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A Quick Nigerian Food Guide

Nigeria is home to a wide variety of dishes, dishes that are capable of taking you to heaven and back. One beautiful thing about Nigeria is the fact that every tribe has special dishes peculiar to them which brings to mind the phrase “beauty in diversity”. The western part of Nigeria is known for peppery meals with lots of scotch bonnet (ata rodo), chili pepper and oils, most especially palm oil which is used for the majority of their meals. The eastern part of the country is known for the contrary, that is, “less oil” in meals though they have the longest food range.

Nigerian Food plate

Lots of Nigerian dishes are based around a staple called “swallow” by locales. They are an integral part of all local meals. Some of these staples include:

Eba – made with garri, an end product of fermented cassava
Fufu – made from unfermented, grinded cassava
Amala – made from dry, grinded yam
Tuwo shinkafa – a rice staple
Wheatmeal – made from grinded wheat grain
Semovita – made from corn flour
Lafun – a resilient staple made from a mixture of cassava and a little corn flour
Starch – an eastern meal

All of the above are eaten with local soups such as:

Nigerian Food - efo riro

Efo Riro

It is leafy but delicious with lots of crayfish, prawns, locust beans, and cow skin which is locally called “kpomo.” If you love veggies, you might want to try this.

Ewedu and Omi Obe with All Kinds of Meat

It’s common in Western Nigeria. It consists of a resilient base (ewedu) and a watery but peppery stew made with tomato, scotch bonnet, chili peppers, and usually cooked with palm oil. It is best eaten with amala, lafun, wheat, or semovita.

Nigerian Egusi Soup Nigerian Food

Egusi Soup

Its main ingredient is a fat and protein rich seed that can be gotten from melon, squash, or gourd. It is usually prepared with fluted pumpkin leaves and lots of crayfish, stockfish, meat and “kpomo.”

Ogbono

A resilient soup whose main ingredient is the grinded Ogbono seed with pumpkin leaves and different kinds of fish.

Ila asepo

A resilient soup made with okra, pepper, and palm oil usually with crayfish, prawns, ‘kpomo,” and fish.

Afang

You wouldn’t even break a sweat looking for this soup in Akwa Ibom because it’s one of the most loved soups in Nigeria. It is prepared with lots of veggies and assorted meat along with stockfish, crayfish, and periwinkles. It is best served with fufu or pounded yam.

Oha Soup

A very tasty eastern soup prepared with the Oha leaf and “Uziza” leaf with lots of stockfish and beef. It is best served with Eba or Fufu.

Edikang Ikong

Another Akwa Ibom dish prepared with waterleaf and fluted pumpkin. It is very tasty especially because of the different kinds of meat and fish used in preparing it.

Other soups include Ofe nsala, Ofe owerri, Banga soup, black soup (Marugbo), and so on. The list is endless. As a visitor, you can take your taste buds on a journey by trying as many as you can and as much as your body can take.

Common Meals

Nigerians sure perform wonders with rice, and this is one sight you wouldn’t want to miss when you visit Nigeria. Nigerians can cook rice in at least six different ways. It can be prepared as:

White Rice – boiled rice usually eaten with stew and either fish, beef, grilled or fried chicken, boiled eggs, and side dishes like fried plantain. The stew is made with tomato and pepper paste, fried with vegetable or palm oil. Those prepared with beef and chicken taste the best, especially with fried beef dipped in the stew (It’s heavenly!). But this is no match for the Nigeria jollof rice. It’s the best in the world.

Jollof Rice – You shouldn’t leave Nigeria without tasting this. It is a very reddish rice, its color comes from great tomato and pepper base used in making a tasty sauce which derives it flavored taste from meat stock. One pepper that gives it its spectacular color is called ‘tatashe.” Jollof rice is best served with grilled chicken dipped briefly in a peppered sauce.

Nigerian Food - Ghanaian Food - jollof rice

Others include:

Fried rice – very colorful rice, colors derived from a variety of spices

Coconut rice – coconut is the major ingredient used

Ofada rice – a local Nigerian rice usually served on wide leaves with fried, dark stew and eggs that have been dipped in the stew such that it absorbs every ingredient (Oh God. It’s paradise).

Tuwo shinkafa – a northern specialty, made from rice in form of a staple.

Not to be forgotten are the ways Nigerians cook beans. They have jollof beans, cooked with pepper, palm oil, and seasonings and “Ewa agoyin”… plain beans cooked and pounded into a paste with stew fried to an almost burnt state with palm oil (it is so delicious).

If you are adventurous, Nigerian food will take you on a meal trip you won’t forget in a hurry.

Side Dishes

Common side dishes include:

Moin Moin – this is bean cake. It is made from grinded beans with lots of onions, scotch bonnet, chili pepper, crayfish, Titus fish, ginger, garlic, and eggs. It is served alongside any kind of rice but sometimes served alone with Ogi/Akamu/Pap, an aqueous meal made from grinded corn.

Akara – can also be called beanballs. This is made from bean paste which is fried in vegetable or palm oil and served with Ogi/Akamu/Pap.

Fried plantain – Nigerians love this. It is commonly called “Dodo”. You will love it! Sliced plantains are deep-fried to a golden yellow color. It is served alongside rice or cooked beans (A joy!).

Snacks

If you want to try out snacks, you’ll find a reasonable number of great tasting ones. Some common snacks include:

Puff puff, buns, meat pie, donut, chicken pie, chin chin, fish roll, shawarma, and plantain chips. These can be stepped down with local drinks like “Zobo” and “Kunu” or soft drinks like Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and the like.

Suya

You should try out ‘Suya”, a spiced, roasted meat and a bottle of chilled yogurt or juice. You’ll be thrilled. A fine substitute for this is “Kilishi”, a type of dry, tasty meat peculiar to the northern part of the country.

Places to Visit for a Good Meal

In parts of Nigeria like Lagos, Calabar, and Abuja that are touch-down sites for most people traveling into the country, you can never be at a loss as per where to eat. The only issue would be finding the best place to do so. Local restaurants are called “Bukas” and even if they might not look so posh, they offer sumptuous meals that will definitely delight and fill your tummy.

If you are daring, you can simply walk into any roadside “Buka” and order any local meal. Different restaurants for different meals though. There are restaurants that focus majorly on western Nigeria meals usually referred to as “Iyalamala” joints while there are joints that cook majorly eastern meals and of course, those that prepare both.

Truly, Nigeria is home to delicious delicacies. You, though, might want to come along with meds that could help cool your tummy or help during incidences of heartburn due to the spicy and peppery nature of these meals. Whatever allergies to certain food or spices you may have might be triggered especially if you do not know what each meal entirely contains. So, come prepared or take precautionary measures by avoiding such meals.

As much as local meals are in abundance, there are provisions for intercontinental dishes. Be it Indian, Chinese, or Italian. The island of Lagos is known for its many hotels and restaurants that offer gourmet dishes with class. Various cafes that offer beverages and smoothies are also available. Hotels like the Sheraton, Rhapsody, the Southern Sun offer class and are visited by the elite. One eatery that offers intercontinental food as you might be familiar with it is The Place in Ikeja, Lagos.

As much as you might at first be inclined to eat familiar meals from your country, give yourself a break and try Nigerian meals as they will make you feel at home even though you’re far away from home.