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  • Bettina Applewhite

Corona Chronicles: Trip to Nigeria

During the coronavirus quarantine, I couldn't travel and it's something that I love to do. Since I wasn't going to leave the country (or the region) for safety reasons, I decided to travel on my plate and #eattheworld. This time I traveled to Nigeria to taste some spicy flavor combinations that may be my new favorites.

I just love it when cooking takes me on an adventure and I get to learn. In many of the recipes I considered, ground crayfish was an ingredient. Ground crayfish is dried, blended crayfish. It's used in a lot of Nigerian stews. It has a distinct flavor. Although I have a had boiled and steamed crayfish before, I've never had it dried and ground and wondered what the flavor would be like. It was actually quite balanced.

My Nigerian menu consisted of:

  • Jollof Rice

  • Suya Seasoned Chicken

  • Efo Riro (Spinach Stew)

There were lots of options with the menu. Fufu is made from pounded plantain or cassava plant. It is a white and moldable and filling. It is served with stews. Stewed meats like beef and lamb. I skipped desserts for my menu but plantains and a fried dough called puff puff are popular desserts in Nigeria.

efo riro, fufu, Nigerian menu ideas, Bites With Applewhite
Efo Riro and Fufu Picture by Fomeree for Unsplash

Jollof Rice is a spicy rice dish seasoned with tomatoes, red bell peppers, onions, curry powder, and scotch bonnets. It's spicy but not so spicy that you can't enjoy the flavors. It's the right amount of heat to wake up the taste buds.

The suya seasoned chicken picked up some of the flavors between the Efo Riro and the Jollof rice. The chicken was seasoned with chicken bullion and curry along with onion and oregano and cayenne. Using the bullion cube was a little too salty for me but I can adjust it next time. The flavors of the chicken was in every bite and I can definitely add this to my meal planning routine.

The efo riro was probably the star of the menu. Efo Riro is a Nigerian spinach stew. It was so unique with the flavors of the ground crayfish. It also started by sautéing tomatoes, onions, and scotch bonnets. Even though I it uses scotch bonnets the spicy doesn't blow you away. It's the kind of spice that causes you to want more and more. The other unique ingredient used in this stew is palm oil. Palm oil is grown in the tropics and is mostly used in tropical regions. It has a bad reputation because it's high in saturated fats and is also one of the causes of deforestation. I used red palm oil. I don't know if you could substitute a different type of oil and still get the same deliciousness in the efo riro.

In the area where I live there are lots of people from Nigeria and who have visited Nigeria and other regions of West Africa. There's even a Nigerian restaurant close. Despite all this access, I've never had Nigerian food until I "traveled" to Nigeria during the coronavirus lockdown. Would I have it again? Yes!

Hopefully, I've inspired you to try something new. Even if you don't take the time to make it from scratch yourself, google restaurants in your area and see what exciting cuisines you can try.

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