Exploring Igbo cuisine w/ Chef Obubu
I am quite adventurous with my eating. In the past few months, I have gotten obsessed with eating Abacha which my staff helps me get from street hawkers. I get excited about trying foods from different cultures and so I reached out to Chef Obubu on twitter to see if we could make some magic happen. She is from Anambra State and was excited to show me some of her native dishes and I was even more excited to dive into the culture.
Obute Otigba, well known as Chef Obubu is a part time business consultant and full time private Chef. She is warm and bubbly and this, undoubtedly, has helped her carve out an interesting niche in the Nigerian culinary space. She takes a very imaginative approach to cooking and this creativity is her cutting edge.
As she prepped the ingredients for what we would be making that day, we talked about quite a number of things. Obute is very easy to talk to and a great listener, so conversation flowed effortlessly.
The most interesting thing for me were the ingredients we used in the recipe; I grew up in Ibadan and now live in Lagos, so I haven't been exposed to them a lot. Even though I was excited to try the new flavors, 'the uniqueness of the ingredients are a reminder of the darker parts of Nigeria’s history', she explained as she chopped up some garden eggs. Those days, starvation was used as a weapon in the Biafran civil war, and millions of people were forced to be creative as well as resourceful or they risked starving.
We talked about what life is like when she visits Anambra; and the glee in her face just made me know I had to visit soon. "Everyone is home! Uncles, aunts and cousins and so someone is always cooking and people are always eating." These traditional cooking methods are passed down from older generations and this is where a significant part of Obute's knowledge comes from.
The dishes we were having were Ugba, Nkwobi and Abacha, and these were washed down with some cold and refreshing Nkwu - a cocktail made from palm wine, stout and pineapple syrup.
Ugba (top right) is a fermented oil bean salad. Well-fermented ugba is rich, tasty, soft and pungent. It's shredded and coated in a savoury, fishy sauce. It can be made with any meat but typically with goat or cow parts. No parts of the animal is wasted, including skin and hooves.
Nkwobi (top left) is a tasty, spicy cow foot dish and pairs very nicely with alcohol. The cow foot is boiled till its soft and gelatinous as you bite into it. It is coated in a thick yellow/orange sauce that I wish grocery stores sell.
Abacha (bottom) is a spicy african salad that is made from shaved cassava and the Anambra version is fried in a palm oil based sauce. There is some bitter freshness from the utazi leaves and the chopped garden eggs so it's quite a complex flavour profile. It is typically paired with fish or meat.
If you do get a chance to try Igbo food, you should definitely jump on it. Approach things with an open mind and you never know what blessings await your taste buds. Food is an interesting way to get glimpses of people's culture and I felt honoured to have experienced this with Obute.
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