Ugba: The Heart Of Traditional Igbo Meals
Ugba, also called Ukpaka, is a Nigerian indigenous food ingredient. Although it is used as an ingredient by several ethnic groups in Nigeria, it is a common ingredient among the Igbo’s in the Eastern part of Nigeria. It goes by several names including ukana by Efik people and Apara by the Yoruba tribe.
Ugba is a protein-rich food that is got by solid state fermentation of seeds of African oil bean (Pentaclethra macrophylla) seed.
With a short shelf life of about 3-5 days, Ugba is a basic food item used in cooking and preparing certain ceremonial traditional dishes. In Igbo land, ugba is used to make Abacha (also known as African salad), and mixed with cooked stock fish, to mention a few.
In the first phase of making ugba before used in traditional dishes, the oil bean seeds will be boiled for 8-5 hours. This is so that the hard shell that holds the oil bean can easily be removed.
When removed from the shell, they are sliced and washed. The slices are then boiled for 1-3 hours. After that they are soaked for 10-12 hours.
Again, they are washed and left to drain for an hour and place in a basket layered with banana leaves.
They are then wrapped in ororompo (mallotus oppositifolius) leaves that would have been left to ferment at room temperature for 3-4 before being used as ugba.
The mixed culture fermentation process converts the bitter and hard seeds (Pentaclethra macrophylla) to a soft, cherished protein-rich product used to enrich the taste in foods.
Here is how to convert Ugba into a traditional Igbo food
- Palm Oil (450g or 1lb)
- Liquid Potash (Potassium Carbonate — Dissolved In water)
- 2 Hot Pepper
- Sliced Crayfish
- Kpomo, stock fish
- Salt to taste
1 Get a clean empty pot and pour palm oil in it. If the oil needs to be melted, do that and take off the stove once melted.
2 Slowly pour in the edible potash solution into the palm oil while stirring at the same time. Take note of the palm oil gradually changing colour and becoming thicker.
3 Add your dissolved ogiri.
4 Next comes the ground crayfish. Pour in the pieces of medium crayfish, stockfish and kpomo and stir all till nicely mixed. If using smoked fish, add it before stirring.
5 Transfer the pot/pan to medium heat.
6 Add the ugba/ukpaka, sliced pepper and the stock from kpomo,and stock fish.
7 Stir well and once heated, add salt to taste and it’s ready to serve.
This meal can be garnished with fresh onions and garden egg leaves. Also paired nicely beside the dish is the traditional brew palmwine or your preferred drink.
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