Recently, I was in touch with a lovely blogger named Flo who mans an ambitious website called AllNigerianRecipes.com. Aptly named, her website exhaustively catalogues Nigerian cuisine, and I thought she would be a great person to ask about Nigerian childhood favorites. She kindly responded and told me about two dishes, one that was a favorite treat of hers growing up, and another that is standard kid fare in Nigeria.
The first is Coconut Candy, a sticky candy made of shredded coconut and sugar. This recipe calls simply for two ingredients, a coconut and powdered sugar. While I am critical of yeastophobia, I admit that I have my own reservations about coconuts, which are partly founded, since I once tried to open a coconut and, in spite of my best blugeoning, it survived intact. Flo, however, has recorded a lovely video in which she deftly opens a coconut and makes coconut candy:
She gives a few quick whacks and it obediently breaks into large shards, offering up its bright white meat. So I decided to give it another go. While I most certainly didn’t look as adept as Flo wielding my coconut, I actually had very little trouble getting it open this time. My son also found this process very exciting- the pounding and then getting to see what was inside of that tough shell. I also found that while the grating requires some elbow grease, it’s not too terribly difficult. The part that gave me the most trouble was removing the meat from the shell. I wonder if one of the reasons why our coconuts tend to be more difficult to manage is because they are undoubtedly less fresh. My coconut:
In any case, I cooked up some coconut candy, and it came out nice. You basically mix sugar, shredded coconut, and the water from the coconut, and stir until it becomes sticky and caramelizes lightly. As you can imagine, it is basically sweet, sticky shards of coconut. Think the filling of a Mounds bar. While I believe it is typically eaten as such, I can imagine that it would be delicious with ice cream, tucked into a cookie, or dipped in chocolate.
After a little research, I have found that some recipes for this Nigerian treat are more heavily caramelized. One in particular has you caramelize sugar in a frying pan and then add the coconut. At the end, you make a ball of the brown coconut/caramel candy and serve. They look really good!
The second is a product called Indomie, which I believe is very similar to ramen noodles.
Flo followed up her message to me with a link to a poll she did on the subject of Indomie, asking her Facebook friends to offer their favorite way of preparing the noodles. They came up with all sorts of additions: onions, peppers, shrimp, eggs, curry spice, and a Nigerian spiced shish kabob called suya.
It made me think of all the possibilities of ramen noodles, which have got to be the cheapest thing in the entire grocery store. For the price of one pack of gum, you can get yourself 5 packs of ramen noodles. And while I always thought of them as pretty much rock bottom in terms of nutrition, I guess I never really thought of adding fresh meats or vegetables. So with this one, the sky is pretty much the limit.
There is one dish in particular that came to mind when I started thinking about packaged noodles, and that is Coconut Curry. I have long been a fan of Thai coconut curry dishes and I thought that these would work well to make it. I was very pleased with the result, and I think this would be delicious with almost any meat or vegetable. I believe most coconut curry recipes call for fish sauce, but that’s just one too many Asian sauces to stuff into my pantry, so I left it out. Here’s my take on Indomie, coconut curry style:
Instant Noodle Coconut Curry
- 1 package ramen noodles, chicken flavor
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1-2 tbsp Thai chili paste
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 lime
- 1 can coconut milk
- 1/2 onion, sliced thinly
- 1-2 cups of add-ins (sweet potatoes, veggie blend, tofu, shrimp or chicken)
Spoon the cream from the top of the coconut milk into a sauceoan over medium heat. Put in chili paste and oil and stir with a wooden spoon until a paste forms. Continue stirring until the paste separates and browns slightly. Now put in the rest of the ingredients except for the noodles. Add water just to cover and sprinkle lightly with the ramen seasoning. Do not add too much or it will be too salty. If some items need longer cooking time, add accordingly. Simmer until vegetables or meat are cooked through. Add broken ramen noodles and simmer another 5 minutes. Adjust seasoning and allow to cool for at least 3-5 minutes.