For most Nigerians, street food is usually just as delicious as delicacies sold in fancy restaurants, if not more. In Enugu, Eastern Nigeria, Okpa has become the craziest street food the people can’t live without. It is cheap, filling and insanely tasty! A student once noted that, once she has loaded two wraps of Okpa down her belly, along with a bottle of soft drink, she never bothered to eat again for the rest of the day.
The prices vary with size. The larger balls of okpa sell for N100 each, while the smaller balls sell for N50 each. In Enugu, the ones sold at 9th Mile (a popular area in the town) is sometimes rated as the most delicious. As soon as an Okpa addict sets eyes on the food, the only thing on his mind is taking the tiny ropes off the two ends of the wrap and biting deep into the soft, tender oily dough! And the smell of Okpa? Ewoo! na to die for!
An Enugu lady living in Lagos, although passionately misses Okpa, swore never to buy Okpa from those hawking it around Lagos, because she believes that the Lagos version can never taste as good as the “original Enugu version”. The popular nickname for Okpa in Enugu is Igba Achi.
Photo Credit: Veooz.com
Photo Credit: Nairaland.com
For those who desire to make okpa in their kitchens, here is the recipe: (Posted by User ‘Graphicdon’ on Naijarules. The poster dubbed it Okpa 101.
Recipe for Okpa (Okpa101):
‘Big round peas’, palm oil, pepper, salt, banana leaves or uma leaves,warm water… these will do. You can’t go crazy with them spices…no maggi or knorr and no crayfish… unless you want it to taste like…well…’elile’
However, this is a long complicated process but if you follow through, you’d have your steaming okpa in a short time.
1. Crush ‘big round peas’ to separate the shell from the seed. You can use a lower setting on the blender (You need a special blender for this…a very powerful blender, that ish is hard like rock) to break the ‘big peas’ into small fragments. This process will strip the peas of the hard ‘crunchy’ shells. With the peas crushed, pour everything on a wide tray and separate the shells.
This is done by throwing the contents up and catching them with the tray. This process is done repeatedly in quick succession and if done well,, the shells will move to the edge of the tray while most of the seeds will move towards you. Remove the shells with your hands or simply blow them away with mouth (I prefer this method as it doesn’t get rid of the seeds). Repeat until all the shells are gone.
2. Grind the peas to fine powder with whatever method that works for you, bearing in mind we are dealing with a rock hard pea.
3. If you have access to pestle, this is the time to bring it out. Pour some warm water (neutral not cold, not hot but very warm…almost hot) in the mortar, make sure you put the size of the ground peas into consideration since you’d be working with a thick paste. Pour the peas into the mortar and stir with a wooden spoon. You should end up with a thick paste. Add the palm oil (enough to turn the paste to ‘yellowish orange’…use your discretion on this one) pepper, and salt to taste. You can add more water if the paste is too thick. Stir until everything is properly mixed.
*You can use a bowl if you don’t have access to mortar*
4. Wrapping: Place a pot of water on the stove and let it boil (Just like moi moi). With the water simmering, get the banana leaves *Banana leaf is the best wrap for Okpa* but you can use your regular moi moi plates if you can’t get the leaves, it doesn’t give the desired taste but hey…you gotta have okpa anyway.
Photo Credit: Britt (Jar of Clay)
Photo Credit: Britt (Jar of Clay)
This is the tricky part: Banana leaves are crispy and will crumble and tear under slight pressure. To avoid this and make them flexible, you need to ‘heat’ them. This is done by holding the leaves over a fire. If the banana leaves are in whole, you can hold the tick end and turn them when necessary. Rip into smaller leaves when you are done heating. If the leaves are ripped before heating, you’re going to need pincers or whatever to hold the smaller leaves over the fire to protect your fingers. remeber you are ‘heating the leaves and not burning them. Keep them away from the fire and let the heat do the job. You will see the color change to a dark shade of green and the leaf will ‘droop’. The heat will ‘collapse’ the stiff leaves, making them very durable/flexible with a dark shade of green. This way you crumble and pull the leaves and it won’t tear like newspaper.
Very Tricky Part: Roll each leaf into a cylinder and make sure they overlap (VERY IMPORTANT). Tie one end of the roll with a rope (NOT COW ROPE) just a very small rope/string, you can get them from $0.99 stores. Carefully pour the paste into the cylinder with enough space left at the top. Tie the top and place them carefully in the pot of boiling water. Repeat the process until everything is in the pot. Boil for 2.5 hours maximum and serve HOOOTTTTTTT!!!!!
Warning: If you eat okpa in a hurry, you will choke and DIE because it takes awhile to slide down your throat. Biting off small chunks at a time will keep you outta the morgue. That is why it has a nick name "Igba Achi".
This article was written by Folarin Kolawole
Founder of Naijatreks, Nigerian-born Folarin Kolawole is a geologist, travel writer and researcher. When not at work, he travels the length and breadth of Nigeria, exploring, taking photos and writing about her numerous hidden tourist potentials. 'Naijatreks' is a product name registered under the Ntreks brand, which is also duly registered by Nigeria's Federal Corporate Affairs Commission. The contents on this blog are re-usable. However, it must be ensured that it is linked back to this blog, and correctly attributed to Naijatreks or the author. Please do not edit, rewrite or commercialize the original works on this blog without direct and written permission from the Founder (Folarin Kolawole). For inquiries and advert placement on the blog, kindly contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.