I have been a foodie since the day I was born. I am sure that when my mother gave me Farex for the first time, I thought to myself- ‘I wonder how many flavours this stuff comes in’. I have a reputation among my friends for being able to eat just about anything! After experimenting with a variety of different flavours my mind always starts wandering. ‘What next?’ So I was overjoyed when I got a call from a friend in my film class. She asked me if I wanted to try traditional Nigerian food. I did not have to think about it before saying yes!
Dorothy used to be a model back home in Nigeria and she can cook quite well. After giving us some juice and chips, she and her friend Amanda got busy in the kitchen and in a short while a delicious aroma filled the air. When I asked her what was on the menu all I heard was one word – swallow. While they cooked I began to imagine a swallow on my plate. Would it be a whole roasted bird or some sort of soup with meat floating in it? As my curiosity grew, my stomach began to rumble in anticipation!
I sneaked into the kitchen for a peek and this was the first thing that caught my eye. I heard Amanda ask Dorothy for pumpkin leaves and palm oil before I left the kitchen. While our hosts cooked, we had a little chat about Nigeria with them. I learnt that India and Nigeria have quite a few things in common, especially in relation to the immense diversity in food, clothing, culture and people from different regions of the same country. They told us about hundreds of different tribes in Nigeria and how each tribe has a unique way of life. We told them about India and how every state is so diverse. As we chatted, they brought steaming hot plates of food to the table.
My curiosity got the better of me and I asked, ‘Where is the swallow?’. Dorothy burst out laughing and held up a plate. Swallow or Eba as it is referred to in Nigeria is a preparation made from crushed cassava tubers and hot water and is a staple food in West Africa. The powdered cassava tubers, called Gari, are also used as a basic ingredient in various other Nigerian dishes.
Along with the Eba (that reminded me of Ragi Mudde) our hosts had made Egusi soup for us. The main flavour in this dish comes from melon seeds (Egusi), different types of meat and dried fish. The colour comes from palm oil and pumpkin leaves that are added to this tasty broth. After wolfing down the delicious Eba and Egusi soup, we had some watermelon for dessert. I was blown away by how such a simple looking dish packed in so much flavour. If you ever have the chance, do try Nigerian food. I promise you that you’ll love it!