What’s my all-time favourite traditional meal?
Simple answer… It’s Ekpang.
That must be the simplest quiz you have ever gotten to take right? Ironically, the meal itself is a tasking one to make. This is one reason why it tends to be reserved for special occasions like traditional weddings, etc. In fact, some books will claim that it was revered as the rich man’s food. Some even go as far as calling it the food of the gods. That’s how much it is revered where I’m from.
Ekpang Nkukwo (also sometimes called Ekwang Nkukwo) is a dish made with grated cocoyam, water yam, cocoyam leaves and periwinkle. It is a Nigerian food recipe native to the South South Eastern Nigeria, the Cross River and Akwa Ibom States of Nigeria. Remember I said Ekpang was tasking to make, I’m still going to take you through how it’s done. Trust me, you won’t regret it.
Disclaimer: Ingredients and Instructions along with accompanying pictures are from Dooney’s Kitchen. You can check out her site at dooneyskitchen.com for more.
Cocoyam leaves – you can also use vegetables with broad leaves like Spinach and Ugu
Cocoyam – 70%
Water Yam – 30%
1 tsp – 1 tbs of dry pepper – Cayenne Pepper or use fresh pepper
Mixed seafood – crabs, prawns, periwinkles etc
Ntong – efinrin, scent leaf. (You can substitute with basil)
Here are pictures of the type of cocoyam to use. It isn’t the Eddoes specie that is used for thickening soups. This is sometimes called red cocoyam. It is longer, darker and bigger
Prepare the leaves. Here’s a picture of cocoyam leaves. ( Cut it into strips as wide as your palm and as long)
Prepare the yam. Now, I will show you a trick someone taught me. Peel yam and any tubers with a potato peeler. Trust me it works, it is much faster too.
With your cocoyam peeled, peel the water yam too.
Please, I beg you, grate in a food processor, but if you don’t have a food processor, use the normal grater.
Depending on how dry both yams are, you may need to add a little water to loosen it up a bit, otherwise your dish would be dry and stodgy. ( Remember to season your grated yam. Very important.)
- Before you start wrapping though, oil the bottom of a pot and cover it with perwinkles, still in their shell. This serves as a barrier to prevent the wrapped parcels from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
- Now you are ready to go. Using a tablespoon, scoop some of the grated yam unto the strip of cocoyam leaves on your palm. You may need to use less than a tablespoon, if the strip of leaf is not that wide, you don’t want it to spill out too much.
Now, take the edge closest to you and fold over the grated yam.
Slowly roll away from you, until you form a cigar shape. It is expected that some of the yam should peek out from both ends, but not spill out, so as mentioned above, don’t scoop too much.
- Don’t worry if you don’t get it right the first time. It took me a couple of tries myself, and i still have more practice to go.
- Place the wrapped leaves on the periwinkles and repeat the process until you run out of the grated yam mixture and leaves.
Add the smoked fish on top, the fresh seafood.
Add the ground crayfish
This can be done in no particular order really, but i finished off with dry pepper, more seasoning and water.Just enough to cook the cocoyam parcels, it is supposed to steam really, so don’t drown it.
Cover the pot tightly, and let it cook on middle to low heat. I was in a hurry and used high heat, it burned a little. Don’t make that mistake. lol
As it cooks, shake it around a bit to distribute the heat. I used a spoon to gently check if the cocoyam parcels have cooked, and the water was drying up into a thick paste. Once you start to notice that, top it off with chopped ntong (scent leaf, efinrin). They say you can even use Uziza.
and you are done.
The beautiful thing about this dish is that you can make it anyway you want with a wide variety of ingredients. It’s why ekpang from different places tend to look different, depending on the ingredients available in that location. I was born and raised in Ikot Abasi, and so for us, seafood is king.
I’ve seen my mother also make ekpang from cassava, plantains, and bananas and so i guess with ekpoang, the only limit is your imagination.
This is where I’ll leave you today.