Nigerian cuisine offers a diverse range of flavors that is influenced by the many ethnic groups of people that occupy this wondrous and beautiful country. Just like with most countries situated in the West African region, Nigerian cuisine incorporates ingredients that are most abundant in the region such as a lot of palms, herbs and spices, and groundnut oil, which create these deeply flavored soups and sauces that define the signature flavors of the Nigerian cuisine.
Nigerian people love lavish and colorful feasts when they celebrate, and the streetfood scene in Nigeria includes aromatically fried and grilled dishes being sold on the roadside. Listed below are the 10 staple ingredients that shouldn’t go amiss when talking about Nigerian cuisine.
Rice is a product of a certain species of grass, and it is harvested as a seed. It is usually refined into an edible cereal grain, and is a staple food in the eastern parts of the world, especially in the Asian and the African continents. Like the Yam, there are also many varieties of rice in Nigeria, and the whole of Africa for that matter. The most common in the Western African region is the Oryza Glaberrima or most commonly known as the “parboiled long-grain white rice.” Rice can be steamed and eaten with popular Nigerian soups and sauces, or can be ground to mix with other dishes as a thickener.
Egusi is a seed from either a melon, squash, or gourd. It is very rich in fat and protein. Egusi, after being harvested, is being dried and grounded and then mixed on most major Nigerian cuisine, usually as a soup thickener.
3. PEPPERS (SCOTCH BONNET)
The Nigerian cuisine is known for being very heavily spiced, and this naturally calls for adding peppers to their dishes. There are a lot of different peppers that you can use in preparing Nigerian dishes. This includes the regular fresh chili pepper, dried chili pepper, scotch bonnet peppers, and habanero peppers.
4. PALM OIL
Because Nigeria is situated in an area where a lot of Palm trees are growing, and they are surrounded by the abundance of palm oil, obviously, where else could it go, but on most of their dishes. The best sort to use in Nigerian cuisine is the red palm oil because the red ones are more pure. If the palm oil is orange or yellow in color, it means that it has a lot of water content and isn’t pure. This kind of palm oil will cause your dish to smell and will negatively affect its taste. Keep in mind that palm oil in the cold has the tendency to congeal. Congealed palm oil is not an indication of getting bad. You may still use it.
The Crayfish is a freshwater crustacean that resembles the physical features of a lobster. Crayfish is commonly used as a seasoning in Nigerian cuisine. This also gives Nigerian dishes a very distinct flavor that sets them apart from other African dishes. They are often incorporated into rice and soup dishes. Crayfish is ground into powder form using a dry mill before it is added to the dish.
Okra is most commonly known in the west as “lady fingers.” Its origin is somewhat of a debated topic but it is believed to have come from the Asian and African continents, as the plant commonly grows in tropical and subtropical regions where the temperature is warm. Okra is most commonly used on soups because of its thickening properties.
Ogbono comes from the seed of the African wild mango that’s most popularly known as “Oro.” They are harvested for their nuts, although the whole fruit is completely edible. The Ogbono is known for having high protein and fat content. It has a light aroma and they are usually sundried. Ogbono is being sold whole or in powder form.
8. STOCK CUBES
Stock cubes or bouillon cubes are made from dehydrated meat, or vegetable stock added with salt, MSG, seasonings and a little bit of fat. In Nigerian cuisine, it is used almost every time on rice dishes, soups, plantain dishes, and bean dishes. Food manufacturers even saw an opportunity and mass-produced stock cubes. Popular brands include Maggi, Knorr, and Royco. People who are allergic to MSG should not eat dishes with Stock Cubes as they contain loads of it. It is a good idea to make your own version of the stock cube if you don’t want MSG in them.
Thyme is a very aromatic herb that is related to mint. It has many different uses like ornamental use or medicinal applications, but it is mostly used in cooking. In Nigerian cuisine, it is imperative to use Thyme when you are cooking meat like chicken or beef, to be added into the Stew and Rice recipes. Although Thyme goes well with meat, you should not add Thyme directly to the meat that you will use to cook Nigerian cuisine soup dishes as it will negatively affect the flavor.
10. CURRY POWDER
Curry powder is a mixture of several spices that can be traced back to the Indian subcontinent. This spice mix is discovered to have been used almost 4,000 years ago in the Indus Valley civilization. The most basic contents of Curry powder are garlic, turmeric, and ginger. The Curry powder is also certainly ubiquitous in the African continent where it’s used in a wide variety of dishes. In Nigerian cuisine, they always add Curry powder in Nigerian fried rice. The curry powder gives the fried rice its highly appealing and highly appetizing yellow color.
One important thing to note is that the Nigerian cuisine doesn’t use the more popularly known hot Curry that the Indians use, which is known as the “Garam Masala.” Curry powder in Nigerian cuisine is only used for adding color and aroma to the dishes, and not necessarily to add spiciness to it. You may add Curry powder if you are cooking either a Nigerian chicken or beef stew, to balance the sourness from the tomato paste.