As you all probably know, I am proudly half Ijebu. Many of my food memories and experiences as a child came for the delicacies of the Ijebu people. My mother and her mother were very very close and I got the full on grandma experience. Mama of blessed memory has passed on now, but she will be forever remembered. Ojojo was one of the delights of spending time at Grandma’s. She knew how much we loved this, and she made the best there is. With her toothed smile, she would proudly proclaim in Yoruba “eyin omo mi, mo ti mo ipe e n bo. Mo ti rin Isu ojojo kale, mo n duro kede kin to bere si ma din. This in English is – welcome my children, knowing you are coming, I have grated water yam and I have been waiting for you to arrive before I fried it. Pardon my written Yoruba – i can’t read nor write the language, despite speaking it fluently, don’t ask me what grade I got for the WAEC exam.
Ojojo was a delight at Grandma’s. She would fry batches and batches of the stuff and we would all line up in the kitchen waiting our turn. You didn’t dare leave for the fear of others having more portions than you. Straight from the fire, despite it burning our fingers, we would rushingly eat it, just so we could have more. Ojojo is like a never ending snack. You can never eat your fill. Ask anyone who has ever had it, you can never get enough of it. Mama could grate 2 tubers of water yam, and it would be gone in minutes. She used to be so pleased to see us all gobble it up. As she got older, she could not grate the water yam anymore as her hands were not steady. Nevertheless, Mama would give us money to buy ojojo from the road side seller a few minutes from our house. Grandma’s are the best, and I will be forever grateful that I got to have the full on experience with one grandmother. Mummy allowed us buy it because it was served hot. You needed to see the queue for ojojo. It was sold in minutes. Ojojo always brings back very very good memories. My sisters favourite food by far. She can start grating at 11pm. The end result always made up for the trouble. I don’t know how to explain the taste. Akara (my recipe HERE) doesn’t come close. Ojojo is savoury sweet, and spicy from the chopped ata rodo. Each piece you take makes you crave for the next one, even before you are done with the one in your mouth, you want another. Thank you Mummy for bringing water yam along with you. Other uses of water yam is Ikokore (recipe HERE).
You will need
1 piece of water yam – water yam can be purchased at many local markets in Nigeria. For those who live abroad, it can be purchased in African and Asian shops
1 piece ata rodo – scotch bonnet/habanero pepper
1/2 red onion
2 tablespoons of ground crayfish
Seasoning cube – optional (my grandma never used it)
Olive oil – for frying
1. Peel off the skin of the water yam, cut it into big chunks and grate it.
2. Chop ata rodo and onions finely, grind crayfish and add to the grated mixture.
3. Season to taste – I used one knorr chicken cube and salt. Mama would probably shake her head because I used a seasoning cube. Lol
4. Combine with your hands until smooth and it is ready fro frying. Make sure you have the oil already heating up.
Before you start frying, it will be remiss of me not to give you this tip because many people face kitchen disasters with Ojojo. The most common one, the ojojo breaking apart in the oil. So, here’s how to prevent the tears from falling. I will give you my mother’s tip. The Fridge.
Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: Some water yams have a higher water content than the others, especially when it is new in season, just like with regular yam. If the watery content of the water yam is quite high, it won’t hold together when it hits the hot oil. It will scatter and disintegrate instead. When we grated water yam and the resulting paste is naturally watery, my mum always told us to leave it in the fridge for some time. When it gets cold, it will firm up and hold its shape while frying. I remembered that today. When I grated the water yam the day before, it was quite watery. It still held, but it was more crunchy than soft. Ojojo is supposed to be soft, with teeny crunchy edges. I couldn’t finish all I grated, so I place in the fridge. Today, I brought it out to fry what was left and it was perfect. I suddenly remembered my mother’s tip of using the fridge. So, the next time this happens to you, just place in the fridge for sometime. I hope that saves you from pulling your hair out. It can be quite painful, frustrating and disappointing to have your Ojojo fall apart.
5. Heat up olive oil for frying, and when hot, using your fingers, form a ball with the dough and drop into the hot oil. Leave it for fry for a 1 – 2 minutes, when the edges have turned brown, flip it over to allow the other side to fry. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: ojojo is deep fried, sorry, just like puff puff or akara, you need to deep fry it, to get its signature round shape. if the oil is too hot, it will brown on the outside and be raw on the inside. So, if you face that for your first batch, simply turn the heat down to the lowest, and allow the residual heat fry the ojojo. You will know you need to turn the heat back up when the Ojojo is taking forever to brown, tis means the oil is no longer hot.
6. Once browned evenly on both sides, sieve it out of the oil, let it drain on a kitchen paper towel (if you can wait that long) and start munching away.
Trust me, this will disappear in minutes. If you have lots of grabby hands at home, cut that down to seconds.
Ojojo can serve as a delightful starter. It will definitely wake up your guests’ taste buds for the main course. Serve with chopsticks and allow your guest pick them up and plunge into a spicy dip. Yum
I made some a few days ago, haven’t had Ojojo since October last year, hence me updating this post with newer and better pictures. My photography sure has come a long we way. Grateful to The Almighty for resources and training. It felt good to indulge again. Ojojo truly is my comfort food.
To make ojojo a little more filling like a meal, serve with cold Ijebu garri.