Traditional Yoruba (Nigerian) Cooking Part V – The Okra Stew

The Stew portion of the traditional Yoruba meal is a two-parter, with each part having it’s own function. In the previous posts we’ve  made the Pepper Stew, in which your meats are cooked. We will now make the second part, the Okro (or as known in America, Okra) stew.  Compared to the pepper stew, Okra stew is very simple and quick to prepare.

If you’ve had any experience with Okra you will know that it has a slightly slimy texture. People either love or hate that about Okra. It is this same property that makes it an important part of this meal. The Okra stew we will be making today serves as a kind of lubricant for getting the Pounded Yam meal down your throat. Pounded yam (as you will see in the next post) is quite sticky. If you ate it by itself it would stick to your throat, which could be a little uncomfortable. The Okra stew rectifies this, in addition to it’s own unique flavor.

Depending on your locale, fresh Okra could be hard to find, but I find that most grocery stores carry frozen Okra. Today we will use the frozen Okra in this stew. I will show how to use the fresh Okra in a future post.
There is one traditional Nigerian condiment that is commonly used in Okra stew that I have omitted because I can’t find it locally. It’s Yoruba name is Iru. It’s known in english as fermented locust bean. To me it gives off a kind of Umami flavor found in indigenous asian foods. I must warn you that Iru  is a very PUNGENT condiment. In other words, the stuff stinks to high heaven, and is not for everyone. But boy oh boy, it takes your Okra to the next level of deliciousness.

Ingredients

12 oz bag frozen cut Okra
1 tsp salt
1 C water
1/2 Tbsp dried shrimp
1 bouillion cube

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African Style Dried Shrimp (found in an African grocery store)

Method

1. Chop down  the frozen okra in a food processor into a slightly rough consistency, being careful not to over-pulverize.

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2. Place the water, salt, dried shrimp and bouillon cube in a small saucepan, and bring to a low boil.

3. Once the water starts to boil, turn down the heat and add the chopped okra.  Cook on low heat for approximately 3-5 minutes, or until tender to the bite.  Stir periodically to keep from boiling over.

Set aside until ready to serve with the rest of the meal.

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That is it! Wasn’t that easy?

On monday, we will be making the main event, the Iyan  (pounded yam).

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Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: The Ingredients/Shopping List
Part 3: Prepping the meats
Part 4: Making the Stew/Obe Ata
Part 5: Okra Stew!
Part 6: The Pounded Yam (Iyan)
Part 7: Putting it all together/Conclusion

Traditional Yoruba (Nigerian) Morsel Food -Part I-Introduction

Yes, that’s right, I’m putting the Afro into AfroMartha! Come along with me on a journey into preparing some traditional Yoruba food!

I dare you to try it. I dare you not to love it.

In the next few days I will be showing you how to prepare from scratch: (Iyan) Pounded Yam, Obe Ata (Pepper Stew with Meats), and Okra Stew.

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Traditional Yoruba food is morsel food. What is morsel food, you ask? It is food you eat with your bare hands, dipped into some type of stew, as pictured above. Some people who are familiar with morsel food universally call the morsel portion Fufu.  Fufu is actually just one variation of it. There are many other types, such as Pounded Yam, which is what we will be making in this series.

Like any other type of food, the Yoruba have a variety of food, some eaten by hands, and some eaten with utensils. In this series I am focusing in on the type eaten by hand, because it is the most esoteric and purest of Yoruba tradition. Due to its esoteric nature, I feel that it has not gained as much popularity as other foods.

As some of you may know, I am a Naija woman, born and bred. My ancestry is from the Yoruba tribe of the southwestern region of Nigeria. I spent the first thirteen years of my life immersed in my Yoruba culture. Once something is that ingrained in you, you can never shake it.

This makes it all the more ridiculous that in the almost 4 years of this site I have never not once introduced a Yoruba recipe. I have asked myself why, in all the years of presenting different recipes have I never introduced African food? To be honest, I just didn’t ever give it much thought. When I honestly sat down and thought about it, I realized that it had more to do with me, and less to do with you, the audience.

The bulk of my (subconscious) reason was due to the reservations I have about stigma usually attached to anything African as being primitive and unrefined. I realize now that in not celebrating and incorporating this aspect of my culture, I help to perpetuate the stereotypes and the stigma. It also does not give you enough credit for being open minded, and does not allow you to make up your own mind.

Since traditional Yoruba food is  ‘morsel’ food eaten with your (well washed) bare hands it may take getting used to.  It is not at all like eating sandwiches, wraps, tacos, etc. It can be messy for a novice, but you will quickly get the hang of it.

Yoruba cooking can be very much improvisational. There are no hard and fast recipes. It is a splash of this, a dash of that, and a whole lot of instinct.  American cooking is based on fairly precise recipes, so I have come up with a solid recipe that can be replicated. I have also broken down these posts into very short and easily do-able portions, so as not to overwhelm you with the complexity of all the moving parts. In the final post I will sum up how to make everything simultaneously. The more you do it, the more it will run like a well-oiled machine!

Yoruba cooking  is somewhat time and labor intensive. Preparing a pot of stew will take a good 2 hours. Making the Pounded yam portion requires some serious upper body strength. On the plus side, once the stews are done, the rest is easy. Your stew will last for several meals.

Like most foods, you either love it hate it. It could be an acquired taste for some, and instant love for others. I started preparing it for my children when they were very young, and they absolutely love it. We don’t go too many weeks without them asking me to make it for them. I have many American friends who love it. The Mister on the hand is not at all interested.  Tried it and didn’t like it. On nights when we eat it, he eats something else. It’s just not for him.

I want to say that Yoruba food and cooking is going to be totally different from anything you may have  experienced, but is that really true? Maybe I’m not the best judge of that.  I may not be giving you enough credit. We will find out together through this journey.

Please visit tomorrow for the  first installment where I will show you how to prep the meats for the Obe Ata.

Please subscribe to this blog here so you don’t miss a post!

Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: The Ingredients/Shopping List
Part 3: Prepping the meats
Part 4: Making the Stew/Obe Ata
Part 5: Okra Stew!
Part 6: The Pounded Yam (Iyan)
Part 7: Putting it all together/Conclusion