Cultures vary the world over. Ask anyone about Mardi Gras or St Patrick’s Day and they’ll have a quick description for you, but you will not very easily find a single nation that boasts as vast and as warm a cultural embrace as you will in Nigeria.
The country is rich in heritage and injects ancient and long-held customs into everything it does but it is in food that Nigeria demonstrates a unique ability to combine culinary innovation with cultural knowledge.
If you live in Nigeria, or visit Nigeria regularly, then you will understand that Nigerians do not mess around when it comes to food. Regardless of where you’re from, you will have a favourite dish that drives an eagerness to find and taste more.
In recognition of this, Google Arts & Culture has paid tribute to Nigeria’s vibrant and diverse food culture with the “Come Chop Bellefull: A Taste of Nigeria” project, which was launched recently in collaboration with The Centenary Project at the Pan-Atlantic University (PAU).
The Centenary Project has, since its inception in 2014 (a year marking 100 years of Nigeria’s existence), focused on digitally capturing and showcasing the cultural and historical expressions of the Nigerian nation as a way to inform and educate the world about the wealth of creative and human resources the country has.
In effect, the project is opening the doors to foodies and lovers of culture from across the globe and helping them experience Nigerian cooking culture for themselves. ‘Come Chop Bellefull: A Taste of Nigeria” boasts 2,000 high-resolution images and 30 stories that represent iconic local dishes and unforgettable flavours for which Nigeria is known.
Whether your choice is to order delicious street food, referred to as pot cooking, visiting one of the many markets boasting local produce of the highest order, or simply visiting a local home for an authentic dinner, (naturally eaten by hand (yes, even the soup!), the options open to foodies are many.
A few of the local cuisine recipes showcased on the Taste of Nigeria site, include:
The base of many Nigerian meals, Jollof Rice, must, in order to be truly Nigerian includes “a pinch of smoke”. This is achieved by cooking it outdoors over firewood in a large cauldron. An iconic Nigerian meal that is undeniably sought after across all geographical regions.
Made from raw groundnuts and rice, Kunun Gyada is a light porridge that can be enjoyed alone or accompany kosai (beancake), masa (rice cake) or fried meat.
Soups form a staple part of any Nigerian diet and the Starch and Banga Soup, from the Niger-Delta region of Nigeria, is made by extracting the juice from the seeds of raw palm kernel fruit. Interestingly, the Efik/Ibibios call it Abak Atama and the Yorubas call theirs Obe Eyin Ikpogiri. Banga is best served with catfish and fresh fish and is a meal that is seen as fit for kings, no matter where it is being served.
Snack lovers will want to order one of Nigeria’s favourite deep fried snacks, akara, which is a popular breakfast meal made with brown or black-eyed beans and spices. Akara is just one of many snack type meals available.
Suya is probably the most popular street food in Nigeria, sold on street corners almost everywhere in Lagos and beyond. It is skewered meat that is roasted and served with spices, which give it a unique aroma and taste – if you haven’t tasted Suya, you haven’t lived.
While Come Chop Bellefull: A Taste of Nigeria is truly a celebration of food and the role it plays in Nigerian customs and culture, it also educates visitors on the health benefits of popular ingredients, food preparation techniques – it even shares recipes for delicious desserts and the best Nigerian thirst quenchers.