1. Jollof rice
What it is: Not whatever the hell Jamie Oliver said it was. Jollofís base ingredient is always rice, and ďTPOĒ (tomato, pepper and onion) plus scotch bonnets. Itís customisable according to your preference: make it hotter than the sun, or as mild as a Europeanís palette (jk, but not really). Add mixed vegetables if you want (please donít). Best enjoyed with piping hot dodo (see below) and a cold Supermalt.
Why itís awesome: Itís pure, flavourful carbs, and tastes like Godís love. Whatís not awesome about that?
Thereís a recipe here. Or try this one here.
Ify Nzeka / Via eatingnigerian.com
What it is: Deep fried bean cakes.
Why itís awesome: These delicious protein-packed fritters are light, making them ideal for breakfast (as a side with ogi, perhaps) or throughout the day as a snack. Most people use peeled brown beans, ground and blended with onions and spices, and fry in vegetable oil. They taste amazing when eaten with Agege bread.
Thereís a recipe here.
3. Bean and plantain pottage
What it is: A pottage made of beans and plantains,
Why itís awesome: Nigerians love a pottage, and they are most commonly made with yams (Nigeria is one of the top producers of yam in the world). This variation balances the nuttiness of brown beans with the natural sweetness of plantains, and the palm oil adds a rich smoky taste to it.
Thereís a recipe here.
What it is: Skewers of intricately spiced cuts of meat, grilled to perfection over an open flame. Often served with sharp, raw chopped onions, and wrapped in newspaper.
Why itís awesome: Suya is widely considered to be a specialty of the Hausa people of northern Nigeria and Niger. The key to excellent suya is the spice mix (yaji) it is steeped in before grilling, and the Mallams will never share their recipes. The joy of suya is finding the best spots in your state.
Thereís a recipe here, but if you have the funds, why not visit Nigeria and try the real thing?
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What it is: The roselle plant is a hibiscus plant that is native to parts of west Africa, and the flowers are whatís used to make this refreshing drink.
Why itís awesome: Itís tangy and sweet and inherently customisable Ė you can add fruits of your choice, like a non-alcoholic Pimmís: cloves, sparkling water or lemonade, and even chilli. On a hot day, thereís nothing like a tall glass of zobo.
Thereís a recipe here and another here.
6. Moin moin
What it is: A (vegan!) dish made of peeled Nigerian brown beans ground together with onions, bell pepper, palm oil and spices, and steamed in banana leaves (or other vessels). You can add any combination of extra bits to it: flaked fish, slices of hard boiled eggs, ground beefÖ itís literally up to you.
Why itís awesome: Itís delicious and nutty, and is great as a side (try it with any rice dish) or part of a main dish with, for example, soaked garri (fermented cassava).
Thereís a recipe here and another one here.
Ify Nzeka / Via eatingnigerian.com
What it is: Essentially, a ďdryĒ leafy vegetable soup from the Cross River region of Nigeria. The (iron-rich) greens are a mixture of ugwu (a fluted pumpkin leaf) and gbure (waterleaf). In places where these leaves are unavailable, people substitute spinach. People also use a mix of meats and fish, and for authenticity, periwinkles.
Why itís awesome: Served hot, with pounded yam or fufu, itís a party in your mouth. Top tip: get a friend from Calabar to cook it for you - thereís nothing like it.
There are recipes here, here, or this one here.
Oya Come Chop / Via oyacomechop.com
What it is: Pronounced ďdoh-dohĒ, these are deep fried plantains (not bananas), cut in slim diagonal slices, circles or cubes (colloquially known as ďparty dodoĒ) and deep-dried. Some people like to sprinkle some salt on before frying, but thatís down to personal taste. Itís a snack, a side dish, a main meal, a blessing.
Why itís awesome: It tastes like a motherís love. Itís impossible to cook it badly. Itís both a whole meal and a side dish. It is the best thing.
You donít really need a recipe for this: just peel, chop and fry. Crack open a Supermalt and eat it on the veranda.
9. Ogbono (or apon)
What it is: A soup made from ground ogbono (African mango) seeds plus palm oil, stock and spices. Itís usually eaten with staples like eba, fufu, pounded yam or amala.
Why itís awesome: It has ďdrawĒ, that wonderful slippery texture that helps the fufu go down easier. There are many variations on it, too: cooked alone, with vegetables, with or without meat or fish, with okra, or even with added melon seeds (egusi). Itís super-quick to cook, and a perfect introduction to the many soups of Nigerian cuisine.
There are recipes here and here.
10. Puff puff
What it is: Basically deep fried, light-as-air sweet dough balls, served alone or with sugar sprinkled over them.
Why itís awesome: ☝See above, please. They are the perfect party food.
There are so many recipes out there. Try this one with a coconut twist.
11. Pepper soup
Oya Come Chop
What it is: A thin, very spicy ďdrinking soupĒ or broth, chock-full of assorted cuts of meat or fish and scented leaves of uziza.
Why itís awesome: If you believe in using the whole of the animal when it comes to meat, this is the dish for you Ė every single cut of meat finds its way into pepper soup, and adds to a rich, flavourful end product. Many people swear by catfish pepper soup as the definitive soup, while others claim goat meat makes the best version. You can add extras like chunks of boiled plantain or yam, as well as a dash of palm oil to serve. The spices used vary depending on the region; every ethnic group has its own unique take, making use of local scented leaves and spices. Itís never less than 💯.
Thereís a lesson and recipe here, and another one here. The photo above, a tilapia steak pepper soup, comes from here.
12. Chin chin
What it is: Crunchy cubes or strips of sweet, deep fried pastry.
Why itís awesome: Itís basically fried butter and sugar, and itís dangerously moreish. Perfect for snacking, and if youíre looking to keep small hands busy with a rainy day activity, itís foolproof.
Thereís a video tutorial here, and another recipe here.
Ify Nzeka / Via eatingnigerian.com
What it is: A palm fruit-based soup that is most commonly associated with the Delta region, and particularly the Urhobo ethnic group. There are variations across the country Ė and indeed west Africa and beyond Ė but they all include regional spices and all elevate fresh ingredients (fish and seafood, assorted meats, the palm fruit itself) above all things.
Why itís awesome: It tastes like no other Nigerian soup. The palm fruit, shellfish and meat create delicious textures and an explosion of taste, and while it goes with anything, I strongly urge you to have it with ďstarchĒ or eba.
Thereís a great story and recipe here and another here, and a super-fishy one here. The image above comes from this blog where the cook has chosen to cook plantains in the soup.
14. Deep-fried battered yams
What it is: Slices of yam, dipped in a light akara mix (see #2 above), or a plantain batter, and then deep fried.
Why itís awesome: Itís carb-tacular goodness. Akara, boli (roasted plantains) and dundun (deep-fried yams) are classic (and delicious) street foods, but a combination of all three? Why not, yes please. Serve with chilli sauce, or a quick pepper stew.
Thereís a recipe here.
15. Efo riro
What it is: A literal translation from the Yoruba is ďmixed greensĒ and while they are the star of this rich, fragrant vegetable stew, thereís so much goodness besides: blended scotch bonnets, bell pepper, onions and locust beans. This is a classic Yoruba dish.
Why itís awesome: It goes with everything. Purists insist authentic efo riro must have efinrin (African spinach) and efo soko (Lagos spinach). Others say tomatoes are banned (to prevent sogginess). Some insist on palm oil over vegetable oil. All agree itís freakiní delicious.
You can find recipes here, one with tomatoes here, and a variation that uses kale here.
If youíre interested in some of the scores of green leafy vegetables used in a lot of Nigerian cooking, hereís a handy list.
What it is: Deshelled African land snails, usually cooked in an onion and pepper sauce.
Why itís awesome: The taste and texture of African land snails is hard to describe to the uninitiated, but a good number of people think it is just excellent. They are a popular party snack, skewered on little toothpicks.
There are loads of ways to cook snails, but many parboil them at the very least, before sautťing, or frying them. This is a basic peppered snails recipe. Hereís a great recipe for fried plantains tossed with snails in a tomato and pepper sauce, and hereís another. This writer has written a full ďhow-toĒ when it comes to preparing them (donít forget to deslime with alum or limes!) for cooking.
17. Ila Alasepo
What it is: Mixed okra/okro soup. To be eaten with solid staples like pounded yam, amala, eba, fufu of all types.
Why itís awesome: Okraís viscid quality (ďdrawĒ) is a love-hate thing (but if you hate it your opinion is wrong) and this showcases it perfectly. This is an often piquant one-pot edition of two separate meal components (the okra, and the stew) and bolstered with lots of assorted cuts of meat and/or seafood. Make no mistake: It is a rich stew, and consumption is best followed by a nap.
Thereís a recipe here, and another one here and this super-seafood recipe here.
18. Ewa Agoyin
Dobby's Signature / Via dobbyssignature.com
Ronke Edoho / Via 9jafoodie.com
What it is: Smashed white or brown beans served with a pepper and palm oil sauce.
Why itís awesome: This is a perfect hot street food. ďEwaĒ is ďbeansĒ in Yoruba and ďAgoyinĒ is a reference to the Beninoise peoples who originated this dish. The beans are cooked until soft (some say it must be mashed, others say itís OK to have a few individual beans remain whole) and distinctive dark, smoky sauce has a palm oil base, with dried peppers, onions and some people add ground crayfish. It tastes magical.
Thereís a recipe here, another here plus one one.
19. Ekpang nkukwo
Lohi's Creations / Via lohiscreations.com
What it is: Grated cocoyams wrapped in cocoyam leaves and cooked with periwinkles, greens, and palm oil.
Why itís awesome: This is a dish from the Efik ethnic group, and part of the Nigerian family of porridges. This is really something Ė Iíve only ever eaten it on special occasions partly because it can be a little finicky to cook, but itís so worth it: creamy, flavoursome comfort food at its best.
There Ďs a really handy recipe video here and another one here.
20. Obe egusi
What it is: Ground melon seed stew cooked in palm oil, with added leafy greens and meat or seafood, seasoned with ground crayfish and iru (locust beans).
Why itís awesome: The fluffy clumps of egusi taste are the main attraction in this stew, and there are different methods to get it that way: some people fry the egusi before adding it to the pot, while others bind it with egg and drop it into the stew during cooking. And then there are some who donít like it clumping at all. The leaves are important too Ė ewuro (bitterleaf) and ugwu (fluted pumpkin leaf) are most commonly used, but spinach is an alternative if theyíre difficult to source. Serve with iyan (pounded yam), amala or eba, and try not to lick the bowl.
There is a recipe here, another here and a short video tutorial here.
What it is: Spicy cow foot served in a thick palm oil-based sauce.
Why itís awesome: Listen, ďcow footĒ may not sound like a delicacy, but youíll just have to take it on trust that it is. For that authentic taste, you must use utazi leaves and palm oil.
Thereís a recipe here, and another one here. Or you could just head over to a Nigerian restaurant and try your luck there.
What it is: The leaves of the jute plant, cooked and blended.
Why itís awesome: Like okra, itís mucilaginous when cooked, making it ideal as an accompaniment to the starchy staples like amala and fufu. The slight bitterness of the leaves makes for a harmonious blend with many tomato-and-pepper-based stews as an alternative to ila or apon, and there are so many ways to customise it to personal taste. Donít forget to add kaun (potash) to help soften the leaves and thicken before blending.
Hereís a basic recipe. And then thereís this recipe for one-pot dish mix of ila and ewedu that is superlatively good.
23. Afang stew
What it is: A leafy vegetable stew from the Efik people, cooked in palm oil with stock, cuts of meat and seafood.
Why itís awesome: Afang is a rich (in nutrients and flavours) stew, and gets its name from the leaves used. You must use afang or okazi for it to qualify as afang stew. Afang leaves are more bitter and a little tougher than the waterleaves that are also a component of this dish, and when blended (or chopped finely) create a lovely texture and taste. It goes great with usi (cassava starch), pounded yam or eba.