Show me an average Nigerian and I will show you a person that ranks “rice and stew” as a favourite meal or at the very least a meal reserved for special occasions like family Sunday lunch. Don’t get me wrong, Jollof rice ranks up there too but today, the focus is on it’s less colourful and less controversial relative 🙂
In Nigeria, stew is not stew if it isn’t a blend of red peppers (locally called tatashe, shombo and ata rodo in Yoruba language) and tomatoes. Now the balance of each ingredient varies from tribe to tribe…..no really it does. Some people might include onions in this blend as well.
Stew is a very personal sauce in Nigeria and in some tribes it is beyond personal. Take the Yorubas for example; their lips will remain clamped shut if you serve ANY meal you expect them to ingest (and eventually digest) without stew; in fact it is considered to be an affront.
I am married to a Yoruba man so TRUST me I know what I am talking about; recall my ordeal from an earlier post? If you haven’t read about it please do so here.
Loosely speaking the sauce is prepared by blitzing a combo of the above mentioned vegetables and fruits (yes tomatoes are fruits!!!!!!!), then cooking them down till you have a beautiful thick crimson paste which you the fry the heck out of in searing hot vegetable or palm oil. Alternatively you could roast said vegetables/fruits whole then blitz them before finishing them off. See this post on how to use roasted peppers to enhance your sauce.
The beauty about Nigerian stew is it’s versatility. It is such a great vehicle for an assortment of flavours; it works well with ginger, garlic, basil, thyme, chicken, fresh fish snails, gizzard, turkey, smoked fish, beef, oxtail, tripe, sweat breads name it! Errrrr not necessarily all at once. It am sure you catch my drift.
Anyway back to focus of my post, the most consistent way stew is consumed in Nigeria across almost every single tribe is with white rice (essentially steamed rice or as “boiled rice” as it is generally referred to.
One popular pairing is of Ofada sauce, a pungent peppery stew, served with locally grown rice. It is an acquired taste and if you ever venture near it please be sure to have a fire extinguisher to hand because your tongue is guaranteed to catch on fire or at the very least your brain will……..it’s worth it though…….I think………..
Lest I forget to mention, rice and stew is never really complete without a side of fried plantains locally called “dodo”. If you set such a dish before a Nigerian, you have a 99% guarantee of having a happy camper whose buccal cavity will remain decidedly agape as he inhales the meal.
Here are some of my versions of this classic Nigerian staple: Ordinary just got extraordinary!
As we say in my language, “Ko di echi” (until the next time ?)