Thursday, April 7, 2011

N is for Nigeria:

There are some countries that I have been just dying to write about...and Nigeria is one of them. Why Nigeria? Well the answer is simple...some of the most amazing people I known are either from Nigeria or of Nigerian descent, and coincidentally N week fell on the same week on of their birthdays. So, this is a tribute to my beautiful, intelligent, oh-so-amazing Delta Xi Phi daughter Layinka. Happy Birthday gorgeous ( I hope this makes up for not going out with you on your birthday)(In my defense....there was a blizzard that night).

Layinka and I 
Alright, now on to the food.

I think what will make this post interesting will be the way it is juxtaposed to Ghana, one of Nigeria's neighbors. Although both countries are West African, there food is still distinctively different, namely because of their histories. Nigeria's coast line was ideal for Portugese explorers and traders to bring African slaves into the Americas. While on their journeys the European travelers brought to Nigeria beans and maize from the "New World" and seasonings, like nutmeg and pepper from Asia. Nigeria's tropical climate allows for the flourishing of exotic fruit, such as mangos, bananas, pineapple.

So what is Nigeria's national dish? The answer is not simple, and will differ depending on who you ask. Nigeria is one of the world's most ethnically diverse nations in the world. The Hausa and Yoruba make up around 21% of the population, the Igo/Ibo make up 18%, the Fulani, about 11%,  the Ibibio around 5%, and other various group make up the remainder. Groups have different customs, traditions, and religions, each with their own favorite dishes. Research has told me (and someone correct me if I am wrong) that the Igbo/Ibo people from the Eastern part of Nigeria use a good amount of pumpkins and yams. However, these are not the yams that you see in Giant Eagle, these yams are pale and sweet. Near the coast, seafood stews are very prevalent because it provides a great source of protein.

I was a bit disappointed with the lack of information that I found in libraries/internet about Nigerian food.  But after my visit to a Nigerian market (which I will say more about later) and making Nigerian stew I learned that Nigerian food clearly represents its people. The diverse populations of Nigeria is summed up in the colorfulness of Nigerian cuisine. Oh yea, and its delicious!

This week I went to the West African restaurant I failed to go to during Ghana week. With an ensemble that constituted of Kelly, Angie, Emil and a new comer, Mark. We all got different things, and I did't even choose mine. I told the waitress I didn't like spicy food, and she brought me beef stew. Angie got seafood stew with okra. It was delicious but the okras production on slime was off putting. Mark, being adventurous, got goat stew. Everyone also got ginger drinks, but as the cautious girl I am, I waited until everyone got their drink before I ordered my own. Good thing I did, because it was sppppiiiiicccyyy! It was basically fresh ginger root and water. So, Emil and I, went on adventure to find me something to drink. That adventure was basically ended in two seconds, when we entered Intercontinental, located right next door to Drelyse African Restaurant. We were amazed by everything...the ginger beer (which I bought), all the exotic spices, vegetables, the fresh and dried fish, and especially the Nollywood films (Think Nigerian+Hollywood. Emil was completely fascinated by the massive collection). While talking to one of the owners, Esther, in walks in a tall, handsome, man with glowing smile..a smile I have seen before. It turns out the beautiful creature recognizes me as well, as he was a bartender at a bar I frequent. After a while of chatting we exchanged numbers, and he agreed to treat how to cook Nigerian food. So thanks to Nigerian food, I have a new (cute) friend.

Nina :)
Sunday's dinner was a feast. Thanks to my amazing former boss, Chinwe, I got a delicious recipe for beef stew. She said I could substitute beef with basically anything, so I did. I made it with cod fillets, because I saw cod in the Nigerian store, and because I haven't made a fish dish yet. My friend Nina is an amazing baker, and she made chin chin , which I can describe as a Nigerian donut. It is basically delicious fried dough, deep fried, and rolled in powered sugar. Our meal was lavish, so we decided to share with Angie's neighbors...and there was still it doubled as lunch for me the next day. I think what made this food so good was not only the recipe, but the company and the atmosphere. It was  well anticipated warm spring evening, cooking with fun people, all of us contributing to the dish, and then also being able to share our labor of was perfect.
*Sorry about the photos, I forgot my camera so I had to use my phone

Fish Stew
serves 5

  • 2 fillets of cod, cut in medium pieces 
  • 2 cans of whole, peeled tomatoes
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • chicken bullion
  • rice
  • rosemary
  • curry powder
  • thyme
  • cumin
  • oregano
  • parsley
  • salt, pepper, oil 
Fish stew with rice 
  1. Cook rice according to package
  2. Heat 1 cup of oil in a saucepan
  3. Add tomatoes and cook in the oil until tomatoes are soft and loose their color.
  4. Add rosemary, curry, thyme, parsley, cumin, oregano, parsley, salt, pepper, 2 chicken bullion cubes and any other seasoning you may like. There is no real measurement. Add seasonings to your taste.
  5. In another pot, cook fish with onions and enough water to get  stock and cover the fish and onions. Season with salt, pepper, and chicken bullion.
  6. When the fish is cooked, add fish to the tomato mixture, and enough stock to make a good stew consistency. 
  7. Simmer for about 15 minutes and serve with rice.
Voila! Enjoy with chin chin and friends :)

chin chin


  1. Looking good, Stephanie! You pulled it off.

  2. Finally the N!, I was wondering which one, Namibia, Nepal, which one? Nigeria was the lucky one.
    I would call this blog “Stephanie and the food anthropology”,I have been hooked on it learning about worldwide kitchen and culture, I have learned how food is one the delightful way to connect with people, history and cultures. When you finish your list,I look forward for your next adventure.