While travelling abroad remains impossible for many, food continues to be an amazing way for us to connect with and appreciate the culture of other countries. It’s for the same reason that food-oriented travel shows, such as Anthony Bourdain’s ‘No Reservations’, are popular. What better way to learn about a country than to gaze upon its food? With this in mind, we’ve put together a guide to one of the most exciting countries on the international culinary stage: Nigeria.
Despite Nigeria’s food being extremely well-regarded, it has yet to reach the same level of recognition as other cuisines, such as Japanese and Mexican. There is an ongoing discussion as to why this may be the case and while some put it down to the fact that recipes are often kept within households, leading to few cookbooks ever being exported, it seems that things are in fact starting to change.
To support Nigerian cuisine gaining more recognition, we’ve put together three of our favourite Nigerian dishes that you need to try. Each dish epitomises something distinct about the country’s cuisine and is so delicious that it deserves to be cooked and enjoyed by homes across the world!
Perhaps the most iconic dish within Nigeria, it is one that also provokes fierce loyalty. Neighbouring countries, especially Ghana, have their own distinct versions of jollof rice, which often leads to the culinary rivalry of who makes the best. Many Nigerians will not only claim that their jollof rice is the best but will also say that the dish was first created in their country too.
Jollof consists of rice being cooked in a rich and smoky tomato sauce, one that is spiced with hot chillis, giving it an iconic heat. Not only does it taste incredible but it also looks stunning, with a beautiful orange and red appearance. If you want to experience the flavour for yourself, it is beginning to appear on supermarket shelves, with brands such as jollof rice by Varofoods being well-regarded.
Within Nigerian cooking, there are a significant number of stews, slowly cooked dishes that bring out the deep and complex flavours of different meats and vegetables. One of the most widely-enjoyed examples is efo riro, a spinach-based stew that is often cooked with fish, though might occasionally be served with other mixed meats too.
The foundation of the dish is the stock and, depending on the type you have prepared, you can obtain wildly different flavour profiles. If you are cooking it for yourself, be sure to remove as much water from the spinach as possible before you start. It’s a mistake that leads to soggy efo riro and is certain only to be made once!
Also known as dodo, this truly is the people’s favourite and, if you venture into any Nigerian restaurant, you’re likely to see a side serving of fried plantain at every table. To those outside of West Africa, the plantain can be intimidating, partly because of its resemblance to a banana. However, it only takes a single taste of dodo, when the natural sugars have been lightly fried, to see exactly what all the fuss is about.