COOKING NIGERIAN FOOD
Close your eyes, take a bite and imagine the favor of Jollof Rice bursting in your mouth or how committed you have to be to wiggle that Ogbono soup into your mouth… those flavors of art starts from somewhere. My name is Precious Nwabugo, I am a foodie, my thighs and stomach are proof of my commitment. Thankfully, I can cook which has turned out to be efficient over the long run, and maybe you want to be efficient also or have other reasons to want to cook, so here are some basics to cooking Nigerian Food – Nigerian Cooking 101. I hope this helps you with whatever Nigerian Recipe you’d like to try.
Eat, Eat, Eat.
Nigerian Cooking 101 is about Eating, Yes Eat. You have to be familiar with what you’re going to cook to know what you like in terms of taste and feel. Jeez Precious isn’t this true about all foods? Ehh Yes, but with Nigerian food it’s especially important as Nigerian recipes are dependent on the feel you want for the food. A Nigerian recipe can tell you what goes into the food, but not enough about quantity. It mostly isn’t a formula like Baking or other oyibo meals, so you matter, your opinion on your food matters, Eat!
Like a foundation for a house, Like water for the body, think of Stock for Nigerian meals. The stock is important and widely features in the majority of Nigerian delicacies across ethnic lines including Soups, Stews, Rice, Yams, and African Salad, Wow Salad? Yeah, I know! Now depending on what part of the world you’re from, you might know this as “Broth,” but here we call this Stock. A well-made stock sets the tone for the taste of the food and making it from scratch is the Nigerian way. You get the stock right, then the meal is on to a fantastic start.
How to make Stock?
First, determine what flavor you want, Goat Meat, Chicken, Stock fish or you might want to combine many. Why does this matter? Flavor get levels, Flavor differs. Secondly, the texture of the meat matters. For example, Chicken gets done (soft) before Stock fish or Goat Meat, this informs you of which to go first or last.
Next, season your Meat of choice with Onions, Salt, (little, this is not the source of your flavor) Pepper, Seasoning cubes. Other spices and seasonings like Curry, Thyme, Garlic, crayfish are optional depending on what the stock is meant for.
For Beef, Chicken, Turkey and similar allow to steam without water for awhile, then add water. For other Meat or Fish, skip to adding water. The more water added the more diluted the stock is.
Here is a video of making Chicken Stock by Yummieliciouz Food Recipes.
Note, you can skip using Stock for Nigeria Meals, but you’ll have to work hard to make up for the nuanced flavor of Stock.
Frying vs Boiling
There are two methods to starting the majority of Nigerian Foods, and it’s either by Frying or Boiling. For Example, Egusi soup can either be prepared by Frying; heating oil, adding onion, then Egusi and stock or Boiling; which starts from the stock, followed by Oil, other spices then Egusi. This process applies to a majority of other meals and taste varies depending on the method chosen, well except you’re really skilled.
Speaking of Oils, next on the list is…
Know your oils brothers and sisters. The more popular oils in Nigerian cooking are Vegetable Oil and Palm Oil. As more Nigerians explore cooking healthy they experiment with other oils but it’s usually about those two divas; Vegetable Oil and Palm Oil. Vegetable oil is less flamboyant in taste, and considered the more healthy of the two, whether or not you agree is personal. Palm Oil is more dynamic, it comes with its own flavor and depending on what is being done with it, it can change up on you real quick. Palm Oil which is usually used in Soups and Stews can be bleached also, so check your recipe to know if it’s needed.
McDonald’s? Hush There is rice at home! Our source of disciple, conflict, joy and celebration, to be Nigeria is to have a relationship with Rice – Fried Rice, Jollof Rice, White Rice, Coconut and the other variations of Rice we indulge in. Cooking Nigerian is knowing your rice, and cooking rice is fearing water and respecting the power of steaming. What you don’t want is soggy rice, oh no baby and that’s enough reason to be careful about using water or stock, whichever applies. If you’re a novice to cooking rice:
- Add liquid incrementally.
- Add liquid (Stock or Water) not to make the rice soft, but to create enough steam to cook the rice soft. You can cover rice with plastic wrap or foil to trap heat.
- Put heat on medium to prevent burning at the bottom of the pot.
- Especially for white rice, limit stirring.
- When in doubt, yes Onions can go in anything.
- Vegetables usually go in last, try not to overcook.
There you have it, I hope this helps out. Happy Cooking.