Isiewu – The spicy, edgy goat head dish for adventurous foodies!

Isiewu is not for the squeamish.  But for those edgy, adventurous foodies that would likely taste or eat anything.

Some are likely to be Anthony Bourdain fans like me and would have mourned the passing of one of the world’s greatest food adventurer.

I am not as fearless but I am still cool and edgy!  Without a doubt, I hate jellied eels, black pudding, cold tongue, to name a few!

Living with my Grandmother

Growing up in Nigeria and  with my grandmother from age 4 years were the best and most exciting of my life!

She died when I was eleven, and I mourned her like my mother. At eleven, I went on to live with my parents, and my boring middle-class life ended that adventure.

Most of what I would write about food here began inception from those years. This is why I say cherish your every memory as you never know which ones would be your ultimate influence.

Buka joints

That was the period in which I was able to taste all the culinary food on offer on the streets of Lagos. No experience can beat this. It made me adventurous when it came to food.   If you have gone anywhere in Africa and did not gone out to savour the street food in the local cafes especially Isiewu, then you have missed out.

In Nigeria, we call them Buka. They are local restaurants with some built of wooden structures that serve the tastiest food on the streets. I love food in my writing and Lara whose story The black widow of Oshogbo in Midnight Hour loves her local food.

Buka Style restaurants

A few restaurants In London do authentic Nigerian dishes and Isiewu tends to be on the menu as it is a favourite.

I have only eaten this tasty dish 3 or 4 times in my life. Each experience has been memorable.

In Nigeria and I believe most of Africa, meat is valued and it is precious. Furthermore, they are not animals pumped full of antibiotics and fed with gunk so that there is plenty to go round. Meat is grass-fed cows herded by the nomadic Fulani herdsmen and sold to local abattoirs.

Goat Head

Goats are reared in villages or farms and wander around eating yam peelings, banana peels, grass and other raw whole food. That is why when an animal is killed, every part of it is consumed. Nothing is wasted. I learnt to eat every part of an animal.  A while back I tried to become a vegetarian but went  back to eating meat.

What I will do in the next few articles will be to look at a particular part of an animal, that is a delicacy in say somewhere like Nigeria.

Today I chose Isiewu. It is cleaned and chopped spicy goat head cooked in palm oil, spices and herbs. Goat meat, which I love to eat, has a strong flavour and is tough meat. All of which ticks my boxes.

Isiewu teases your palate because it dances between savoury, spicy and a tinge of bitter. It is an Igbo dish. The Igbos are from the eastern part of Nigeria, and they are known for cooking healthy meat and fresh vegetable dishes. The author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is proudly Igbo.

Isiewu

My first taste of Isiewu was many, many years ago. I had just finished university and was on the National Youth Service Corps(NYSC). All university graduates in Nigeria must serve for a year before they are released into the job market. Most of the time, they use that year to gain some work experience. I chose to do my service in Kano, the North of Nigeria. It was a great year that was full of many adventurous, including culinary ones.

A lot of Igbos went to settle in the North of Nigeria, and some opened local cafes and restaurant. I had my Isiewu with the local palm wine. It was presented in a small clay pot, garnished with onions and herbs.  I was told to dig in. I did!

Recently, a friend told me she was cooking Isiewu and asked if I would like some. Would you ask a bird if it wants to fly? Bad analogy, but hey oh!  I eagerly agreed.

She cooked it to perfection, and it set my taste buds fluttering. I was all over that dish!

Wherever you are in the world If you happen to go to a Nigerian restaurant post-lockdown, be bold. Ask for Isiewu. Come back to tell me about it afterwards. I will still be here.



Dundun – the Fried yam sold on and off the streets of Lagos- delicious!

When I watch food programs on Netflix like ‘Somebody Feed Phil’ or the late Anthony Bourdain marching through the streets of Asia and tasting all the delicious street foods, I am filled with envy and a strange kind of nostalgia for my Nigerian street food. Especially – dundun(fried yam).

Image by LuvMattaz TV on You Tube

Street Food


It takes me back to a period in my childhood when I lived with my grandmother in Lagos, Nigeria, and before my parents thrust me into a different kind of life. I can visualise the street sellers and hawkers serving dundun to hungry workers who had to face the stress and anxiety of the chaotic Lagos traffic. Or workers that want to snack on something hot and comforting.

Yam


Many countries eat yam, and also many countries do not eat it or know of it. It is an acquired taste as it is quite fibrous and might even be considered tasteless. Yam was at the heart of Chinua Achebe’s ‘Things Fall Apart‘. Back in the olden days in Nigeria, farmers commanded great wealth from growing yam. It was the staple food of the rich and the poor valued it.

Yam sold at a London High Street

I love the real pounded yam made by pounding cooked yam in a mortar with a pestle. The powdered version sold in a lot of African food shops in the west is a poor relative made up of a mix of potato flour and other varieties.


Ebute Metta restaurant on Plumstead High Street in London promises you yam pounded in mortar and pestle if you gave them an hour’s advance notice. I am yet to try that but promise you their food is delicious. I had okra soup and amala and cried with joy as I ate it.

Two ways to make Dun Dun


Back to dun dun. It is fried in two ways that I know of – the raw yam is cut into chunks or sliced and fried in deep oil, or the yam is parboiled and then fried. You add a bit of salt to taste before frying. I prefer the parboiled one because it is moist on the inside and crusty on the outside. That is two different flavours dancing on your tongue.

Dundun is delicious with fried stew and your choice of beef, chicken fish or stockfish.

Restaurant or Streetfood

The last dundun I ate was out of a street kiosk at Woolwich market, London. It was called “Joy of the Lord Remain Forever”. I would call the young cook an hour in advance and ask for my special – Fried yam, fish and fried stew all for the excellent price of £7! To my thinking, street markets serve tastier deals than restaurants.

I have tried to make dundun but do not think it is as good as what I have tasted on the streets. If you’re adventurous then when next you hit a Nigerian or African restaurant ask for dundun and fried stew. Better still, when you’re next in London, you might want to visit that street kiosk or got to Ebute Metta restaurant.

Ciao!