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!
GeneMay 24, 2018 at 8:19 am
I love how something that was not originally fancy can become a sophisticated dish today.
AdenikeNovember 18, 2019 at 10:59 am
So explanatory. Am in love with those wooden plates of yours.
LoisDecember 1, 2019 at 7:27 pm
Thank you so much Adenike! I am glad you enjoyed it!
Jenni LeBaronMay 24, 2018 at 11:39 am
I’ve never tried this before but it looks so rich and hearty! I’d love to try making it.
ApurvaMay 24, 2018 at 3:36 pm
Just followed your IG post to here and I’m thoroughly impressed with the varied ingredient list. I also know that this would hit all the checkmarks for my taste buds. Where do you buy dried smoked fish and Iru? I have dried shrimp…
Lois. OMay 24, 2018 at 4:41 pm
Hey Apurva, it depends on where you live, but smoked fish and iru are always found at African stores. Another name for Iru that you might ask of is Dawadawa. If you are in the US, you might be able to find some smoked fish at regular grocery stores in the deli section.
Ben MyhreMay 25, 2018 at 7:53 am
Alright… this looks interesting. You are doing good things with this blog.
Lois. OMay 25, 2018 at 9:34 am
Ashley @ Big Flavors from a Tiny KitchenMay 26, 2018 at 1:25 pm
This stew looks so warm and comforting! Love the history you’ve given with it, and how the dish has evolved.
Amuche Cordelia AniJuly 27, 2019 at 5:18 am
Sri MallyaMay 26, 2018 at 4:29 pm
This is something new to me. Looks so delicious and interesting!
Dominique | Perchance to CookMay 26, 2018 at 5:28 pm
I have never cooked with bonnet peppers or iru before, so I am incredibly intrigued. Your photos have me drooling and wanting to try this stew so badly! YUM
Anne MurphyMay 26, 2018 at 10:13 pm
I love the story! Some of the best recipes started as everyday dishes, and were just soooo good… I will have to look for a source locally for some of your ingredients, I recently moved and have no idea where to find anything. But you have me curious about the flavors!
Sam | Ahead of ThymeMay 27, 2018 at 11:17 am
I have never heard of this dish but it looks amazing! Love how easy the recipe is too!
Jessica (Swanky Recipes)May 27, 2018 at 6:30 pm
It’s meals like this that remind me of cooking in the kitchen on Sunday afternoon with my family. I miss 3 or 4 of us getting together and prepping our meals out for the week while making a savory dish for dinner. I’ll share this recipe with my mom next time she’s in town!
AndreaMay 28, 2018 at 5:26 am
Ohh I’ve never heard of this rice and I’m so intrigued to try it now! Love this comforting meal, looks so good and tasty.
Amy NashMay 28, 2018 at 10:21 am
This sounds like such a wonderful, smoky, flavorful dish with such deep, rich flavors! And your photos are just gorgeous!
NicoleMay 28, 2018 at 1:31 pm
Pure gorgeous hunny! These photos are great and made me immediately hungry!
Jessica PinneyMay 29, 2018 at 12:04 am
What a beautiful stew! I’m not used to cooking with goat meat, but this recipe is so beautiful that I’m going to have try it!
EstherMay 29, 2018 at 9:45 am
This has definitely always been my best Nigerian food and nothing is yet to surpass this adventurous dish. I recall the times my eyes watered while eating this because of the peppers, but I couldn’t just stop eating.
Lois. OMay 29, 2018 at 3:55 pm
Wow Esther! Thats some real passion you have for Ofada.
OnyiiMay 29, 2018 at 12:25 pm
I will try it again with red bell pepper
I have always used green
I actually thought locust beans known as it I in the western part of Nigeria was different from dawadawa in the processing
I have the two and their flavor seem quite different ….
Can we use other local ingredients found in the Eastern Nigeria calles ‘ogiri’ ?Keep up the good work
Lois. OJune 1, 2018 at 8:29 pm
They might have slightly different flavors because they are processed differently, but they are essentially the same thing. I have not used Ogiri in ofada before, but I am sure that will work too. I think ogiri may have a stronger smell than the yoruba and housa version, but it is certainly worth trying.
AmyJune 14, 2018 at 4:51 pm
my hubby keeps asking me to make this but I have trouble finding the right rice for it. What is another name for it please? Struggling to find t outside of Africa lol
Lois. OJune 20, 2018 at 11:03 pm
If you live in the US, I think the closest substitute for this rice would be the Carolina gold brown rice. Another close substitute may be medium grain brown rice, but it is not an exact sub. I hope this helps.
NnekaOctober 5, 2018 at 3:42 am
You did not mention ponmo and grinded iru to bring out the pungent flavour and make it real local stew.
LoisOctober 20, 2018 at 2:07 pm
Hey Nneka, you are right! You could certainly add pomo and iru for a stronger flavor.
ChinenyeNovember 3, 2018 at 10:08 am
Thanks for sharing your knowledge and gift with us. I’m definitely going to try this recipe…….
ChinenyeNovember 3, 2018 at 10:10 am
Thanks for sharing your knowledge and gift with us. I’m definitely going to try this recipe….
LoisNovember 7, 2018 at 1:07 pm
Thanks for you kind comments Chineye!