About Nigerian Dry fish
The Nigerian dry fish is fish that has been slowly smoked over a period of time till it is dehydrated and dry. Different species of fish are dried and sold, some tastier than others. Both large and small sized fish are dried for consumption. Some are cut into pieces before drying, others are dried whole, sometimes folded or bent and held together with a string or stick for ease of storage.
It is usually dried to different degrees, from partly dried to bone dry. The partly dried type, where the skin is dry but the insides are still quite soft is called Jokojoko ‘soft’ . This type is delicate to handle especially when washing it, because it breaks apart very easily and is prone to spoilage. I either dry it further in the oven or use it to drink soaked Garri. The overly dry type, when used to cook, is best boiled with the meat because it takes a while to soften.
Drying concentrates the fish flavour which directly impacts the taste of the dish it is used to prepare, especially soup broth in Nigerian soups. It is used in cooking practically all Nigerian soups also, yam peppersoup, plantain porridge, palm oil jollof rice, palm oil stew, palm nut soup/ofe akwu etc. It is a very essential component of the Nigerian cuisine.
The freshness of the fish is something to look out for, because sometimes dry fish has mould. If it is on the skin of the fish, with proper observation, you will notice it. Though some sellers will brush it off with oil and it will look as good as new. The mould might be more extensive, going deeper inside the fish, so if in doubt, smell it. There will be a tell-tale musky smell of mould or just lack of freshness. Do not buy because it will be money wasted. The taste will be horrible besides the health risk.
During the smoking process, the fish oils which are released stay on the fish skin, this attracts dust, sand and sometimes bugs which go into the flesh. Dry fish needs to be washed properly before consumption. See how to wash dry fish here.