There is one word that has the power to either irritate or inspire me. That word is cannot or more powerful can’t. That word just ignites the rebel in me in more ways than one, much to my mother’s chagrin. Tell me can’t and just watch fire light up in my eyes. One person who knows me well recognises the signs. You get that look in your eye when that word is mentioned, I have been told. Your eyes narrow, and one can almost see irk rising in you or your brain churning with ideas just to disprove that word. Lol. You then arch one eyebrow and dare the person to explain their justification for using that word, to the point of foolishness. Considering I have never been in-front of a mirror when that word is used, but the person knows me well because that is pretty close to what my mind is thinking and more. Can’t, Really? That is the polite version. Hehehehehehe
Well, some person I don’t know or even met, mentioned that word (albeit the americanised version – aint) in a comment on Bella Naija, and the wheel that sets me off kicked into gear. It even had more of an effect on me because it was mentioned in relation to food. Oh, the word can’t, does not belong anywhere in food and unfortunately in Nigerian food, we almost see it as a right of passage, to the point we try to justify its usage because of “cultural or tribal sensitivity”. Balderdash!!! Sorry, I have been reading a lot of books set in Medieval times and that word just tickles me. It means Nonsense. It is the ancient version of BS. What was the comment about, if you are wondering? Well it was from a post written by Ola Orekunrin an inspiring young woman who runs West Africa’s first indigenous air ambulance service – The Flying Doctors Nigeria. Here is a link to the article http://www.bellanaija.com/2013/11/28/the-flying-doctor-sex-food-drugs-davido/
Here is how the ‘conversation went, permit me to share, so you can get the full picture. Ola the author of the piece wrote this “Many of our dishes such as ‘akara’ and ‘dodo’ contain extremely high levels of fat that predispose us to heart disease and strokes. Then a BN reader left a comment under the name Lilz asking
“But does Akara have that much fat?”
Then someone ‘named’ Natty responded with
it is fried with oil
A subsequent comment under the name TA said
“If you want to know how much oil Akara packs in a single ‘ball’,squeeze one such akara ball into a white kitchen paper napkin. Personally,I have been on the search for a healthier way to eat Akara,but alas there’s none,(like the southern natives in yankee will tell you aint no healthy way to eat the southern fried chicken). Only alternative is to fry it in Canola or other such ‘healthy’ oils that boast no cholesterol but the taste is never the same! Ah! Nothing beats the taste of Akara deep-fried in palm oil and washed down with my glass of zobo. The only thing is to reduce your portion or the frequency at with you eat such meals. I have restricted mine to once in 2 months on ‘environmental sanitation saturday where I have as many shrimps encrusted akara as I can consume with my bowl of Ijebu garri on the rocks. Lol!
Then Ms Socially Awkward, who has contributed a recipe to this blog responded with
what about steaming them the way the chinese do with dumplings? Although, I personally don’t know the first thing about making akara and could therefore be talking rubbish…
Then TA came back saying
@ My one and only Mz SA,you mean to tell me,you don’t know a thing about fried Akara?! Oh dear,then I can’t help you. Lol! But I can tell you this for free; ‘aint no way Akara can be cooked except deep-fried,otherwise the Akara becomes something else like moi moi’.
After which Ms Socially Awkward responded with
Of course!! Akara & moimoi come from the same
mixture of beans, how can it not turn mushy if you attempt to steam it? *smacks head with palm* However, I still see potential in the technique for making dumplings. Maybe it’s time I got a food processor…
A new person Jo joined the conversation, saying
@MZ Socially… Actually darling you are are talking rubbish . That would be moin moin
Then comes the clincher from TA which really got me thinking
Lol! Yeah,and the day someone comes up with a healthier technique for deep frying Akara,I shall personally nominate the person for Noble prize in Science. He!he!h!
The entire time I was reading this conversation, if you had put electrodes on my forehead, my brain wave activity must have been through the roof. This article was posted on November 28 and I haven’t stopped obsessing about the idea. Last week I was chatting with my friend Kemi, and I wanted to offload what had been swimming in my brain for weeks. The idea of shallow frying Akara. She asked me “Dunni, how will it hold”, “will you put flour or egg in it”. I said I had no idea, then she said if it breaks apart, add eggs it just might help and let me know how it turns out. I said thanks but a part of me said naaaaah. I have heard people use eggs in akara and egusi to keep the ball shape and I commend them for it, very creative, but I wanted to use a traditional recipe, just so that this could be a real triumph. A case for true ingenuity. I am chasing after that Nobel Prize for Science. hehehehehe. I am pleased to say that it worked. I made Akara with less than 2 tablespoons of Oil. Here’s how
You will need
Chopped red onions
Chopped ata rodo – scotch bonnet/habanero pepper
Seasoning cube – if you wish, I didn’t use it
1. Make your bean paste by peeling the beans and grounding till a smooth creamy taste. Traditionally with making the paste of Akara you are advised to grind the beans with a little water because you need the bean paste to be really thick in order to get the traditional akara ball-shape. With this method, you have no such restrictions because you need the paste to be really light.
2. Add the chopped onions, chopped ata rodo, ground crayfish and season to taste. In my last post on Akara HERE. I made a meaty and fishy version of Akara with shredded/thinly chopped meats and small bits of fried fish. I would have gone this way, but I did not have any meats/fish readily available (all frozen), besides I wanted to still stick to a traditional Akara recipe. In the future, I will be amending this method using meat, fish, seafood and even veggies.
3. Heat a few drops of oil in a pan, just like you would when frying a pancake. See my recipe HERE on frying Pancakes. When the oil is sufficiently hot, add a little bit of the bean paste and tilt/swirl the pan gently, to make a wider circle right about the size in the picture below. I wanted to make a Christmas tree shaped flat Akara. Hehehehe.
4. Just like frying a pancake, wait until the edges are brown, but a better judge of this is to carefully lift a side up to see if it is brown. Then carefully flip over, and by carefully, I mean CAREFULLY, otherwise it will not hold and it will break. Remember Kemi’s question which I wrote above “will it hold”? Ta daaa, I got my Christmas tree shape. Lol.
Once flipped over, let the other side brown and take it out of the pan.
My first two trials were successful that I squealed in delight. I was sooooo happy, I was dancing a jig in my kitchen. Then I decided to fry a big one, just like you would a Crepe. Errrrrr, it did not work. Kemi’s question came to life. It did not hold at all. Despite letting that side brown properly, when I tried to flip it, it broke.
I did not plan to add anything to the bean paste beyond the traditional recipe, so I went back to making them small. If it is not broken, don’t fix it. Those famous words ring so true. Lol. I went back to my previous method of frying in smaller circles and I was successful.
Overall I made 10 pieces with the batter that I had. 2 I ate on the spot, the other 8, I plated.
With this size, you will get great results, with crispy edges, just don’t add too much batter to the pan to start with, so that when you swirl the pan, to get to this size, it will be sufficiently thin.
You can make it much thicker if you want though. The general idea is to shallow fry.
When I had exhausted the bean paste and piled all the akara on top one another (i forgot to take a picture), it looked a little bland and too much like American Pancakes, so I decide to be inspired by the pictures of American pancakes I have seen topped with either a honey, maple or chocolate syrup and decided to go Nigerian by topping with Ata din din (thickly fried stew) or Ewa Aganyin sauce (recipe HERE).
Voila!!!! Much improved. I stared at this picture for a while, grinning mischievously. Not in a million years would you think this is Akara. Oh, one of my foibles is Mischief. It makes for interesting interactions with people. Hehehehehe.
Then I thought, okay I’ll add a few pieces of beans on the plate and in the background to provide a clue. *wicked grin in the background.
In terms of colour, it is the same as the deep fried version
The true Nigerian ‘Pancake’
To naysayers, this tastes EXACTLY like the deep fried akara balls. Trust me, I compared. I blended the bean paste thick to make the deep fried version, and then later split the paste in half, added water to make the thin, shallow fried version. When I compared both, especially if you cut through 5 thin ones at once to get a thick piece, it tastes the same, even better because of the crunchy edges. If you pick up only one thin one, the taste and texture is sublime. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Enjoy the pictures and be inspired to make your own. If you have crossed Akara off your list because of dietary concerns or weight issues, now you can enjoy your childhood favourite with relish without feeling guilty. I fried 10 pancakes with less than 2 tablespoons of sunflower oil.