If you couldn’t pronounce the words above, don’t worry, I can’t too. Somehow in my head, it is stored as akpurukuku gunam gunam. Don’t ask my why, it just is. Funny, that pronunciation flashes across my memory at very odd times and I find myself chuckling unexpectedly, getting me weird looks from people around me. I have resolved to keep the ‘mgbam’ instead. I am a lost cause regarding its prefix. In case you are wondering, Ofe is the Igbo word for soup and Okazi is a vegetable.
I have never seen this made before. I only saw it once and it was not even a clear picture. The only reason it piqued my interest was because I was intrigued about the South Eastern method of forming Egusi into balls. My Ijebu grandmother taught me how to use onions, and that has worked for me since like forever. If you would like to know the Yoruba way of forming Egusi balls, click HERE. With being a food blogger, I have the privilege to be exposed to different food cultures from across Nigeria, and I have to thank the people who are willing to share their knowledge with me. Usu is a word I had never heard before. If you would have asked me to take a guess, I would have said it is another spelling for ‘Osu’ (outcast) seeing that okazi is also spelt ukazi and same with oziza vs uziza. I never thought this soup was within my reach, until Serah Ogidi.P kindly gave me some of her stash of Usu. Without her, it wouldn’t have been possible. I also have to thank Chichi G, Susan H, and most especially Chibruoma Iroegbu who painstakingly dictated the recipe to me over the phone. Chiby is from Nkwerre in Rivers State but married to man from Umuahia, Abia State. She had to learn how to cook this soup as it is native to her husband’s people (good wife alert).
Google is a resource for even the weirdest of things, but for this mgbam, no such thing exists, so whatever you see below is my interpretation based on the instructions I was given. This is also my first time of cooking Ofe Okazi. I see Food bloggers as having the responsibility and privilege of being custodians of Nigerian food culture. Many dishes and food items are getting lost probably because of the lack of documentation, particularly food from the South East and South South which I find to be quite insular. Despite self proclaiming to be the poster child for 2014 Nigerian cooking, I still realise that some things must be preserved, well except there is a modern way to achieve the same thing. Pounding vs food processor for example. That is a no brainer. Today, I humbly and proudly say there is now a documented resource for akpuruakpu mgbam. Lets Cook.
You will need
1 or 2 tablespoons of Usu – white chalk like substance NOT Potash
1 cup of ground Egusi
Dry pepper or Fresh pepper
Now to the hard part. Making the Mgbam. You have two options. The traditional way using a mortar and pestle or the cheat 2014 way using a chopper bowl.
The Traditional Method
1. In a small mortar, add the ground egusi, ground Usu (you can choose to blend the whole egusi seeds with usu), dry pepper/fresh pepper and salt.
Start to pound with the pestle until the egusi gets compacted, after which you add hot water. Roughly about 2 tablespoons.
Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: the hot water is to aid the release of the natural oils from the egusi. Keep pounding until you begin to notice the egusi form into a dough-like paste, like eba, but firmer and the colour starts to change to brown.
Keep pounding, and the egusi will become even more oily and takes on the a firmer doughy like consistency
you are there when the dough starts to come together with no torn edges
You should be done pounding when the mortar comes off clean after pounding.
Unfortunately, this process is long, and tedious. Good for those upper arm muscles though. I decided to try another batch using my hand blender chopper bowl. Goodness me, it does 90% of the work for you in less than half the time.
2014 Cheat Method
Pour all the ingredients from above into a chopper bowl and whizz until the egusi forms a dough. Depending on the quantity that you have, you may need to transfer into a mortar to finish it off when the blades no longer spin the egusi dough, but the best part is the majority of the work has been done for you, in less time and less arm cardio, well unless you are like me on the perpetual quest for toned arms, then you can pound away from scratch.
I didn’t make a large enough batch in the chopper bowl, otherwise it would have done the job for me from start to finish. You can also do this in a food processor with the dough blade attached. Regardless of which method you use, you should end up with a fully formed dough ball
It should come off the sides of the mortar cleanly as a whole dough, no torn edges.
Moulding and shaping the Mgbam
Take out portions of the dough into small balls and squeeze in your palm to extract, the extra oil from the mgbam, until it starts to feel dry, you will also notice the mgbam darken slightly in colour.
Tear out a small portion from the balls. Pinch the dough, flatten and manoeuvre with your thumb, index and middle finger
into an oval shape.
Repeat until you exhaust the egusi balls
and that people is How to Make Akpuruakpu Mgbam. Also called ahuu, or mkpurusu. I hope the Ndigbo’s approve.
Now, it is time to cook the mgbam and transform all your efforts into an absolutely delicious Ofe Okazi that will make all that stress so worthwhile. See you at the next post. Click HERE