I am yet to meet a single person who doesn’t like Pounded Yam. Not one, maybe except kids. Considering if it doesn’t contain sugar, it doesn’t classify as food, they don’t count. Lol. Pounded yam is the Nation’s favourite. With the very diverse languages, peoples and cultures, it is probably the only food Nigerians agree on. I say Pounded Yam will settle all our differences, I tell you. Don’t diss the power of food. In Ondo and Ekiti, it is a regular staple, but in Lagos where I grew up, Pounded Yam is usually an occasional fixture in the average family’s meal plan. Some will even tell you, they only ever get to eat it at parties, so you find people ordering for Pounded yam first rather than the other much loved Jollof rice.
Why do we like it so, considering it contains only one ingredient? Yam. I really don’t know, but I think its allure can be traced to the fact that it is seen as special food. Something you eat once a while, like Lobster/Caviar without the price tag? Or it could be because of its preparation process, so it is the kind of food you appreciate, when you think of the effort that goes into it. In homes where it is not a eaten regularly, Pounded Yam is usually prepared for special visitors when you want to honour them. If you are a non-Nigerian reading this, you may think huh, are you kidding me? Well this is our culture. Food is one of the ways we show appreciation and respect. I’m sure in your culture too their are some elements of your food that has some exclusivity or festivity associated with it. I can mention some 4 – 5 hour recipes even Nigella Lawson or Ina Garten say its for special occasions or special people.
I have added Gbegiri to my own list of “special food”. Darn it, making that soup is hard work. I must either love you (Ibadan men take note, Lol) or you are pregnant (you are growing a human being inside you, so you are entitled to make requests, Lol) to prepare it. In fact, the last time I made Gbegiri was for a pregnant friend who was craving food from her University of Ibadan days. That baby is walking now. Back to Pounded Yam. Daddy says women are not allowed to pound yam where we are from. Only the men. Don’t you just love we Delta girls? We are cherished and protected by our men. So of course, I was never taught how to pound yam. My mum an Ijebu woman, also never learned to pound yam, but our older nanny from Ilorin a pounded yam aficionado ensured that pounded yam featured on the menu, albeit occasionally. I was always fascinated, watching her pound yam. With each movement of the pestle, blocks of yam, were pulverised and transformed into a doughy lump, all in a matter of minutes. I made a few attempts, but it didn’t turn out well, much to my disappointment.
Along came Poundo flour, you could prepare in a pot. In a few short months, it was the rave. It was so well accepted by everyone, because for once you didn’t need “skill” to make “pounded yam”. People took it to like the food Messiah we had been waiting for. It moved through the markets with such speed, it was in every state of the country, including in Ondo and Ekiti, and also exported abroad. On the positive side, it created so many business opportunities, from manufacturers to distributors, wholesalers, and retailers. Everyone wanted a share of the money. On the negative side, the authenticity of pounded yam lost its power. It was simple now, who do you think will pound? Poundo flour can also be made in large quantities, and it was even cheaper overall, so of course, it started being served at parties, and it was shockingly called Pounded Yam. In Yoruba, it is called Iyan (sacrilege, Lol).
With its popularity and earning capacity, sadly adulteration was introduced and so were fake products. The early brands probably got it right to an extent. The concentration of Yam flour was high. With time, all kinds of “flour” was introduced, and it tasted awful. Even the brands you could trust had moved over to the dark side with cheaper additives as Yam was of course, expensive. Just like the horse meat scandal we just experienced in the UK. With every brand I tried, I detested the thing. Oh Dunni try this one, it is the best. Oh try that one it is different, honestly it is what we eat at home. I won’t mention names, but even the so called best tasted like chaff. I’m a fussy eater plus a food snob, please don’t blame me. I read this comment on a blog recently. “Comparing pounded yam to poundo flour is like comparing death to sleep”. LOL……… Eating is an experience, and food should be enjoyed to the last morsel. So I set out on a quest to learn how to pound yam. One of my food heroes Aunty Jay painstakingly taught me how, and with anything I learn how to cook, I became good at it. I could marry an Ondo man and his mum won’t be scared thinking I wouldn’t know how to feed her son properly. Lol.
While I was making my shopping list of things to bring along with me, I was bemoaning the loss of Pounded Yam. It ranked high on the list of things I would miss. I bought bags of the “best” brand in the market, but at the end of 1year in school, I hadn’t gone through half of one bag despite eating Nigerian food almost 95% of the time. I just could not bring myself to love it, even though I cooked some Nigerian food with alternatives I could source from the local market. Fast forward a year after, somehow I had managed to tolerate it, but one trip back home, I tasted the real thing again, and I couldn’t go back to Poundo Flour. So I started the quest to finding a Yam Pounding Machine. You see an old Aunty of mine had one. It would cook and pound the yam. We used to love visiting her. It would have been better if this machine had gained the popularity that poundo flour, did. Unfortunately, it was quite expensive, and power supply isn’t constant in Nigeria.
So, Google to the rescue. I researched for days, I came across stories of National Yam Pounding machine, which was sadly discontinued. I didn’t even mind buying a second hand machine on ebay. I also came across some dodgy looking locally made machines. After days of research (yes I had the time), I came across a seller on A**aba who told me she was expecting a consignment in 10months time. I gave her my contact details, and I was waiting with excitement. 10months later, I receive an email. The machines are coming from China, it will cost $600. Yes you read that correctly, $600. It gets even better. I have to pay an additional $80 for shipping, and I have to send her the money first, then she’ll order the machine. This lady had no official website. Suffice to say I deleted the email. I am allergic to being fleeced. The daughter of a full blooded Ijebu woman. My grandmother would roll in her grave. Imagine my dismay, after waiting for 10months. So the hunt started again until I came across a blog where someone mentioned two words that rang like music to my ears. FOOD PROCESSOR.
I grew up using a food processor. My mum and I used it for everything you can think of. Just think that right there, was the answer to pounded yam, and we never knew. The comment read, use the dough blade, and a light bulb came on in my head. My Thomas Edison moment. The Panasonic Yam Pounder had something similar to a food processor’s dough blade. If memory serves me right, it was the exact same thing only shaped differently. As fate will have it, that same evening, I watched Nigella make dough in a food processor. That was the confirmation I needed that it would work. Pounded Yam has so many similarities with dough. I must have been good that year, because I got a food processor as a birthday present. So the first experiment started with bated breath. Stop the presses. IT WORKED!!!! I remember looking into bowl in awe, the last time I experienced awe was my first trip to the Sistine Chapel. I was just quiet. I kept staring at it, and touching it, and tearing chunks and tasting it. When it finally registered that it worked, I started jumping and screaming. Yes, people I unashamedly loooooove food like that. If there’s yam at home, I can eat pounded yam 3 times a week, with any soup I wish. I have even stopped eating Semovita. It is either Eba (made with Ijebu garri) or Pounded yam, because I trust what’s in it. Personally, I don’t subscribe to that crap people talk about regarding Nigerian food. I am still a UK size 8 and Nigerian food makes up a large percentage of my diet.
Are, are you tired of eating Poundo flour? Do you have a love-hate relationship with Poundo flour, and you just simply tolerate it? Have you looked at the ingredients listed on the package and thought goodness me, what in the world are those? Why don’t you ditch the flour and buy a food processor. There’s a wide variety on the market, from cheap to multifunctional. A food processor is an asset in your kitchen. A true stress saver. Mine has 28 functions. 28 for the price of 1. Or simply buy a cheap one. As long as it has a dough blade. A friend has a small one she only uses for pounded yam. Are you convinced? Are you heading to the store to buy one? I sure hope so. Here’s a sneak peek of the process
For instructions, click HERE