The Adventures of Making Moi-Moi

Moi-Moi (or Mọ́ín Mọ́ín), a popular Nigerian food made with steamed ground beans and rich spices, has a rather complicated preparation process.

By The Centenary Project

Grains of beans (2019)The Centenary Project

Step 1: Getting your beans right

Beans are the essential ingredient of moi-moi. There are many varieties of beans, but the type used in preparing most Nigerian recipes are kidney-shaped and brown. "Olotu beans" from Niger state (central Nigeria) is mostly preferred for preparing moi-moi.

Beans sold in market (2018)The Centenary Project

Market piles

In markets, beans (and other grains) are stacked in large bowls and – depending on the amount requested – measured out using either "De Rica" cups or "paint buckets" for buyers.

Washing beans (2019)The Centenary Project

Step 2: From Beans to Pudding

There are several shapes of moi-moi, but their preparation always begin with the process of converting beans to a soft paste that can be mixed with a variety of condiments.

Beans soaked in water (2019)The Centenary Project

Soaking the beans

The beans are first soaked in water. After about half an hour, they are ready for washing. This can be done with the hand in the same way as scrubbing clothes – a traditional way of doing laundry.

Grains of beans during "washing" (2019)The Centenary Project

The craft of washing the beans

The washing of beans is done with both hands to mildly remove the skins of the beans which stay on the surface when more water is poured in. The water is replaced and the washing continues in the same way. Gradually, the bean seeds lose their skins.

Washed beans (2019)The Centenary Project

All washed out

Washing continues until all the skins of the beans are removed and whitish seeds can be seen.

Pepper and Onions prepared for moi moi (2019) by The Centenary ProjectThe Centenary Project

Adding peppers and onions

Meanwhile, peppers and onions are prepared to be added to the freshly washed beans.

Peeled beans with pepper and onions (2019) by The Centenary ProjectThe Centenary Project

Mixing the beans with peppers and onions

The peppers and onions are mixed with the washed beans and made ready for blending.

Woman grinding beans (2019)The Centenary Project

Blending beans the classic way

The mixture of washed beans, tomatoes and peppers is then blended. This can be done using a modern blender or the local grinding machine which, in many parts of Nigeria, is a very common option.

Grounded beans mixture (2019)The Centenary Project

A smooth blend

After blending with a local machine (also called grinder) or a modern blending machine, an orange paste emerges which should be completely smooth. The final colour depends on how much pepper was added in.

Smoked fish and crayfish added to grounded beans (2019) by The Centenary ProjectThe Centenary Project

Adding extra flavour

Meanwhile, crayfish and deboned smoked fish are prepared and finally added to the blended beans mixture to give it some extra flavour.

Buying moi-moi leaves from the market (2019) by The Centenary ProjectThe Centenary Project

Step 3: Wrapping it up in banana leaves

Although there are more modern techniques, using banana leaves to wrap moi-moi is one of the most traditional ways to prepare it. Banana leaves are bought at the market. 

Banana leaves (2019)The Centenary Project

The importance of banana leaves

Traditional moi-moi is wrapped in banana (thaumatococcus daniellii) or "ewe eran" or "uwa" leaves. They allow the moi-moi to cook faster and even add some flavour to it.

Banana leaves (2019)The Centenary Project

Washing the leaves

The leaves are washed to remove any debris or dirt, and the stems are cut for a separate use.

Broken stems of banana leaves in a pot (2019)The Centenary Project

Arranging the stems in the pot

The stem of the leaves have an important role to play in the cooking process. They are lined at the bottom of the pot to prevent the moi-moi leaves from sticking to the pot and to keep water from seeping into them.

Folded up banana leaves ready for moi-moi mixture (2019) by The Centenary ProjectThe Centenary Project

Folding the leaves into capsules

The leaf is folded in a funnel-like shape with the bottom folded so that the mixture can be poured into it without spilling out at the other end.

Blended beans mixture poured into folded leaf. by The Centenary ProjectThe Centenary Project

Adding the moi-moi

Once the leaf has been folded, the moi-moi is added, leaving enough space for extra condiments and the wrapping.

Pot with moi-moi and plate of boiled eggs (2019)The Centenary Project

Adding that extra flavour

Extra condiments such as eggs or fish can be added to the moi-moi.

Pouring beans mixture into a folded banana leaf (2019) by The Centenary ProjectThe Centenary Project

Blended beans mixture in folded banana leaf (2019) by The Centenary ProjectThe Centenary Project

Wrapping a moi-moi leaf (2019) by The Centenary ProjectThe Centenary Project

Folding the leaves

The final folding and covering begins...

Fully wrapped moi-moi leaf (2019) by The Centenary ProjectThe Centenary Project

...and ends with a neatly wrapped moi-moi capsule.

Moi-moi wrapped in banana leaves (2019) by The Centenary ProjectThe Centenary Project

Into the pot

The capsules are carefully placed on top of the stems in the pot. They are arranged in an orderly way to ensure that the pot can contain as many as possible and in such a way that the content of one does not spill into the other.

Moi-moi wraps in a pot (2019) by The Centenary ProjectThe Centenary Project

All wrapped up and ready to be cooked

Covering a pot of moi-moi wraps (2019) by The Centenary ProjectThe Centenary Project

Extra protection

Before the pot is placed on the fire, extra leaves are used to cover the capsules in the pot. This is to further ensure that the flavour from the leaves does not easily escape but circulates inside the pot.

Covering pot containing moi-moi wraps (2019) by The Centenary ProjectThe Centenary Project

Adding water and tucking in the leaves

Water is poured into the pot, and the covering leaves are tucked in properly.

Bean Pudding or "Moi-Moi" (2019) by The Centenary ProjectThe Centenary Project

Step 4: Eating delicious moi-moi

After cooking for 45–60 mins (depending on the size of the pot), the moi-moi is unwrapped and enjoyed. The texture of the moi-moi, when unwrapped, could vary depending on how well the ingredients of the pudding were mixed and how long it was cooked.

Man Enjoying Moi-Moi (2019) by The Centenary ProjectThe Centenary Project

Eating moi-moi

Moi-moi may be eaten directly from the wrap (as shown here) or placed separately in a plate.

Man In Restaurant Eating "Moi-Moi" (2019) by The Centenary ProjectThe Centenary Project

It can be eaten alone with a fork (i.e. without any accompaniment) or with a side dish of pap (local maize custard) or garri (granulated cassava).

Credits: Story

Curator: Patrick Enaholo
Research: Omotunde Omojola
Photographs: Chris Udoh
Text: Patrick Enaholo / Omotunde Omojola
Text editor: Munachim Amah

Special thanks to:
Mary Ihama (chef)

© 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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