Fiery Cuisines Part 27 – NIGERIA

Fiery Cuisines Part 27 – NIGERIA

Andrew’s Essential Fiery Food Facts that a Pyro- Gourmanic needs to know

Part 36

Fiery Cuisines Part 27… NIGERIA


The name Nigeria is taken from the Niger River, which plays such an important part in Nigerian lives. Not only is it the main transportation highway, it is an excellent source of fish, including Carp, Nile Perch, and Catfish. It also provides the water needed to cultivate crops.

Nigeria is located on the west coast of Africa at the inner corner of the Gulf of Guinea (part of the Atlantic Ocean). Its land area is comparable to being about twice the size of Victoria.

An area of mangrove swamp forest lines the coast of Nigeria. Beyond the forest lies a wide tropical forest, then a plateau that leads to the Shebshi Mountains situated on the eastern side of the country. The extreme north borders on the Sahara Desert.

Many different climates mirror the varied land regions, although Nigeria is mostly in a tropical zone. On the coast, it is very humid, and the nights are hot. Inland there is a wet season from April to October and a dry season from November to March.

Trade was largely responsible for changing the flavours of African cuisine. Before trading between continents began, main staples included rice, millet and lentils. The Portuguese were the first Europeans to reach Nigeria. There, they established a slave trade centre around the 1400s. Portuguese explorers and traders introduced cassava to western Africa through their trade with the African coasts and nearby islands. European explorers and traders introduced several food staples to western Africa, such as Beans, and Maize while on journeys to America, they, in turn, brought the foods to western Africa. Asian seasonings such as Pepper, Cinnamon, and Nutmeg were also brought back, and are still used to flavour dishes. British, Dutch, and other European traders later competed for control of the trade. By the 1700s, the British were the main traders of slaves on the Nigerian coast.


Nigeria is one of the world’s most ethnically diverse countries. The Hausa and Yoruba make up around 21 percent of the population, the Igbo/Ibo, 18 percent, the Fulani, around 11 percent, and Ibibio, 5 percent. Various other groups make up the remaining 23 percent.

Nigeria has such a variety of people and cultures that it is difficult to pick one national dish. Each area has its own regional favourite that depends on customs, tradition, and religion. The different foods available also depend on the season: the “hungry season” is before the rains arrive in March, and the “season of surplus” follows the harvest in October and November. Fruits, however, are enjoyed year-round. A large part of Nigeria lies in the tropics, where many fruits are available. Some of the popular fruits are Oranges, Melons, Grapefruits, Limes, Mangoes, Bananas, and Pineapples.

There are over two hundred and fifty different tribes in Nigeria so it is expected that each of these tribes would have different food culture, although there are always a little difference from one tribe to another. People of the northern region (mostly Muslim, whose beliefs prohibit eating Pork) have diets based on Beans, Sorghum and brown Rice. The Hausa people of this region also like to eat meat in the form of tsere or suya (kebabs, which are chunks of roasted, skewered meat). Muslims love to drink tea, making coffee houses popular places to socialize.

Igbo Food:

The spices and flavours of the Igbo people are really intense. They make use of leafy greens in quite a number of their meals. Igbo street foods includes Abacha, Okpa, Aki na ukwa, Garden egg and Groundnut sauce, Abacha Mmiri and many more.

Yoruba food

The Yorubas are noted for their delicious street foods like Akara, puff puff, Moin moin, Ekuru, Ewa Agoyin, Ewa ati Ata (Beans and fried pepper), Boli (Grilled plantain) and many more. Quite a number of Yoruba recipes calls for vegetable oil or palm Oil especially soups and stews, and quite a number of deep frying. You also need to try the Yoruba signature Efo riro!

Hausa Food

Hausa cuisine is a mixture of different indigenous styles, with considerable regional variation and some external influences. Although it is known for its limited use of spices, Hausa cuisine has strong flavours from its use of endemic herbs, fruits, and vegetables served fresh, dried, or fermented. Their main street foods are suya, Kilishi, Masa and Fura de nunu.

Nigerians practice traditional African religious beliefs in addition to various branches of Islam and Christianity. Muslims make up 45 percent of the population. Muslim and Christian holidays include the end of Ramadan (a month of fasting), Easter, Good Friday, and Christmas. Nigerians return to their villages for Christmas to be with their families. In the afternoon, children open gifts and go from house to house, singing carols and hoping for candy and cookies. A Christmas feast may include obe didin (roasted Goat), Jollof Rice with Chicken stew, moin-moin , iyan (pounded Yams), and chopped liver

Many Nigerians rise as early as 5 A.M, when a small breakfast is eaten to begin their day. Breakfast usually consists of Rice and Mangoes, or stewed Soybeans. Dodo ,which is Fried Plantains is a common dish, as well as leftovers from the night before.

Lunch is eaten around 11 A.M. and considered the most important meal of the day. A late dinner may be served with dishes similar to those offered at lunch. Most Nigerian meals are made up of one course and are cooked outside over an open fire (gas and kerosene stoves are sometimes used, but the two fuels are very expensive for many Nigerians). Dishes such as efo (stew) or moin-moin may be served at lunch. Soups and stews are common lunchtime foods, eaten with hands cupped like a spoon. Many Nigerians only use their right hand. In southern Nigeria, two favorite soups are egusi soup and palm nut soup. Egusi is a spicy yellow soup made with meat, red Chillies, ground dried Shrimp, and greens. Palm nut soup is a stew made with meat, Chillies, Tomatoes, Onions, and Palm nut oil.

Unique Nigerian Cooking Spices

Udah: Uda or Udah is one spice which has a strong and unique taste and aroma which makes it the preferred spice for Nsala soup but can even be found ‘Suya Pepper’. Uda is also said to contain vitamins A, B1, B2, C, E and folic acid.

Ehuru: Some refer to it as African nutmeg or Jamaican nutmeg and is mostly used in banga or Pepper soup but can be sampled in a number or recipes you can even add a bit of it to your ofada stew. It is highly aromatic and offers a unique taste.

Oziza seeds:  Peppery seed ground and added to cooking to give a peppery flavour.

Uzziza Leaves: Uzziza leaf, boasts of a sweet smell, just like its seed, it also offers a slightly peppery flavour. It is used fresh and can even be substitute Ugwu in your egusi soup.

Ogiri: Ogiri is a flavoring made of fermented oil seeds, such as sesame seeds, oil bean, or egusi seeds.Given that these seeds are fermented they are rich in live cultures – like probiotic yogurts – which help the immune system by introducing good, healthy bacteria.

Ginger: Ginger’s tangy freshness, light spiciness, warmth, and mellow sweetness complement a range of dishes, from sweet to savoury. This root also has a long history of use for relieving digestive problems such as nausea, loss of appetite, motion sickness and pain.

Achi: Achi is not really a spice it is a thickener but its flavour does offer a unique spin on your bitter leaf and oha soups. Achi is usually dissolved in water and used in it’s ground/powdered form.

Locust beans: Otherwise known as iru is usually found in eforiro soup or okro soup amongst others. But we bet you didn’t know that research has proven that locust bean helps to promote good sight and reduces the odds of hypertension and diseases like stroke and diabetes. The best part is that it has shown potential benefit for enhancing weight loss and controlling blood sugar levels…

Scent leaf: Researchers have found that using scent leaf or sweet Basil and bitter leaf in combination or singly could stop the growth of breast, lung and prostate cancers.