Okpa is the Igbo word for Bambara groundnut, in Hausa language, it is Gurjiya or kwaruru. Okpa is also the name of a boiled pudding made from this nut. It is a street food very common in the eastern part of Nigeria, though other metropolitan cities are catching up very fast. Also called Igbu, okpa is cheap and very filling, a life saver when you need cheap, healthy, delicious food on the go and really good for dieters and diabetics. Okpa is arguably a symbol of Enugu State, Nigeria and there are places there noted for making delicious unadulterated okpa e.g 9th-mile corner, Oji river, New-Haven in Enugu etc.
Bambara nuts have a rock hard shell, which can only be handled by the industrial grade grinders in the market. The shell needs to be cracked open and the seed extracted. This seed is ground into powder to produce Okpa flour. It is best to buy the flour from a reliable seller. I say reliable because sometimes, the sellers mix the okpa powder with cheaper stuff just to increase profit. To be on the safe side, I buy the dry nuts and have it ground and sifted in the market at an extra cost, that way you are sure of what you are eating with the peace of mind that goes wth it.
The seed can also be soaked in water for about a day or two, changing the water in between till the skin softens enough to be separated from the nuts. Rub the skin off and discard. Then the fresh nuts can be ground into a paste and used just like skinning beans for Moi Moi. I prefer okpa made from okpa flour or maybe I am just used to that taste. The Okpa made from the paste tastes too refined for me, the full flavour is not there.
Okpa that is properly made using the fresh flour without any additives, will taste rich, have a smooth texture and remain soft even when cold.
It is a very simple dish and the rich okpa flavour is what makes this dish spectacular. Don’t drown it with additional ingredients or add anything that will mask the flavour unless it is a personal preference. Sometimes, though, whole boiled egg, scent leaf or ugu leaf is added, I enjoy it with the whole boiled egg and a bottle of chilled cola drink.
You need to completely immerse the okpa parcels in steadily boiling water, therefore it is best cooked wrapped in ‘uma’ or banana leaves or tightly wrapped in foil. You can also use a double layer of a tough plastic bag as a last resort. Plastic bowls if used must be highly heat resistant and close very tightly.
Okpa needs palm oil in order to have that beautiful golden colour. It must be cooked for a minimum of 60 minutes in order to extract the best flavour and nutrients.
To make Okpa:
3 cups Okpa powder salt 1/2 cup palm oil or more ground scotch bonnet (fresh pepper) 5 cups warm water
Sift okpa powder into a large bowl, add salt and mix well.
Add palm oil and using your hand, mix thoroughly till every speck of powder is coated in oil.
The result should be that characteristic vibrant yellow colour, add more oil if you need to.
Stir in the water a little at a time, mixing with your hands, till the mixture becomes sticky, smooth and lump-free.
Add the rest of the water in order to get an almost watery consistency. It should be watery enough to just coat the back of a spoon if not, you will end up with a hard pudding.
Add the chopped pepper, taste for salt and correct if necessary.
Wrap in leaves (dry or fresh) or fill aluminium foil envelopes.
Meanwhile, fill a large pot with enough water to totally immerse the okpa parcels. Bring water to a boil over high heat.
Place the wraps in the boiling water, cover the pot and cook for a minimum of 1 hour.
Serve with Pap, oats, tea, zobo or any other cold soft drink.
- Okpa needs a lot of water in order to be soft and smooth.
- Remember, boil the pudding for a minimum of 60 minutes
I will like to know how much you enjoyed your Okpa. Do you have a contribution or suggestion? Leave a comment below.
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