Dr Agona Obembe, a minister with the Redeemed Christian Church of God, an Associate professor of Physiology, University of Calabar, Calabar, Cross River State, shares with BLESSING GBARADA, the recipe for the latest trend in Calabar cuisines and its numerous health benefits.
How do you manage your feeding with your schedule?
It’s all about getting your priorities right and managing your time effectively. However, my family comes first. Inasmuch as I have these responsibilities, I don’t joke with my meals and I exercise a lot to watch my weight. I make sure I take breakfast and even when I am too busy to eat proper lunch, I make sure I take juice and fruits. For dinner, I don’t take heavy meals, so that I would have a good sleep, but I make sure it is balanced.
Where are you from?
I am from Obubra Local Government Area of Cross River State, though I am married to a Yoruba man, from Ekiti State.
Indigenes from Ekiti State are known for their love for pounded yam. How did you adjust in your early years of marriage?
Well, it was more like moving from one level of pounded yam exposure to another because Obubra people take lots of yam. So, I didn’t have much of a problem meeting someone who was also into yams.
How about other Yoruba dishes?
I am fortunate that my husband is exposed to meals from other places and not just the traditional Yoruba dishes. In fact, I had to learn some Yoruba dishes that he didn’t even know and I also introduced some of the dishes in my place that used the basic Yoruba ingredients but differed in preparation, for instance, ewedu. We don’t use broom to prepare it like Yoruba people do. He has come to enjoy my local dishes and even my mother-in-law too enjoys them. The only thing I had to get used to was pepper because Yoruba love lots of pepper.
Does high consumption of pepper have any physiological implication?
From the physiological point, researches have been done on pepper, acid secretion and ulceration, and it has been discovered that despite the relatively high intake of pepper by Yoruba people, they don’t have ulcer. Whereas, southerners who don’t usually take as much pepper, either stool or experience a burning sensation and that is the beginning of ulcer. This doesn’t mean that there are Yoruba who can’t tolerate that much pepper.
What dish is unique to your people?
In Obubra, there really isn’t any special dish per se, because the villagers are more into farming than festivities. However, currently, the trend in Calabar is unripe plantain with cowtail. In fact, no occasion is complete without unripe plantain with cowtail. Most people no longer want rice, no matter the variety.
What is special about this dish?
Actually, this dish is one meal that can be tolerated by all kinds of people no matter their health challenge. Diabetics, those who can’t tolerate palm oil, those who are watching their weight can also take it and it is great for old people too. It is rich in iron and has little or no starch. It is balanced, filling and also very tasty.
What are the ingredients needed in its preparation?
You will need unripe plantain, crayfish, dried fish, scent leaves, cowtail (bushmeat or ponmo where cowtail is not available), groundnut oil, onions, pepper, salt and seasoning.
How is it prepared?
Wash the plantain and peel off the skin. Scrape the strands off the peeled plantain and keep aside to be used as thickener. Chop the plantain into big chunks. Blend a lot of crayfish and clean the dried fish. Cook the cowtail. Place the plantain in a pot and add a little quantity of water. Add the onions, pepper, salt, cubed seasoning and allow to cook till the plantain is a bit soft. Add the crayfish and dried fish and the cowtail. Add a bit of groundnut oil; but in the absence of that, you could use vegetable oil. Allow to cook thoroughly to remove the raw taste of the groundnut oil. Stir. Add the shredded scent leaves and allow to simmer for a while. Serve.