This dish is truly one for the gods. The amount of time, love, patience, not to talk of ingredients that go into it. Not for the faint hearted at all. The wrapping is something i struggled with when my friend Joy taught me how to, when i lived in Abuja. I have been told to stop saying dexterity is my weakness, so i will continue mastering the art of wrapping this Ekpang Nkukwo until I get it.
Ekpang Nkukwo is similar to the Ijebu Ikokore (recipe HERE), as they are both pottage dishes. While Ikokore is only made with water yam, Ekpang Nkukwo is made with water yam and cocoyam and then wrapped in leaves. Some do say you can make it just the cocoyam, but Joy taught me to use both, but heavier on the cocoyam, and just a little water yam to give it some fluidity. The reason why i haven’t made this dish is because, i never seemed to find all the ingredients i needed at once. If i found water yam, i won’t find coco yam. if i found cocoyam, i won’t find the proper leaves, until fate smiled down on me and i found all 3 in a shop in Upton Park, better yet, i had some periwinkles in their shells in my freezer. The stars aligned and I could finally make authentic Ekpang Nkukwo. Because of the trouble that it takes to make, it is the kind of dish you make for a special guest. Heaven knows, i won’t make ekpang nkukwo for just myself, no way. Not that i don’t love me enough, but cripes, if i didn’t have another mouth looking forward to eating this dish, i would just give up halfway.
I made this dish for Ann. A reader who had been commenting here and on Facebook for a long time. She was visiting from Canada and she said Dunni, I must see you and I am coming hungry. On day 1 it was Banga with fresh fish and the rest with Pounded Yam. Day 2, I served a spectacular Omebe (black soup) with Semovita, and final day before she left, i got to make her Ekpang Nkukwo. Good thing she was there too, because when i started and wasn’t too happy with the way the wrapping was turning out, she was there as encouragement till the end. It turned out beautifully. One of the best Efik dishes i have ever cooked. Visibly hearing how much she loved it, she couldn’t even wait for me to photograph it well, so she could tuck in. So, here’s my recipe, pardon if it doesn’t look too well wrapped, but the taste and flavour is there, trust me.
- Cocoyam leaves - you can also use vegetables with broad leaves like Spinach and Ugu
- Cocoyam - 70%
- Water Yam - 30%
- 1 tsp - 1 tbs of dry pepper - Cayenne Pepper or use fresh pepper
- Ground crayfish
- Mixed seafood - crabs, prawns, periwinkles etc
- Smoked fish
- Palm Oil
- Seasoning cubes
- Ntong - efinrin, scent leaf. You can substitute with basil
- Here are pictures of the type of cocoyam to use. It isn't the Eddoes specie that is used for thickening soups. This is sometimes called red cocoyam. It is longer, darker and bigger
- Prepare the leaves. Here's a picture of cocoyam leaves. Cut it into strips as wide as your palm and as long
- Prepare the yam. Now, I will show you a trick Ann taught me. Peel yam and any tubers with a potato peeler. Trust me it works, it is much faster too..
- With your cocoyam peeled, peel the water yam too
- Please, I beg you, grate in a food processor. Use the grating slicing disc
- Depending on how dry both yams are, you may need to add a little water to loosen it up a bit, otherwise your dish would be dry and stodgy. Remember to season your grated yam. Very important.
- Before you start wrapping though, oil the bottom of a pot and cover it with perwinkles, still in their shell. This serves as a barrier to prevent the wrapped parcels from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
- Now you are ready to go. Using a tablespoon, scoop some of the grated yam unto the strip of cocoyam leaves on your palm. You may need to use less than a tablespoon, if the strip of leaf is not that wide, you don't want it to spill out too much
- Now, take the edge closest to you and fold over the grated yam
- Slowly roll away from you, until you form a cigar shape. It is expected that some of the yam should peek out from both ends, but not spill out, so as mentioned above, don't scoop too much. Don't worry if you don't get it right the first time. It took me a couple of tries myself, and i still have more practice to go.
- Place the wrapped leaves on the perwinkles and repeat the process until you run out of the grated yam mixture and leaves.
- Add the smoked fish on top, the fresh seafood,
- Add the ground crayfish
- This can be done in no particular order really, but i finished off with dry pepper, more seasoning and water. ust enough to cook the cocoyam parcels, it is supposed to steam really, so don't drown it.
- Cover the pot tightly, and let it cook on middle to low heat. I was in a hurry and used high heat, it burned a little. Don't make that mistake. lol
- As it cooks, shake it around a bit to distribute the heat. I used a spoon to gently check if the cocoyam parcels have cooked, and the water was drying up into a thick paste. Once you start to notice that, top it off with chopped ntong (scent leaf, efinrin). They say you can even use Uziza.
- and you are done.