Yay! Let’s talk about Nigerian Food Culture.
Nigeria as an independent country has its own special values which makes it unique and different from all other countries in the world.
Its culture and tradition are diverse in terms of language, mode of dressing, communication, ethics, and most importantly food.
If there is one thing that can never be rejected in the world, it is Nigerian Foods. This is why in most of the white countries; you will always find the African kitchen.
Many Nigerians in Diaspora – in Europe or other countries – even the whites in some cases, seek African kitchens whenever they feel the urge to eat so as to have a taste of Nigerian dishes not commonly available to them.
In describing the Nigerian Food culture from different ethnic groups, there is one peculiar thing, which is the use of spices and herbs, with palm oil or groundnut oil to create deeply flavored sauces and soups.
Before I go into full details of the different food of the major tribes in Nigeria, it is important to know the composition of the Nigerian Food Culture.
Nigerian Food Culture and Tradition
First of all, what is culture and tradition?
Culture and tradition can be described as the arts, customs, beliefs, values and lifestyle that characterize a particular society or nation.
So, when we talk about Nigerian food culture and tradition, it has to do with the customs, beliefs and values of Nigerians that are related to food consumption.
Nigerian food culture differs from different groups to another as a result of multiple ethnic groups, and this allows for a large number of foods eaten in Nigeria.
So, it is expected that each of these tribes would have different food culture, although, there may be some little similarities.
Food in Nigeria is traditionally eaten by hand. But in the modern world today, this tradition has been influenced by Western culture.
The use of forks and spoon has become the other of the day, even in remote villages.
Though the ingredients in traditional food vary from region to region, generally, most Nigerian foods are accompanied by a stew.
In the South, crops such as corn, yam, cassava and sweet potato are the main dishes. It is believed that it offers a rich blend of traditionally African carbohydrates. These foods are sometimes served with vegetables.
Fruits such as papaya, pineapples, coconuts, oranges, mangoes, and bananas also are very common in the tropical South.
In the North, grains such as millet, sorghum, and corn are boiled into a porridge-like dish that forms the basis of the diet.
This is served with an oil based soup usually flavored with onions, okra and tomatoes.
Traditionally, these Nigerian foods are classified into different groups, they are listed below:
- Roots and tubers: Examples are cassava, yam, cocoyam, sweet potato and so on.
Products from roots and tubers include: pounded yam, garri, eba, amala, boiled yam, yam porridge, akpu, tapioca, abacha flakes and so on.
- Cereals and Legumes: Examples are maize, sorghum, millet, acha, rice, beni seed (cereals), cowpeas, pigeon pea, African yam bean, mung bean, African breadfruit and so on.
Products from cereals are boiled rice, jollof rice, fried rice, tuwo shinkafa (rice pudding), cornfood, pap, eko/agidi, roasted corn, boiled corn, and so on.
Products from legumes are boiled beans, jollof beans, moimoi, akara, gbegiri soup, groundnut, peanut, cowpea, and so on.
- Vegetables and Fruits: Examples are green (spinach), pumpkin, bitter leaf, ewedu, water leaf, pawpaw, orange, pineapple, tomato, garden eggs, banana, and so on.
- Herbs and Spices: Examples include; garlic, ginger, mint, nutmeg, thyme, pepper and so on.
- Livestock and Games: Examples include: cow meat, goat meat, chicken, pork, rabbit, cat fish and so on
- Soup Condiments: These include; melon seeds (egusi), African bush mango (ogbonor), minor melon (irere) and many more.
Having said all these, let’s talk about the different kinds of food of the major tribes in Nigeria.
Foods of Major Tribes In Nigeria
More than 400 ethnic tribes call modern day Nigeria home. The three largest and most dominant ethnic groups are Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba.
These major tribes have foods that are unique and indigenous to them, though, there is a delicacy common to all ethnic groups in Nigeria.
This delicacy is called Jollof rice and Fried rice, a tasty and popular Nigerian food prepared with rice. It is usually tasted by most tourists or guests who travel into the country.
The Nigerian food culture mainly depends on the ingredients that are produced in a particular area. Interestingly, almost every food timetable of every Nigerian family and student features these meals.
This article will give you the knowledge about these tribes and their food.
The Hausa Tribe
Hausa is one of the major tribes in Nigeria and they are mostly found in the Northern states like Bauchi, Borno, Jigawa, Kano, Kaduna, Sokoto, Niger and so on.
Hausa food mostly consists of vegetables, porridges, soups, meat and fish. A necessity for every Hausa home is Kolanut.
One of the most beloved Nigerian foods by Hausa people is Tuwo Shinkafa and Kuka soup.
Other ethnic dishes include:
- TUWO SHINKAFA
Tuwo Shinkafa is one of the most eaten foods by the Northerners and one of their best delicacies.
It is a Northern Nigerian Fufu recipe that is prepared with the soft rice variety.
These rice balls are most welcome and most known Hausa food in restaurants. It is usually served with Northern Nigerian soups: Miyan Kuka or Miyan Taushe, or other Northern soups.
- MIYAN KUKA
Miyan Kuka is certainly the most famous Northern Nigerian soup also called “Baobab leaf soup”.
It is made from ground baobab leaf and special spices, preferably ‘Yaji’ – a mixture of ground pepper, ginger, garlic and other seasonings or herbs.
It tastes so good and extremely sensational especially when eaten with Tuwo Shinkafa.
- NIGERIAN GROUNDNUT SOUP
Groundnut Soup (Peanut Soup) is next best soup after Egusi Soup. Though, it is mostly prepared by the Northerners.
It is prepared the same way as Egusi Soup, so, you can apply the method of preparing Egusi Soup to Groundnut Soup. Sometimes, veggies can be added to add to the taste.
Groundnut Soup can also be alternated for Egusi Soup, especially in cases where you cannot find ingredients to cook Egusi Soup
It gives a sweet-smelling savour and a sensitizing taste just like Egusi Soup.
Sinasir is a Northern Nigeria (Hausa) rice recipe fried like pancakes. It is one of the best dishes from Hausa food recipes, also known as Rice Cakes.
It is prepared with the soft variety of rice, the type used for Tuwo Shinkafa. It is sometimes served with ram head soup (Romon Kan Rago).
- DAN WAKE
Dan Wake literally means Son of Beans, it is known as Beans Dumplings in English.
Dan Wake on its own is pretty tasteless just like fufu meals and it relies on a sauce or side dish for its tastes.
Dan Wake is served with ground cayenne pepper (yaji), you can also use Suya Pepper, hardboiled eggs, sautéed vegetables: onions, cabbage, tomatoes, some people crush stock cubes and sprinkle on top.
- DAMBU NAMA
This is a real Northern Nigeria delicacy that needs to be tasted. It complements Tuwo Shinkafa and Masa.
It’s a delicious dried shredded meat.
This is a popular barbecue prepared with ram, chicken or cow meat. This type of barbecue is only found in Nigeria.
There is no definition for the kind of feeling or sensation you get when you take hot suya, especially when it is soaked in Yaji (Suya Spice).
This delicacy is utterly delicious that it gives Nigerians an endless savour in the mouth.
Also Read: Tips on how to make Chapman Drink in Nigeria
Pate is a dish usually prepared with ground corn or rice, cooked with vegetables, tomatoes, onions, pepper, garden egg, locust beans, groundnut, biscuit bone, meats minces and sometimes, assorted meat parts.
It is largely consumed in Kaduna, Nassarawa, Plateau and other Northwestern States. This dish is primarily porridge and is liked by all age groups.
The Igbo Tribe Food Culture
Igbo is one of the three major ethnic tribes in Nigeria. They are mostly settled in the South Eastern part of the country, and the state in this region includes Anambra, Imo, Abia, Enugu, Ebonyi and so on.
Igbo major delicacies include yam, cocoyam, manioc, corn (porridge, soups), various vegetables, fish and many others.
Igbo natives use palm oil and other spicy seasonings for cooking. Their delicacies include:
- OFE AKWU (BANGA SOUP)
Ofe Akwu (Banga Stew) can be prepared with fresh palm fruits or tinned palm fruit concentrate.
This stew is used to eat boiled white rice.
Using tinned banga for Ofe Akwu saves time and energy that would have been used to extract the palm fruit concentrate.
It is perfect for those who live outside the country where palm fruits are not easily found. Another good thing is that, it tastes the same as when fresh palm fruits are used.
Also Read: 10 richest men in igbo land.
- NSALA SOUP OR WHITE SOUP
Nsala soup or white soup is a tasty, fast and easy soup recipe that is originated from the riverine areas of Nigeria.
Nsala soup is perfect for a cold rainy day due to its spicy taste. Because it is so easy to prepare, you can count on it to save the day you run out on soup before the big soup day.
- YAM PEPPER SOUP
Assorted Meat Pepper Soup is an appetizer but when we want to have Pepper Soup as a main meal, we serve it with a staple food such as boiled white rice or we add yam when preparing the pepper soup.
- OKPA WAWA
Okpa Wawa is well known as a special delicacy in Enugu
The secret to making the best Okpa is to use as few ingredients as possible because okpa beans (Bambara beans) have a natural delicious flavor.
This flavour is ruined when people add excessive seasoning to the meal. Other names for Okpa are Igba and Ntucha.
- AFRICAN BREADFRUIT (UKWA)
African breadfruit is in a food class of its own but can be put in beans section because breadfruit seeds are most similar to beans.
It is known as Ukwa in Igbo and its scientific name is Treculia Africana.
Ukwa is such a versatile food with a natural delicious flavor. It can be cooked plain without any ingredient, not even salt and it will taste great especially when prepared with fresh ukwa.
It can also be prepared as a porridge which is in the image below.
- OFE ACHARA WITH AKPURUAKPU EGUSI (MGBAM)
This is the most traditional way to cook Egusi Soup. The akpuruakpu is moulded egusi.
Unlike every other soup, the egusi is in disc-shaped moulds and should be intact and solid by the time the soup is done such that the person enjoying the soup can chew them like meat.
- BITTER-LEAF SOUP (OFE ONUGBU)
Bitter leaf soup is one of the most traditional soups in Nigeria.
It is native to the Eastern Nigeria and most Igbos will say that this is their favorite soup in the world.
It does not actually sound like its name in that a well prepared Bitter leaf soup should not have the slightest bitterness.
This is achieved by washing and squeezing the bitter leaves and changing the water at intervals till all traces of bitterness has been washed off.
- ORA OHA SOUP
It is native to the South Eastern Nigeria. It is a very traditional soup similar to the bitter leaf soup but cooked with Ora leaves.
Ora Oha Soup is special because the tender Ora leaves used in preparing this soup recipe are seasonal unlike their bitter leaf counterpart which can be found all year round.
The Yoruba Tribe
Yoruba is one of the biggest tribes in Nigeria. These people have a very well developed culture including food.
The way and manner foods are prepared and eaten says a lot about the Yoruba culture. Most foods are eaten with bare fingers, although, some foods can be eaten using cutlery.
It is common for Yorubas to sit on a mat laid on the floor to eat, especially in the villages, but in the cities, foods are eaten on the dining table due to modernization.
Another important uniqueness in the Yorubas is eating of peppered food. There is a popular proverb that says “The soul that does not eat pepper is a powerless soul”.
Also, Yorubas believe that it is not proper to talk when eating in order not to get choked by the peppered food being consumed.
Some of their delicacies include:
Adalu is a combination of beans and corn, pepper and palm oil cooked together with flavoring seasoning and spices.
It is also known as Ewa Oloka.
2. AKARA AND PAP
Akara is also known as bean cakes. It is just raw beans, blended and deep fried. It is rich in protein and can be a good idea for snacks.
Pap, on the other hand, is made from maize.
This combination makes your Saturday morning better, waking up to the sweet aroma of Akara with freshly made pap.
It is highly nutritious and it supplies essential nutrients that are needed to promote good health and prevent diseases.
3. AMALA, GBEGIRI AND EWEDU
Amala is made from yam into flour while Ewedu is a green leaf blended into watery drawing soup. Gbegiri, on the other hand, known as beans soup, is made from peeled beans.
This delicacy is a local dish of the Oyo state people. They like the Amala softly and hot with Ewedu and Gbegiri.
It is also served at important occasions.
Also Read: All the 33 local governments of Oyo state
4. POUNDED YAM (IYAN) AND EGUSI SOUP
Pounded yam is mostly eaten with egusi (melon soup). It is referred to as Iyan in Yoruba language.
Pounded yam is made by boiling yam without salt and pounding it.
The Ondo and Ekiti people are known to be fond of pounded yam. Most times, they also use it in entertaining special visitors.
5. OFADA RICE AND OBE ATA DINDIN
Ofada Rice is locally grown and cultivated in Nigeria by the Yorubas. Ofada Rice is special because of its unique flavor and aroma.
The local rice is mostly served with pepper sauce (obe ata dindin) and garnished with assorted meat.
6. MOI MOI
Moi Moi is a staple food rich in protein.
It is a cooked bean pudding made from combination of grounded – peeled beans, pepper and onions.
It is mostly wrapped in big green leaves and then steamed. These big green leaves create some enticing aroma and gives it a more sensational taste.
It can be eaten with bread, pap, garri or eko (cooked pap).
7. EFO RIRO
Efo riro is a stew made with leafy vegetables. Its aroma with locust bean (a traditional spice) makes it unique and sensational.
It is often eaten with dishes like amala, eba, semovita and so on.
Asun is not regularly a main dish in Yoruba cuisine. It is considered a finger food.
The recipe is simple and easy to prepare – fried goat meat with a large amount of pepper.
It has a breath-taking aroma and its taste is unforgettable.
Though, this page has not given all the delicacies special to these ethnic tribes, this is just few of them.
You can check out for other delicacies on Top 15 Nigerian Food Blogs for up to date food recipes.
With the little aforementioned, you will agree with me that the Nigerian Food Culture is not one that should be taken with frivolity. It is 100% an adequate and a balanced diet.
There is need to know that there are some facts about some Nigerian food that may be scientifically proven or traditionally right. The next section will give details on that.
Nigerian Food Facts
Below are the 10 Facts you need to know about Nigerian foods.
- Jollof Rice is one of the popular foods in Nigeria
Jollof Rice began in Nigeria and it is known for its breath-taking savour. It is, in fact, known all over the globe.
It is a favorite dish to prepare for large family gatherings or parties.
It is a simple dish, prepared in one pot with ingredients such as rice, pepper, onions and tomatoes.
It has become a very famous and tasty dish in West Africa.
- Nigeria has variety of meats consumed
Nigeria as a whole is not subjected to a particular kind of meat; it has variety of meat in stock.
Meats like beef (cow meat), goat meat, chicken, fish, pork, mutton, veal and so on.
They contain protein and other nutrients which help to maintain body energy due to immense heat.
- Exotic herbs and spices are mostly used in Nigerian culinary
Herbs and Spices are mostly used in traditional dishes to create flavour and a tantalizing aroma. From vegetables to meats and other dishes, spices are used for almost everything.
Some may use spices just for decoration to improve the presentation. Some examples are garlic, ginger, green pepper, and so on.
- Nuts are mostly consumed in Nigeria
Nuts like groundnut, peanuts, cow-peas, beans and many others are widely consumed in Nigeria.
They are rich in nutrients, making them a great food option to eat.
Nuts are also incorporated into many traditional dishes to add flavour or crunch to the meal. You can find a variety of nuts almost anywhere.
- A typical ear of corn has an even number of rows.
Do you know that an ear of corn usually has an even number of rows, mostly 16 in number? Yes, it does and that is a mystery.
- Fruits and Vegetables are one of the widely consumed in Nigeria.
This cannot be argued.
There is one thing you will always find in every Nigerians Food time table and it is the consumption of fruits and vegetables.
All these three ethnic tribes are known for different vegetables according to their seasons.
- Carrots used to be purple
Originally, this vegetable used to be purple with a thin root.
The orange carrot we know and eat today is as a result of a genetic mutation in the late 16th century that won out over the original color.
- Eating too much nutmeg has a negative effect
Nutmeg may be the perfect addition to hot beverage or any dish but too much of it turns to the negative side.
Eating too much nutmeg can have the effects of a hallucinogenic drug, including nausea, dizziness and sluggish brain disorder.
- Chilli Peppers hurts so much
Chilli Peppers contain a chemical known as Capsaicin, which naturally binds to the pain receptors on our nerves.
That burning sensation you get when you eat spicy pepper is a mental reaction, not a physical one.
Your brain thinks you are ingesting something hot, so you begin sweating and your face turns red.
- Honey will never go bad
Honey in its natural state is very low in moisture and very acidic: two primary defences against food spoilage.
According to Honey and Pollination Centre at the Robert Mondavi Institute at University of California, it is discovered that in a low moisture and high-acidic environment, bacteria will die almost immediately.
However, it is a myth that honey is the only food that never decays including natural substances like salt, sugar and others.
Concluding Notes On Nigerian Food Culture
Undoubtedly, God has blessed Nigerians with rich natural food and to crown it all, he gave us the knowledge of this food to edify our body and soul.
If there is anything that must not be devalued or depreciated, it is the Nigerian Food Culture.
It is one thing that must not be thrown away for any reason whatsoever. Generations to come will meet it and thank the creator for its creation.
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