Nigerian Okpa menu: Facts to know


Caught in the euphoria of enjoying this Nigerian delicacy, very many wrong iterations have been made to this traditional meal without accuracy in knowledge acquisition on the wonderful Nigerian meal. Okpa is a traditional Nigerian food; very popular in the eastern parts of Nigeria with an amazing taste and satisfying appeal. Okpa is the native word for Bambara nut (Vorandzeia subterranean L. thouars) in Igbo land and gurjiya or kwaruru in Hausa language. 

Origin: Okpa arguably is believed to have originated in Enugu State. It has made its way to other parts of Igboland and Nigeria as a whole. Though a popular food symbol of Enugu state, there are places that were originally noted for growing the crop. Ekpoto people in Benue state and Igbos in parts of Enugu state were known to have lots of pioneer farmers for this food crop along with the Igara people in Kogi state. When the crop entered Enugu, it was immediately adopted as a meal by very many communities and prepared in many ways. Some communities perfected the culinary arts of preparing it, making them master chefs of this delicacy. Communities like Enugu Ezike, Obollo, Ovoko-Agu (in Ovoko) and Nsukka to mention a few, became specialists in its preparation. The Ovoko-Agu community however, became enviably known for their Okpa-Ovoko which remained the best prepared okpa till date. The ingredients used in preparation are palm oil, salt, uziza and pepper.

Nutritional benefits: Okpa is regarded as a complete food. Besides being a leguminous crop, it is loaded with nutrients some of which include: calcium, iron, beta carotene, niacin, carbohydrate, protein, fat, fibre, and an antioxidant potential. The nutritional and chemical composition of okpa is also comparable to that of soybean and Cowpea. 

Menu Varieties: While many communities grow conversant with this deliciously satisfying meal, some have varied the preparation methods. One of such community is the Ovoko-Agu community with an average of ten menu varieties, which are:

  • Ekereke okpa: This is the dry ground bambara flour. It is then processed and cooked, wrapped in plantain leaves, nylon and or any other wrapper.
  • Mgbuiyi okpa: This is the dry ground bambara flour, processed and cooked in cans.
  • Owuna okpa: This is the dry ground bambara flour. It is then processed and fried like (bean balls) akara balls. Unlike akara balls, it is always in a disc-like shape.
  • Okpukpuru okpa: This is the dry extract from the ground bambara flour (echara okpa) but usually more coarse. It is then processed and fried in small rolls (the size of popsicles)
  • Apirapi/Usukpata okpa: This is more of a processing method than a variety. It is often regarded as a variety as the seeds are soaked, dehusked and finally ground. It is processed like mgbuiyi and ekereke okpa. It is softer and tastes better than the former duo.
  • Utara okpa: This is the dry ground bambara flour prepared like fufu/semolina without oil. It is eaten with soup (especially ‘draw’ soup).
  • Ikpakpa-akpoko: This is prepared like the mguiyi/ekereke okpa but without oil. It is eaten with special stew.
  • Akere-ite: This is prepared like mgbuiyi but cooked with ite-ahara (two perforated clay pots which the mixture is poured into). The mixture is then alternated between the pots during cooking. Cooking method involves steaming only. Though this variety has gradually faded, it is very satisfying and durable.
  • Eyereye/Aruraru okpa: This is the fried/roasted bambara nuts over dry heat, usually in frying pans/open fireplace.
  • Ikputu okpa: This is newly harvested bambara nuts, cooked (like groundnuts) and enjoyed as such. It is usually the first menu variety of the family.

Nigerian delicacies are no doubt amazing and mouth watering. Okpa which though predominant in the eastern part of Nigeria has gradually spread to other regions. It remains one of the delicacies one ought to try as breakfast, lunch and or dinner. What’s more, it can be enjoyed by every age group, in school and just about anywhere. More still, there are varieties to try out for their numerous health and nutritional benefits. So whenever you find yourself in the eastern part of Nigeria, or in Enugu state, don’t be shy to go down to the master communities and try out the sensational delicacy called okpa. Interestingly, even foreigners relish the menu varieties.

Chizaram D. Ezugwu

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November 9, 2021 9:18 am

I am now curious to try out this menu I must say