This ofada stew/ofada sauce recipe features a stew that originates from the Western part of Nigeria and is commonly eaten with a locally grown rice called ofada rice. The story of Ofada rice and stew is one that somewhat inspires me. It is actually a culinary example of a grass to grace/ cinderella story; one that is similar to the story of many local and indigenous Nigerian foods, traditions and even languages. I love how ofada stew has since evolved to becoming a cherished dish in Nigeria, so before I talk about how to make ofada stew, I’d love to share how this native delicacy evolved from being the overlooked native food to being the choice of even the most elite Nigerian celebrations.
Once upon a time Ofada rice and stew was not a posh dish. It was somewhat looked down upon, and those who enjoyed it may have been looked at as unexposed, and unrefined. The more common stew was made with refined vegetable oils and tomatoes (delicious for what it is), and has a milder flavor than ofada stew. Ofada stew is one of those dishes that packs a major punch as it is flavored with smoked died shrimp, and fermented locust beans, locally called iru. To the “snobby” nose, the smell of Iru and smoked dried shrimp cooking in a stew may have been somewhat off putting, as such it was not appealing to many. When people had the option to display your sophisticated pallet, they often chose westernized dishes that lacked the pungency and grit of local Nigerian flavors, and unfortunately, Ofada rice and stew was one of those looked down on.
Fast forward a couple of years, the movement to embrace made in Nigeria products and culture began to blossom and the appreciation and love for our local delicacies was revived. Ofada stew the once “ugly” sister to the common tomato stew, started to make appearances at parties and weddings. Ofada became the topic of everyone’s food gist, and it continued to grow in popularity till it made its way to the menu of fancy restaurants. Nowadays, you can even find Ofada listed in many little children’s essay assignments as their favorite food. That is the mini story of Ofada stew, (well, according to my recollection).
Ofada stew has a twin sister dish in another local stew natively called ‘ayamase’ (alternatively nicknamed ‘designer stew’ in Nigeria). In fact, both stews are sometimes used interchangeably, however there is a slight technical difference between them: ofada stew is made with red peppers while ayamase is made with the green variety. Ofada stew got its name originally from ofada rice, the local starch with which it is most closely paired. Ofada rice is a blend of rice unique to West Africa, which due to its unpolished nature, retains a lot of the rice bran on the grains (because of its difficulty to mill, earning the nomenclature of partly milled rice). This makes ofada rice tougher to cook but far more nutritious, because the presence of the nutrient bearing hull retains a lot of the naturally occurring fiber, manganese, magnesium and selenium that is removed from the more processed white rice.
Please refer to my braising technique, for the correct way to braise the goat meat used in this recipe. While ofada sauce/stew is usually eaten with ofada rice, it also goes great with white rice, brown rice and yam.
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How to Make Ofada Stew (Nigerian Ofada Sauce recipe)
- 7 large bell peppers
- 3 scotch bonnet peppers
- 4 large red onions
- 2 lbs braised goat meat (braised with 1 red onion, 1 scotch bonnet pepper, 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp bouillon)
- 80 grams cleaned smoked dried fish (about 0.17lbs)
- 20 grams smoked dried shrimp about (0.04 lbs)
- ½ cup palm oil
- 2 tsps bouillon
- salt to taste
- 1 tbsp Iru (fermented locust beans) (optional)
- Cut the peppers, and 2 red onion into small chunks, and blend roughly
- Boil the blended peppers on medium high heat till it reduces to a paste
- While the peppers are reducing, slice 2 red onions and set aside
- In separate pot, saute the sliced red onions in palm oil on medium heat til the onions turn slightly brown.
- Add in the cleaned smoked dried fish, the shrimp and continue to cook for another 10 minutes.
- Add in the reduced pepper paste, turn the heat down to low-medium, and continue cooking for 10 minutes. Add in the braised goat meat and the braising liquid and continue cooking for 15 minutes.
- After 15 minutes of cooking, add in the iru and bouillon, stir, and continue cooking until the stew separates from the oil (this could take about 10 minutes).
- Serve with boiled ofada rice or white rice
Now that you know how to make ofada stew properly, I hope you enjoy the spicy yet amazing flavors this delicacy assaults your taste buds with! You can also officially claim bragging rights and Nigerian street cred for being able to reproduce what has become one of our most delicious indigenous dishes! Let me know what you think of this ofada stew recipe in the comments below and don’t forget to rate!