Pots and Pans: The Savoury Taste of Local Pot Cooking in Nigeria

Local pots and pans are the bread and butter of outdoor kitchens

By The Centenary Project

Jollof rice (2019)The Centenary Project

The Yorùbás' home-grown food preparation techniques

For an immersive experience in the culinary heritage of Nigeria, local cuisines are best savoured when cooked with local cookware like Ìkòkò irin, Àdògán, Ìjábè, Odó àti Ọmọ odó. Here is the story behind some of the Yorùbás' home-grown food preparation techniques.

Set up of a local kitchen (2019)The Centenary Project

A typical local kitchen

A local kitchen in Nigeria typically consists of local pots (called Ìkòkò irin in Yorùbá language), firewood (Igi ìdáná) and pot stands (Àdògán).

Set up of a local kitchen in Nigeria (2019)The Centenary Project

The traditional cooking pot

Centuries have gone by and more cooking techniques have emerged, but many home-grown Nigerians still prefer to consume local cuisines made in traditional pots.

Purist fans of local pot cooking say the difference is in the taste from the smoke emitted by the firewood beneath the pot and straight into it while cooking.

A local kitchen in Nigeria (2019)The Centenary Project

Tyres and Wood

Local people in different parts of Nigeria specialize in manufacturing big cooking pots from waste aluminium. Àdògán are very often recycled tyre wheels, while firewood goes through the process of logging on plantations, and are traded at the local farmers' market.

Amala in 'Kokorin' (2019)The Centenary Project

Cauldron and Stick

Nigerians boast of many significant practices and distinctive values in eating habits, preparation techniques and consumption mores of using local cookware to prepare cuisines.

Àmàlà, which occupies a prime spot on the menus of local kitchens in the southwest, is best prepared in a cauldron and beat (or stirred) with a traditional wooden baton called omorọgùn.

Man kneading hot Amala in local pot, 'Kokorin' (2019)The Centenary Project

For easier stirring

Ọmorọgùn comes in different shapes and sizes. Some prefer to use the baton that is slimmer, like a stocky spatula, while others prefer to use the baton that looks like a big stick and is comparable to a thick rod.

With the rod, it is easier to stir and smoothen the thick paste of Àmàlà.

Jollof rice garnished with onions in a local cooking pot (2019)The Centenary Project

Party jollof rice

"Party jollof rice" is unarguably the most commonly desired rice in Nigeria because of its unique taste. It is believed by many to be the ideal kind of jollof rice because of the way it is prepared: in outdoor kitchens, using a large cauldron, and cooked over firewood.

The heat and smoke that emanate from the firewood and charcoal during the cooking process means that many Nigerians only get to eat this recipe at parties where meals are cooked for large crowds. Hence, the name "party jollof rice".

Fresh hake fish 'Eja panla' in a frypan (2019)The Centenary Project

Deep frying

Frying pans are an essential component of cookware since many dishes require frying. The pans are called "agbada" in Yoruba and are made up of thick metal which absorbs and conducts well enough to heat up the oil poured into it.

There is a famous proverb that says "tí agbada ò bá gbóná, àgbàdo ò lè ta" which means "if the frying pan is not hot, the corns cannot pop."

Stew, 'Obe ata', on the boil (2019)The Centenary Project

Faster cooking

The local cooking pot conducts heat very well thereby ensuring that meals are evenly cooked and prepared faster.

Elubo 'Yam flour' for preparing Amala (2019)The Centenary Project

Other outdoor kitchen instruments

Aside pots and pans, other instruments such as mortars and pestles, sieves and even cooking brooms are used in outdoor kitchens to bring out the unique taste of food.

Mortar and Pestle (2019) by The Centenary ProjectThe Centenary Project

Mortar and pestle

Mortar and pestle are known as "odó àti omọ odó" in Yorùbá language. They are manufactured by local wood carvers and sold at local and regional markets, including roadsides within communities.

They are primarily used for the preparation of pounded yam but can also be used in the processing and grinding of pepper, millet, maize and other grains.

Man pounds yam using mortar and pestel (2019)The Centenary Project

Physical energy

It takes a lot of physical energy to prepare pounded yam in a mortar and pestle. Nevertheless, it is still another party favourite and staple food eaten across all regions of Nigeria.

Although there are now alternatives for the preparation of pounded yam, including the use of food processor yam pounder and "poundo yam" (processed yam powder sold in supermarkets), home-grown Nigerians still prefer the original pounded yam that is prepared using wooden mortar and pestle.

Close-up shot, pounded yam preparation (2019)The Centenary Project

The flavour of pounding

The pounding actually gives a better result because of the rigorous process the yam goes through. The way the pestle crushes and then smoothens the yam is different, enabling the release of more flavour.

The process of pounding yam also keeps the end product fresh for a longer duration than when it is prepared in a food processor.

Ewedu soup (2019)The Centenary Project

Cooking broom for Èwédú

Èwédú soup (made from Jute Mallow leaves) is often prepared by the Yorùbás and is known for its greenish slimy appearance when cooked. It is best prepared with a cooking broom.

Although individuals now use a cooking blender as an alternative, the consistency of using a broom for Èwédú is different compared to when a blender is used. The cooking broom makes Èwédú less smooth and more viscous.

Ewedu soup (2019)The Centenary Project

Getting the right viscosity

The cooking broom, a small bunch of broomsticks (known as Ìjábè by the Yorùbás), is used to mash the ewedu until it dissolves in the liquid and forms a light slimy soup.

With the broom, it is easier to feel the viscosity of the ewedu and determine when it is just right to be dished out.

Elubo 'Yam flour' for preparing Amala (2019)The Centenary Project

The Local Sieve

Locally fabricated sieves used in outdoor kitchens can almost be as wide as pots. They are used for fine-grained or powdery food ingredients such as flour.

The most common type of flour for amala is the yam flour, which is also known as "amala isu". It is made from partly-cooked yam slices which are dried in a dryer. The dried yam slices are then milled directly into flour. Uneven particle sizes are sieved out of the flour, which is known as "elubo" in Yoruba language, before processing into Amala.

Local kitchen, Nigeria (2019)The Centenary Project

Bamboo sticks and zinc

The outdoor setup of bamboo sticks and zinc is a defining characteristic of a local Nigerian kitchen. It provides the ideal conditions for utilizing local cookware. It can be argued that this ambience favours the development of the food taste.

Credits: Story

Curator: Patrick Enaholo / Olúwafisáyọ̀ Ọkàrè
Research: Olúwafisáyọ̀ Ọkàrè
Photography: O'Buchi Multimedia
Text: Olúwafisáyọ̀ Ọkàrè
Text editor: Munachim Amah

© The Centenary Project

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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