YouTube, you will notice that the two kinds of Jollof rice preparation methods are similar. However, what makes the difference is the ingredients that the Nigerians and Ghanaians use. For instance, the Ghanaians use black pepper and long grain basmati rice, which they call perfumed rice. In addition, what this dish usually goes with is a special pepper sauce called “shito.” The black pepper they add sometimes makes it slightly darker than the Nigerian bright red color.
For the Nigerian Jollof rice, the difference is in the taste. The variety of ingredients and style of cooking makes all the difference. My all-time favorite is the type of Jollof rice called “Party Jollof.” This “Party Jollof rice” is usually for occasions where many people have to be fed. This type of Jollof rice is especially very unique because of its firewood taste. Its soft mushy texture tastes better because it is prepared outdoors with a local firewood stove in big cauldron pots. This technique is where it gets its unique, delicious, smoky taste. You could also garnish the Jollof rice with sliced onions, tomatoes, sweet corn, kidney beans, and green peas. It can also be served with any protein of choice and often served alongside fried plantains, Moi Moi, coleslaw, salad, etc.
There are several versions of the classic jollof rice, including coconut jollof rice and the fisherman Jollof rice. The Fisherman Jollof rice is synonymous with the African riverine habitats. It is usually made with giant or small prawns, periwinkles, crayfish, and fresh fish, as these are the primary source of their proteins. We also have the mixed vegetable jollof rice. The preparation for this meal is like its close continental companion, the “fried rice,” which means it also uses similar kinds of vegetables used in the preparation of fried rice, like carrots, green pepper, etc. Some Jollof rice meals are made with beans. The most popular one for most Nigerians is the “concoction rice.” The preparation is very economic friendly; you could literally add any ingredient to it; and involve as little as just using rice, onions, salt, and pepper.
It was interesting watching the video called “Jollof Wars: Ghana vs. Nigeria, The Official Taste Test“ on YouTube. OkayAfrica published this video on November 23, 2016, and I give them props for doing so. It was fun watching the actors and actresses debating on which Jollof Rice tasted better; the Nigerian Jollof or the Ghanaian Jollof. One of the fun highlights of the video is the statement that the Jollof rice captures the soul of Africa. Furthermore, one of the actresses establishes that it is the beginning and end of all African dishes. A dish that is so delicious and nutritious that it can pass as the continental dish of Africa. You can take some time to view the video below and see the debate for yourself.
“One who eats alone cannot discuss the taste of the food with others.” —African Proverb.
As earlier stipulated, I may be a little biased by saying that I lean towards the Nigerian Jollof rice. Possibly because I grew up eating it, and to date, the whiff of its delicious aroma makes my mouth water as I sharpen my taste buds to eat the mean every time I have the chance to do so. By the way, if you are ever in the Seattle, Washington area, seek out the West African food caterer, Kelchi’s Kitchen, and have Chef Kelchi make you the version of her Nigerian Jollof. The taste of her Jollof is heavenly and out of this world delicious. But, as her motto goes, “…it’s not your average West African Cuisine.” Chef Kelchi’s Nigerian Jollof is also not your average West African Jollof. The taste is celestial, a work of a culinary genius.
- Ward, K., & Isama, A. [OkayAfrica]. (2016, November 23). Jollof Wars: Ghana vs. Nigeria, The Official Taste Test [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P79YWaS-uNk
Fine Dining – A Thing of Quality or Quantity?
Fine dining is a restaurant experience that spells sophistication, uniqueness, and expensive compared to the average restaurant. Fine dining is all about quality. The taste is in the experience the client has in the restaurant. From the music to the wine, refined restaurants almost always have a formal environment.
Fine dining is a restaurant experience that spells sophistication, uniqueness, and expensive compared to the average restaurant. Fine dining is all about quality. The taste is in the experience the client has in the restaurant. From the music to the wine, refined restaurants almost always have a formal environment. Now, unlike the fast-food drive-ins and eateries, which feature menus such as all-you-can-eat meals and food-on-the-go, a traditional and classy restaurant with an excellent dining policy would not care about filling your belly. These restaurants are more interested in the experience, quality attribute of their establishment, and your bank account’s depth.
“I think fine dining is dying out everywhere… but I think there will be—and there has to always be—room for at least a small number of really fine, old-school fine-dining restaurants.” — Anthony Bourdain.
I love to eat! Call me a foodie if you will, but the truth is that we all love to eat. Not just eating to stuff myself, but to eat good food that would fill my belly. However, I wouldn’t take Oprah Winfrey to McDonald’s when I want to discuss serious business negotiations, neither would I take Jeff Bezos to a KFC in a similar business scenario. Therefore, this is indeed a case of quality over quantity, class over the common, and need over expedience. I don’t mean this statement in a derogatory way—no offense to the McDonald’s or KFCs of the world; I am trying to drive home a point. I am merely stating the fact, which is that some restaurants are made for quantity and the masses while others are niched and cater only to a more elite and upscale clientele.
Have you ever seen how possessive some chefs are over how a misshapen prawn or lobster placed lonely at the center of a white plate with a lost mint leaf that is begging for someone to rescue it from the white no man’s land called a plate? The mere thought of this prawn or lobster shifting from its glorified spot is enough to send the Chef into throwing a frenzied tantrum. The care and attention to detail, balanced in taste and color coordination that goes into one of Chef Daniel’s plate of Maine Sea Scallops, are out of this world. Layered with black truffle in golden puff pastry or roasted squab stuffed with foie gras and black truffle, winter vegetables, and chestnuts would tell you that fine dining is not an easy feat to achieve. It’s a gourmet dish artistry and extravaganza at its best.
Refined restaurant owners view food as a form of art. You see it in the art of plating that they evoke in presenting the nosh that they have to offer. Refined restauranteurs also view it and as a sign of sophistication and breeding. In many cultures, pedigree and breeding are significant indicators of good grooming. While this fact has become unquestionable, the question remains— Is there a point to this? Are we neglecting the real needs of our bodies in search of more superficial pursuits? Does fine dining matter as long as we are getting the right amounts of nutrients? Should we bother ourselves over if it is a thing of quality or quantity?
Just as the name implies, fine dining is used to describe a much more upscale service in a refined restaurant. It caters to and offers diners an elegant atmosphere that comes with high-quality service. The chefs and waiters in upscale restaurants are usually impeccably attired and professionally trained. These restaurants, characterized mainly by the meals’ bird-like nature, the room ambiance, and a ridiculously overpriced menu, often offer a conducive environment to host business executives or visiting diplomats. For instance, there is usually a different shade of clientele when you walk into a restaurant like Daniel’s Broiler in Bellevue, Washington, or the Capital Grille in Seattle, or the many prized locations of Fogo de Chão Brazilian Steakhouse across the country.
Despite these snobbish attributes and characteristics that separate an all-you-can-eat from an upscale diner, the experience is indeed worth every cent spent. This line of thought reminds me of restaurants in New York, such as Restaurant Daniel with his, mouth-watering menu of seasonal French cuisine and wine. The warm ambiance, lovely music playing in the background, and luxurious Venetian Renaissance-style dining room with tables adorned with expensive cutlery, and beautifully laid dishes leave an unforgettable experience seared into your memory. Not forgetting the professionally and almost military-style trained waiters always in tuxedoes and cummerbunds, red or black bow ties with impeccable manners, and a constant smile that never leaves their faces. This sort of dining experience does not come cheap. It screams luxury and expensive.
Fine dining depicts exceptional quality and a refined personality. This experience can be gotten not only when one eats at an upscale restaurant with an address that is the envy of its peers but also at home. The art of restaurant savoir-faire calls for attention to detail, quality assurance, impeccable customer service that goes above and beyond, and an almost exclusive clientele—those with deep pockets and are not shy to spend. Refined dining features ridiculously exorbitantly priced menus, a snobbish, strictly call-in reservation policy, and a welcoming setting that could easily glide its way into the pages of the Architectural Digest magazine.
From the above narrative, it is reasonably apparent that the idea of quantity has no place in fine dining. That fine dining is also not exclusive to refined restaurants with an upscale address. Anyone can enjoy eating deliciously cooked meals with beautiful silverware. All it takes to create the same upscale dining restaurant experience is tethered to the word, care. Replicate such an experience is not an act of showmanship. It shows that you care about the quality of your food and the concomitant experience. Hence, you replicate fine dining at home by paying a little more attention to the meal’s recipe, the service, the choice of wine, and crockery. And not to forget, you highlight the moment by dressing smart for the occasion, even though the dinner table is in your home. A pleasant environment, great conversation, refined table manners, and an ambiance with lovely soft jazz music makes all the difference.
If your goal is to thoroughly enjoy your meal with no recourse to who is watching how many plates you ate or to be conscious of your environment, then, by all means, make sure you visit an all-you-can-eat buffet. This type of dining could cost between $15 to $20. If you wish not to go to an all-you-can-eat buffet, you can eat all you can on a dollar menu at a fast-food joint of your picking. The upside is that the food is not always bad, and you would have several varieties of meal choices to make. However, please remember that in some cases, the standard and quality of the food is low as the Chef is more interested in giving you quantity at a pocket-friendly price. On the other hand, the more upscale restaurants can charge as high as $50 to $300, or more as the case may be.
Now you know the available option, and it is your right to choose what fits you best. You could either choose to save time and money by selecting to eat in a more relaxed and family-oriented restaurant where your meal is already dished and just waiting for you to help yourself. There is no judgment in that; it is what you crave and what you can afford. There is no shame in that at all. Or, you could take the time to dress up for that special occasion, splurge on expensive cuisine and wine, and have a great conversation while waiting for your meal. There is also no judgment in that. Patrons of fine dining can afford it because it is within their reach to do so—at least, that is our assumption.
You don’t fine dine on a shallow pocket. You don’t pay a lavish amount for a meal on Friday night, and call your buddies to lend you some money to pay your rent on the fifth of the month. If you do that, you are parked up on the alley of nincompoopery at the cross street of idiocy and lack of subliminal purpose, to say the very least. Pay the price. Become successful. Fine-dine if you want to and whenever you wish to do so. There is no judgment in that at all.
“I don’t think fine dining is dying, but I think those rare occasions when you really want the fanciness are diminishing … I think a lot of people are going to find simpler, more casual ways to enjoy an experience.” — Mario Batali.
So, I would say, if you want to experience the heightened sense of being pampered and in an elite company, choose quality. There is no shame in being an elite and choosing to live like it. You paid your dues to become one, at least I hope so, so enjoy your hard and smart earned money. There is no judgment in that. However, if you need to chill and have a raucous laugh with friends over dripping hotdogs and barbecued ribs, fine dining is not for you! Head on to the quantity section!
By the way, who do you agree with on the two quotes highlighted in the article? Do you agree with the late Anthony Bourdain, who stipulated that fine dining way dying? Or, do you agree with Mario Batali, who says that fine dining is not dying? Share your comments below.
The Agom-Eze Jr. Diaries – Very Delicious!
Food is very vital to our earthly existence. Without food, our health could be adversely affected. However, what we eat could also be of either positive or negative value. Eating healthy is of great importance to everyone, to say the least. This piece focuses on how you can cook a delectable and healthy dish with salmon. Please, read all about it.
Do you keep a journal? Or should I say, “Do you keep a diary?” It is a fun process of keeping track of what you are doing in life. In the words of Christina Baldwin, “Journal writing is a voyage to the interior.” It is an avenue to record your reflections. I concur with the fact that the human brain can remember many things via our memories; however, we can support our memory banks by journaling (e.g., manually and electronically). Journaling is recording the inner deliberations of our subconscious. It is a voyage of self-revelation and discovery. In the words of Robin Sharma, “Writing in a journal reminds you of your goals and of your learning in life. It offers a place where you can hold a deliberate, thoughtful conversation with yourself.” So, once again, I am here anew today, digging up memories of years past about the fun times I had living in Northern California by way of the City of Oakland on Harrison Street. Take a journey with me back to Friday, December 29, 2006, when I tried my hands in the kitchen trying to prepare a healthy and artsy Salmon dish that I christened, “Salmon de la Nish.” Let’s start my adventure down memory lane.
“Writing in a journal reminds you of your goals and of your learning in life. It offers a place where you can hold a deliberate, thoughtful conversation with yourself.” — Robin Sharma.
On this day, I was playing around in the kitchen and trying out new healthy dish recipes and attempting to make my plating as pleasant as possible—talk about the meticulous and artsy nature in me coming to bear. Food is very vital to our earthly existence. The lack of food could be detrimental to our health, to say the very least. However, what we eat could also be of either positive or negative value. Eating healthy is of great importance to everyone, to say the very least. In the words of Hippocrates, the Greek physician of the Age of Pericles (or Classical Greece), once said that “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Unfortunately, we do ourselves much harm when we stuff our bodies with unhealthy foods—junk foods or foods with high amounts of unhealthy cholesterol. Now, the movie documentary “Supersize Me,” originally released on June 11, 2004, and directed by Morgan Spurlock, will open your eyes to what I am saying about the dangers of eating cholesterol heavy meals. In a nutshell, the documentary highlights the physical and psychological changes and challenges Spurlock experienced by eating only McDonald’s burgers for a 30-day period from February 1 to March 2, 2003—talk about a harrowing experience.
Our eating norms say a lot about us as individuals and as a culture. Today, many of us are steadily on the go, and we resort to eating “fast” foods. We want something whipped up fast that we can eat on the fly as we drive through traffic during rush hour. Or we hunt down “fast” foods because we need to eat as fast as possible during our short lunch breaks. From what I see around me, I can plainly say that the United States is fast food culture. We are currently fighting a battle of the bulge (obesity). We are eating a lot of unhealthy food on the go, and we are more sedentary than ever. Junk meal leads to obesity, and obesity can lead to death. In my opinion, eating unhealthy food is a thing of the mind. One bite at a time, we lay the foundation blocks of our unhealthy lifestyle. One bite at a time, it becomes a habit. Making junk food eating a custom in our lives adds pounds, increases the body mass, raises blood cholesterol, inflicts us with mood swings, causes sexual dysfunction, and leads to fat accumulation in the liver. I will not encumber you with so many details of unhealthy food eating and obesity. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does a good job in expounding the details for this disease via the link on their website “Adult Overweight and Obesity.”
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” — Hippocrates.
Now, when it comes to cooking, I dabble a little here and there in the kitchen from time to time, and I endeavor to eat as healthy as possible. It’s not always an easy feat, but its core is making an effort to continue the health habit trend. So on Friday, December 29, 2006, I decided to prepare a delightful healthy salmon dish for myself, and I called it Salmon de la Nish —what an appellation, right? The dish was quite simple to cook, to say the very least. The ingredients used were spinach, onions, Habanero peppers, and Salmon, of course. First, I simmered the salmon for about seven minutes with two bulbs of diced onions, with some seasonings for taste—light salt, curry, Maggi/Bouillon cubes. I also added two habanero peppers—I love my food to have a little bit of heat to it—not atomic hot—just a zing of heat. I then removed the salmon from the simmering onions and sautéed or pan-fried it with a slight hint of olive oil for about ten minutes—flipping it over from time to time. I then added the spinach to the simmering onions, where I pulled the salmon from. I then cooked it for about fifteen minutes, after which I drained the remaining water out. I then dished it out, attempting to make my plating as creative as possible. I then sat down to a delicious healthy supper, and I must say, it was very gratifying.
As I sit back reminiscing about my time cooking and plating my healthy food creation, Salmon de la Nish, I am rhetorically asking myself—Why Salmon? What makes salmon so healthy, and why should we add it to our list of favorite meals? Folks, I will refer you all to an article I read titled “11 Impressive Health Benefits of Salmon,” written by Franziska Spritzler on December 20, 2016, for a more in-depth look at the benefits. Looking at this article from a birds-eye perspective and extracting facts from it, we can see the health benefits of eating salmon succinctly. First, the fish is one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Second, they are a leading source of high-quality protein. Third, they are excellent sources of B vitamins (i.e., Vitamin B1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 9, and 12). Fourth, they are high in Potassium, which controls blood pressure and reduces excess fluid retention in the body. Fifth, they are packed with Selenium, the trace mineral found in soil and certain foods. (NB. Selenium aids in protecting bone health and improves thyroid function). Sixth, salmon contains the antioxidant Astaxanthin, which gives it its red coloration and beneficial for the heart, brain, nervous system, and skin.
Seventh, eating salmon regularly can help people reduce the risk of heart disease. Eight, salmon can help you reduce your weight and help you keep it off. Okay, now this is a great benefit. Junk foods help you negatively pack on the weight, but salmon can help you shed some extra pounds and help you sustain a healthy weight—you can’t beat that. Ninth, salmon can help fight inflammation—which is the body’s way of healing and protecting itself from harm. Tenth, it may assist in the protection of the brain and improving its functions. Eleventh, salmon is very delicious and versatile—you can prepare it in various ways. You can steam it, sauté it, smoke it, grill it, bake it, or poach it—for me, I like it sautéed or fried or baked. Some people choose and enjoy eating salmon raw as sushi or sashimi; however, this is not my forte or how I enjoy eating my salmon. All I can say is that the fish, salmon, is a mitochondrion of delicious goodness with a Herculean load of wholesome benefits. I enjoy and relish it a lot, and you may want to consider adding it to your diet as your journey towards achieving your healthy eating goal habits.
So, I urge everyone to get into the habit of eating healthy; in doing so, you can add some salmon to your diet. You don’t have to break the bank in other to whip out a healthy meal delicacy. You could prepare a healthy meal delicacy on a low or medium budget—even a salmon dish. As you get into the kitchen, have fun as you dabble. Be creative in your plating efforts and techniques. It is always fun to see how adventurous some people can get while plating their foods. So, have fun as you dabble! Now, before I end this piece out of my diary column, I must encourage you to cut down on cholesterol-laden foods today for your own good. Rethink your life before you take another bite of junk food. Is it worth the health risk and heartache that you will encounter should your body break down because of eating junk and high cholesterol food? Remember that—Health is wealth. Eat right and live life!
Nigerian Dish Series – Egusi Soup
Egusi soup is one of the most popular soups in Nigeria. It is especially loved in the southeastern part of the country. However, the Egusi soup is by far my most favorite of them all when it comes to the various Nigerian soups. Please find out more about it via this piece.
The various soups we have in Nigeria today replicate our undeniable love for our culture and tradition. There is a cultural significance in how the soups are prepared, the ingredients used, the occasion or celebration when they are made, and most especially, how they are consumed. Egusi soup is one of the most popular soups in Nigeria. It is especially loved in the southeastern part of the country. The Egusi Soup is by far my most favorite of them all when it comes to the various Nigerian soups.
Egusi soup, also called melon soup, is made primarily from a plant called the melon plant. The melon (Cucumus melon) is part of the gourd family (Cucurbitaceae), native to central Asia. Other members of this family include pumpkins, zucchini, and squash. The melon is not to be confused with the watermelon. While both species are very similar, the main difference is that melon seeds exist within a central cavity, while watermelon seeds are spread all around within the whole fruit.
The melon’s coated seeds are dried and peeled to reveal a whitish, oval-shaped interior (NB. See the picture above). This is the core ingredient of making Egusi soup. To peel Egusi from its outer shell (or shelling, for short) is time-consuming and strenuous. Many children in rural communities recall having to perform this task as punishment in the household. Thankfully, technology has provided new ways of getting this done, as shelling machines are now readily available. After shelling, these seeds are then ground and prepared into a puree-like form.
You can serve Egusi soup (as it is fondly called) with any “swallow” such as pounded yam, fufu, tuwo, amala, eba (cassava flakes), and wheat flour, oats flour, plantain flour, rice, yam, and so many others. Those looking to start watching their weight via reducing calories can resort to other kinds of swallows made with carrot, cabbage, eggplant, etc. Now, many people may be oblivious to what the African “swallow” food types are. The best image to use to describe the African food type called “swallow” is a spherical lump of the kneaded dough for making bread.
So, you see a full meal of deliciously prepared Egusi soup and a pounded yam swallow in the picture above. Like the photograph above, other kinds of swallows are also fixed to look the same spherical way as we have listed above. However, there is no hard and fast rule that it must be spherical. I have seen some chefs put their own twist in making swallows in different shapes. For instance, I have seen some chefs knead it flat and then fold it into a wrap. Some go the extra mile of sculpting it into a creative piece that even triggers your salivating taste buds to go on overdrive. After kneading their choice of swallow, some can choose to serve it on a separate plate, place it on the same plate as the soup like in the photograph above, or elect to wrap it in plastic wrap.
How do you eat that–you ask? Don’t worry; I have you covered on that note. A lot of Africans prefer to ingest soups and swallow with washed hands. However, some elect to use a fork and knife as well. However, this kind of food is best enjoyed by hand. Do you take the whole massive ball and dip it in the soup and attempt to swallow it all? Umm, no. Striving to consume an enormous portion size of the fufu is not advisable, as it could lead to a choking hazard. The best way to eat it is to take little lumps that you can swallow, rounded off, dipped into the soup, and then ingested heartily. Some people elect to chew their fufu, but the majority rather swallow it. The soup usually acts as a lubricant for easy ingestion into the body.
Egusi Soup Ingredients
Now, the savvy sage will be rhetorically asking, ‘I’m interested in making myself some Egusi soup, but what ingredients do I really need to pull this soup off? Where could I buy most of these ingredients—especially if they are not common ingredients sold in the local grocery store?’ Not to worry, chef, you’ve come to the right place. We will put you through to the ingredients that you need for making this soup. Additionally, we will also give you some scoops of the different ways you can cook this soup. However, before we get to how we cook this Nigerian delicacy, let us examine the primary ingredients for preparing the Egusi soup.
The principal component for making the Egusi soup is the Egusi (Melon) seeds. Sometimes it comes with its shells, or sometimes they are already removed. You can also find grounded Egusi Seeds in powdery form. The next ingredient is Palm oil (measured to taste). For making the soup, any protein of choice will do, but most especially beef and usually the flesh or the offal. Other ingredients for the dish include the following: crayfish; fish of choice, mostly dry fish and stock-fish; pepper and salt (to taste); vegetable (e.g., Nigerian pumpkin leaves, spinach, or bitter leaves); stock cubes (NB. Usually about three); and traditional locust bean seasoning—also known as either okpei, dawadawa, iru, offor, nsu—and they are optional. (NB. For our readers who do not live in Nigeria or other African countries where these ingredients are not locally available, there are various African/West African food markets in the diaspora. A quick Google search will do you some good).
There are different methods of cooking Egusi soup. In most cases, the process of preparing it determines the ingredients and when they are added. The first is adding the oil before the Egusi, and the second is adding “Efoelegusi” or “Akpuruakpumgbam.”
The first is adding the palm oil before Egusi. In this method, the Egusi is fried in palm oil before other ingredients are combined. The protein of choice is then cooked to taste and texture. You then add the crayfish, pepper, palm oil, and blended local locust beans to the pot and allow to boil for few minutes. The dried fish is then added and allowed to simmer for a few minutes. Next, the Egusi is combined with seasoning stock cubes and salt to taste and left to cook for about 7 minutes, after which the soup is ready.
The second is cooking the Egusi with “Efoelegusi” or “Akpuruakpumgbam.” In this method, the ground Egusi is mixed with warm water and other spices like pepper, salt, and onions, after which it is then molded into balls and cooked in the soup. This method requires lots of vegetables and hot bell peppers, or preferably with some habanero peppers. This second method of preparing the Egusi soup is used during big ceremonies such as traditional weddings and naming ceremonies.
Whatever the method used to prepare this soup, if done correctly, it usually comes out very delicious and finger-licking tasty, to say the very least. So, if you are craving a tasty Nigerian delicacy, you may want to consider the Egusi soup. For those of you in the Greater Seattle Area in the State of Washington, you may want to order this delicacy from Chef Kelchi at www.kelchiskitchen.com. She is a maestro when it comes to cooking West African dishes. The taste of her Egusi soup, and other dishes she whips up, as a matter of fact, will send your taste buds to Taste Bud Heaven.
Different people like their Egusi in different ways. Some people like eating Egusi with a healthy serving of vegetables (e.g., Nigerian pumpkin leaves, spinach, collard greens, bitter leaves, Wild African Spinach (Gnetum Africanum), popularly known as Ukazi/Okazi Leaves). Others prefer it without vegetables. This is called white Egusi because it turns out looking like a white paste. Finally, some others prefer a hint of tomato stew in their Egusi, thereby giving it a reddish coloration.
Egusi soup is also commonly eaten with rice. For the more adventurous food lovers, eating Egusi soup with yam can be quite the experience! In a way, there is no hard and fast rule about how you can eat the soup. As time evolves, I believe that more food connoisseurs will discover more creative ways of eating traditional Egusi soup. Nigerians love Egusi soup because of its versatility and its delicious taste and feel. Egusi soup can be enjoyed any time of the day but mostly before dinner because of its high protein and fats, and oil content.