Nigerian foods, like all things Nigerian, vary from region to region, tribe to tribe.
As is expected of a country with nearly 300 ethnic groups, there are remarkable shifts in style of cooking as you move from one region to the next.
Further south, the Igbos do a lot of soups and porridges. Up North, the Hausas and Fulanis make tasty puddings with grains and other milk-added recipes.
Across to the West, the Yorubas are known for their spicy multipurpose stews and soft swallows.
There is a popular Yoruba saying that goes: “The soul that does not eat pepper is a powerless soul.”
This is like a shade to other tribes in Nigeria that don’t consume as much pepper as the Yorubas. Yorubas can do a lot with red stew (usually spicier and redder than what the Igbos make). The red stew can be used to serve white rice, used a combo with ewedu for amala, or can be spiced up and used to create Jollof rice.
The two most common swallows in Yorubaland are amala and pounded yam (fondly called poundo yam). Normal cassava fufu and eba are also eaten. “Swallow” is the Nigerian name for fufu-like meals that you only just swallow and don’t chew.
There are other flour-based swallows like wheat and semovita that are not indigenous to any tribe.
Photo: Semovita fufu
It is easy to notice that the Yorubas don’t make their swallows like the Igbos. Swallows in Yorubaland are usually lighter, and softer. Try comparing a wrap of amala with “akpu” from an Igbo state and you will get what I mean.
Yoruba soups are also not as elaborate as Igbo soups. The Igbos don’t joke with their soups and in most cases, soup-making goes beyond just presenting a meal to becoming a status thing.
A Yoruba cook can take about 30 minutes, or even less, to prepare the delicious efo riro, all the while standing. An Igbo cook who set out to prepare onugbu soup (bitter leaf soup) can take the entire evening.
Common Yoruba foods include: eba, amala (yam or plantain flour), iyan (pounded yam), garri, asaro, brown and white beans, rice, plantain and potatoes.
Popular Yoruba soups include gbegiri, ewedu, tomatoes stew, okra, efo riro (vegetable soup).
The Igbos and their many soups
The Igbos have more elaborate soups than the Yorubas and most other Nigerian tribes. The most important aspect of soup-making for the Igbos is the meat and fish ingredients of the soup (stylishly referred to as “obstacles”)
A well-made soup is easily noticed from how crowded the soup is with lumps of meat and fish. Igbo swallows are also notably heavier. Igbos are heavy eaters and have been found to have comparably thicker body builds than other tribes.
Photo: Eba and ogbono soup
The major swallow in Igboland is cassava fufu (akpu). Others include pounded yam (nri ji), garri (eba), nri oka and alibo.
Notable Igbo soups are:
a. Ofe onubu (bitter leaf soup)
b. Ofe Oha (oha soup)
c. Ofe Ogbono (ogbono soup, also called “draw soup”)
d. Ofe Egwusi (Egwusi soup)
e. Nsala (White soup – a very respected and expensive Igbo soup).
Other Igbo notable Igbo dishes include abacha ncha (African salad), ukwa (Breadfruit), ugba, ji abubo, ede, etc.
The Hausas are predominant inhabitants of Northern Nigeria. Most Hausa cuisine involves grains (sorghum, millet, rice, or maize). These are usually ground into flour and used in a variety of dishes.
The Hausas prepare a lot of liquid food and most meals are soft.
Common Hausa meals include:
a. Dan Wake (Beans dumplings)
b. Kunun Gyada (groundnut milk and rice gruel)
c. Suya (grilled skewered meat)
d. Kankaran Tsamiya (Frozen tamarind juice)
e. Shuku Shuku (snack made from coconuts)
f. Tuwo shinkafa (rice or maize pudding served with different types of soups like Miyan kuka, Miyan kubewa, Miyan taushe).
g. Sinasir (Rice pancakes), etc.