By – Mahogany Obodozie
Who would have thought it? Tomatoes nearly equivalent to gold in Nigeria? If someone hears that you are having rice and stew for lunch, they would certainly ask you “where did you find tomatoes?”
Earlier this year in March, a strain of moth-like pests called Tomato leaf miner, or tuta absouta wiped out most of the tomato crops in Nigeria. Mainly it affected the northern states; Jigawa, Kano, Kaduna, and Katsina. However, it also managed to affect crops in Plateau state and down south in Lagos. These tiny moths-like pests eat up the whole plant from the tomato, to the leaves and the stock. Everything! Just imagine the way termites would eat up wood. Eek!
Tomatoes are used for making stew, which on its own is a staple delicacy in Nigeria. You can use it to eat rice, plantain, yam, and potatoes, basically anything that needs a sauce accompaniment. So you can imagine the panic that raked across the country as tomato prices escalated magnanimously, as the tomato availability reduced to a trickle and finally stopped. What on earth are we going to eat now? Though we have an abundance of food delicacies that we do not need tomatoes for, we still need our sauce. So I did a little digging and found a few stews that we can use and enjoy our meals without a stitch of tomatoes.
Banga stew is a very popular stew in the eastern part of Nigeria, among the Igbos. The Igbos call it “Ofe akwu”, which means palm nut stew. It is known to have a long preparation process, mostly because you would have to extract the palm juice. Now-a-days they sell the palm juice already extracted for you so you wouldn’t need to spend so long in the kitchen. But who cares how much time it takes, because I can guarantee you that once you taste Ofe akwu, you would forget tomatoes name. Ingredients used in making Ofe akwu are palm fruit or palm fruit concentrate, beef, vegetable (bitter leaf or scent leaf) dry fish, onions, beef stock cubes, crayfish, salt and pepper.
Ofada stew is also known as “Ayamase”, this is a very spicy and peculiar kind of local stew. It usually goes together with its signature rice “Ofada rice” also known as “local rice”. Ofada stew is spicy explosion of deep exotic tones on your taste buds. It is usually punctuated with nice juicy assorted meat parts like kpomo, shaki, and liver. Due to its Dynamic texture and spicy flavor you can use Ofada sauce to eat anything not just Ofada rice. It goes well with boiled yam or plantain, regular rice and even pasta. Unlike the Banga / Ofe awku, it doesn’t take long to make at all and is quite easy too. The ingredients are. It doesn’t take too long to make. And is quite simple. Ingredients are unripe habanero peppers, locust bean seasoning, red palm oil, onion, crayfish, and assorted meat.
This stew is also known as Obe Ata. It is quite popular in the western part of Nigeria. Many Bukas (local food vendors) sell this stew alongside with their white rice. This is how it got its name, “tomatoless buka stew”. It is basically the same process of cooking a tomato stew, aside that you eliminate the tomatoes, increase the pepper and onions, and probably add a sachet of tomato puree just to add a little flavor. The key to making the tomatoless Buka stew just right is to de-seed all the chilli peppers before blending them together with the onions and boiling them down. It is very tasty and not as peppery as you would think. Ingredients: vegetable or olive oil, chili peppers, onions, maggi cubes, beef, beef stock, vegetables (scent leaf or Ugu).
This is also known as Ugu stew, once again very popular in the east amongst the Igbos. The /ugu leaf is a very common denominator across a plethora of Nigerian dishes especially in porridges and soups. Ugu is rich in Iron and is said to have many healing qualities, which makes it not just a tasty but very nutritious meal option. The pumpkin leaf sauce is so easy a real quick to make. The ingredients are chopped Ugu, seasoned beef or chicken, meat stock, vegetable oil, pepper, onion, seasoning and salt to taste.
This is a very popular delicacy in the southern parts of Nigeria. It is a very good and convenient substitute for a tomato stew. The ingredients are garden eggs, palm oil, smoked fish, ground pepper, iru, onions, crayfish and salt
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So there you have it! Different kinds of sauces that can substitute your tomatoes stew. Give it a go and trust me you would be glad you did. And for those of you, I feel rolling your eyes and murmuring nothing beats tomato stew, never to fear there would be tomatoes next year as Nigeria’s national institute for chemical technology has developed a pesticide that should eradicate the ravenous moths. The only thing is that you would have to wait till next season to get your tomato fix.
Photo credit – bellanaija.com, dobbysignature.com