My first encounter with Ukwa was when I traveled to Anambra State some years ago. That was between 1999 and 2004.
Well, my first impression was that the food was well known in Anambra State. It was later I realized that Enugu State is well known and better known for Ukwa than any other State in South-Eastern Nigeria as well as other states of the federation.
As a student at that time, I saw many South Easterners relishing this ‘messy delicacy’. At first, I was not comfortable with the way the delicacy was being packaged, especially because I found it too ‘messy’ and ‘mashy’ for my liking.
Hmmm, but a friend managed to convince me to taste the food. Initially, I was reluctant, not knowing how the food would taste, especially because, at that time, I observed that the food was too plain and blank.
I felt it was not mixed with enough palm oil. In fact, I felt it was not oily enough. But I later tasted the food I usually described as ‘too messy’ and fell in love with it.
And a couple of days ago, a young man, Nduka Nwaiziogoede, a Computer Science Student and an intern from the University of Nigeria Nsukka, while discussing with me, decided to do something on Ukwa, this protein-enriched food.
Well, I had to repackage the story in a delicious foodicious way!
African Breadfruit (Ukwa), botanically known as “Treculia Africana” is a Nigerian delicacy commonly eaten by the Igbo in South-Eastern Nigeria.
It is an edible traditional fruit that belongs to the Moraceae family and closely related to other exotic fruits like breadnut, jackfruit, figs, and mulberries, amongst others.
The regular consumption of Ukwa can help to inhibit the absorption of glucose from and even help in controlling diabetes.
This is because it contains compounds, which are needed by the pancreas for producing insulin in the body.
Breadfruit is at its best and peak when it is and ripe and flavourful,.
When ripe, it will turn yellow and sometimes brownish and often with lots of old sap on it.
But most times, the fruit would usually drop from the tree.
Recipe for 3 servings
- 2 cups of dry or fresh Ukwa.
- 2 cooking spoons palm oil.
- 3 fresh peppers [crushed]
- 3 sizeable dry or smpked fish
- A pinch of potash ( akanwu ).
- 2 tablespoons ground crayfish.
- Salt and seasoning to taste
- A small bunch of bitter leaves [shredded and washed]
- If you’re using dry ukwa, soak it overnight or for a long period of time until it becomes softer, but if it’s fresh ugwu don’t soak.
- Wash the ukwa thoroughly to avoid sand and stones, set on fire and cover to boil until tender.
- Clean the fish, soak in saltwater and wash, breaking the fish into tiny bits and add to the pot.
- Sprinkle the akawu over the boiling food. This will facilitate the quick and fast softening of the ukwa.
- Add enough water to the pot to cover the ukwa.
- Once it starts boiling and its almost tender, add the crayfish, crushed pepper as well as the salt and seasoning to taste.
- Add the palm oil and continue to cook until the ukwa is very pulpy and tender.
- Uncover the pot, stir with a wooden spoon sprinkle the shredded bitter leaves over the delicacy.
- Cover and simmer for few minutes
- Remove from heat and serve warm.