By Martin Anyasodo
I’m sure many of you have heard the proverb that says:
“The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach”
Food (amongst other things) is definitely a way into my heart. Good food definitely brings me joy and in the case of Nigerian dishes; it also reminds me of home. Having lived in the Netherlands and now in the UK, it's not always been easy to find good Nigerian food and ingredients - so it’s always a blessing when I get my hands on some!
I’ve compiled my top 5 dishes, in no particular order, because I couldn’t possibly choose between any of these!
1. Banga Soup
I only actually heard of Banga soup after getting married in 2018. We were having a family meal at Enish, and Ezinne, my wife and Nkiti business partner, ordered it. Of course, my long throat (slang for “greedy eater”) meant that I simply HAD to try some of her food. And here I am, years later, hooked!
Banga soup originates from the Delta State of Nigeria and is made from palm fruit.
I’m not even going to pretend to know how it is made. Here is a link to a recipe for those who are curious.
Usually Banga soup is paired with pounded yam, amala or garri.
2. Egusi Soup
Egusi soup has been a favourite of mine since childhood. There’s just something about it that resonates with me!
Egusi soup is made with ground melon seeds and contains other leafy vegetables such as spinach.
Like all Nigerian soups, it can be eaten with a variety of meats, or even vegetarian. I’ve tried this soup with beef, goat, chicken and shrimp.
Link for recipe here. I tend to prefer the egusi seeds clumped a bit when I cook it, I just happen to like the flavour better that way. Some others prefer it finely blended.
As with Banga Soup above, Egusi can be eaten with Pounded Yam (Poundo), Garri (Eba) and many more! Garri is my personal favourite, just because of how quick and easy it is to make. Some others swear by amala, but it's all down to personal preference.
3. Fried Plantain & Egg
Fried Plantain is one of the most versatile dishes on this shortlist. It can be cooked in a variety of ways: fried, boiled or grilled as bole.
One of my favourite ways to eat plantain is alongside fried eggs as a (sort of) low carb option. I usually opt to fry the plantain in a frying pan rather than a pot to minimise the amount of oil that goes into the plantain. Plantain can also be eaten with rice or yam. A truly flexible meal!
Suya has its place in my heart as the best road-side food that can be bought. Period.
When most people say “suya” they are referring specifically to beef suya. However, suya can be made with a variety of meats: goat, chicken and occasionally with liver or kidney.
Suya is made with slices of thin meat, marinated in a combination of magical spices (peanut powder, smoked paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, ginger powder, cayenne pepper, Maggi cubes) and then barbecued. Served with freshly chopped onion, tomato and dried pepper spice mix - because, there is no such thing as too much pepper and spice!
The best suya I’ve eaten to date was from a local market in Owerri, Nigeria back in February 2020.
Recipe link here.
5. Isi Ewu
Firstly, Isi (head) Ewu (goat) is Igbo for goat’s head and is an Igbo dish which involves; you guessed right, the head of a goat. I have a pretty high tolerance for pepper, but this dish will definitely test the strongest of all spice lovers. Isi Ewu is an absolute delicacy; I tend to take a very “hands on” approach to eating it. So, probably not one I would recommend for a first date haha!
Recipe available here.
And there you have it. My top 5 Nigerian Dishes. This is by no means a conclusive list as there is more Nigerian cuisine out there that I’ve yet to eat.
Let me know your favourite meals in the comments below! If you know a good place to buy ingredients or any good restaurants - please share your source as well!
The fried plantain and egg is not Nigeria recipe