UKODO: The Best Meal of the Urhobo People of Nigeria
Food in Nigeria is one aspect of her culture that is held at high estime. Ukodo is a yam and unripe plantain dish of the Urhobo people of Nigeria.
The Itsekiri people of the Niger Delta also make a similar dish called Epuru. It is essentially a pottage, a stew of meat and vegetable with its base as the Nigerian pepper soup.
It is sometimes cooked with lemon grass and potash.
It is usually used for marriage and burial ceremonies or as breakfast, particularly during the cold season.
A poem by the Nigerian Chovwe Inisiagho-Ogbe describes both the ingredients and the process of cooking.
Ukodo in a light-hearted meal that gets you salivating at the first glance, it is simply a pepper soup dish which consists of unripe plantain and yam(sometimes cooked with lemon grass and potash), and is believed to be the perfect companion on a wet cold day. The Itsekiris, also of the Niger Delta call their version Epuru while the igbo version is known as Ji mmiri Oku.
When preparing ukodo yam pepper soup, I usually prefer the use of goat meat or dried fish because it gives it a nice native taste and smell, unlike chicken and cow meat. It’s really simple to make as I’m about to show you below.
•3 medium sized plantain “Unripe”
•4 Large Slices yam
•1 kg Goat meat (with intestine & liver)
•2 cooking spoons Palm oil
•1 small bunch lemon grass/ scent leaves
•2 tbsp. crayfish/ dry prawns
•1 teaspoon dried pepper
•2 seeds “Iwo/Erhe (itshekiri) – Dry roast and set aside
•1 seed Gbafilo
•2 Uda Uwentia “Negro pepper” (Simply Uda or Enge) – Remove the seeds & discard
•1 tsp. Ataiko
•1 tbsp Irugege
•2 Seasoning cubes
•1/2 teaspoon Native salt
Wash the goat meat thoroughly, place in a pot and sprinkle a tsp. of salt and cook for about 15 minutes on low heat. Set aside to later use.
Peel the yam and cut into two halves then immerse in a bowl of water and rinse. Peel and cut the plantain into three pieces then – set aside.
Place all the local spices (Iwo/Erhe (itshekiri), Gbafilo, Ataiko, Irugege) in the dry part of the blender and grind for a few minutes.
Add some water to the pot containing goat meat. Place on the burner and allow to boil for about 5 minutes. Add 1-2 tbsp. of the ground spices, uda, crayfish, pepper and crushed seasoning. Stir and taste the soup. Leave to cook further till you start to perceive the aroma.
Add plantain and yam. Add the lemon grass bunch then reduce the heat and allow the ukodo to cook for about 15 minutes. Discard the lemon grass bunch after this.
Transfer the Yam and plantain into a dish, then pour the liquid into another plate. Pour red palm oil into a small clay bowl and serve. The palm oil can also be mixed with the ukodo liquid and used to eat the yam and plantain or the yam/plantain could be dipped in the oil and eaten while the ukodo liquid is sipped like pepper soup.