Okpa, also known as Lion’s food or the King’s meal, is a traditional Nigerian delicacy widely enjoyed nationwide. It is a snack that is popularly sold on the streets and markets, and is a great source of protein for many Nigerians. It is called the Lion’s food or King’s meal because, in south-eastern Nigeria, it is one of the many foods that get served to Kings and important guests at occasions. In this article, we are going to explore how to prepare Okpa.
Okpa is a delicacy that almost every tribe in the south-east, and now almost Nigeria as a whole, enjoys. Enthralled by the amazing taste of this Nigerian delicacy, a lot of wrong assumptions have been made about where it originated from, how it’s prepared, the nutritional value, just to mention a few. Okpa is made from a special kind of bean called Bambara Nuts, a crop that is widely grown in West and Southern Africa.
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The Origin of Okpa
In south-eastern Nigeria, the origin of Okpa has been argued so many times. Some say it originated from Enugu, some say it’s a food peculiar to Anambra people, while some say it’s simply an Igbo delicacy. Most people refer to it as a food for all because other tribes can eat it and enjoy it, especially with pap.
Okpa is common to the people of Enugu. Still, the Ekpoto people of Benue state and the Igara people of Kogi state are known to be the pioneer farmers of the Bambara nuts in Nigeria (used in preparing Okpa). When the people of Enugu got hold of this crop, they made various dishes out of it, but the people of Nsukka were one of the few communities in Enugu that mastered the culinary arts of making this food. Other communities like Enugu-Ezike, Ovoko-Agu, and Obollo in Enugu also make what has been said to be the best-prepared Okpa in the Southeast.
How To Prepare Okpa: A Detailed Guide and Ingredients Needed to Preparing Okpa
Many non-Igbos had tried severally to replicate the traditional Igbo Okpa, but the outcome could have been better. A lot still try till today, but has yet to get the unique taste of Okpa. Why? Because most of them ruin the meal with excess flavor, when in fact, the secret to a delicious Okpa lies in the Bambara Nuts.
Before making the Okpa, you will need the following ingredients:
- Bambara Nuts: This is the key ingredient to making Okpa. It’s usually available in nuts or beans, and you just have to grind it into fine flour.
- Palm Oil: The popping yellow color of Okpa is as a result of the palm oil. Besides, it helps to improve the taste.
- Okpa wraps: Traditionally, the banana or Uma leaves are used to wrap Okpa. But today, most people use aluminum foil cups, and transparent plastic bags. Some even use bowls.
- Fresh pepper: This adds a spicy, sharp taste and flavor to the meal.
- Seasoning Stock cubes: Simply put, this will improve flavor.
- Salt to taste
If you are using the banana or Uma leaves, you will have to prepare the leaves before you start making your Okpa. Wash the leaves in plenty of salt water. Also, note that the leaves have to be wilted, you can not wrap Okpa using fresh banana leaves.
For a dozen medium wrap of Okpa, you will need the above-mentioned ingredients in the following quantity:
- 500g of Okpa flour (Bambara flour)
- 100ml of palm oil
- Fresh habanero pepper(blended)
- 3-4 seasoning cubes
- 2 liters of lukewarm water
How To Prepare Okpa: Cooking Procedure in 9 Easy Steps
Step 1: Sieve the Okpa flour into a large enough bowl. Salt and the seasoning cubes that have been crushed should be added. Mix thoroughly.
Step 2: Pour in the palm oil. Mix the palm oil and flour thoroughly until the palm oil is evenly distributed throughout the flour. When finished, you should have a nice, even yellow colour.
Step 3: Fill a large pot halfway with water and place it on the stove to boil.
Step 4: Begin by mixing the Okpa flour with the lukewarm water until there are no lumps. To get the smoothest mixture, use a blender. But note that there will be a lot of cleaning to do later.
Step 5: Add the blended habanero pepper. Check the salt level and add more if necessary. It’s ready to be scooped into the wrappers.
Step 6: The water in the pot should be boiling at this point. If not, wait until it begins to boil and then proceed to the following step after adding some extra leaves or plastic bags. The base for the Okpa wraps is made up of these wrappers and plastic bags.
Step 7: Stir the Okpa mixture thoroughly before scooping it into the leaf/plastic bag. Tie the ends of the strings tightly and place the wrapped Okpa in the pot of boiling water. It is vital that the Okpa is completely submerged in hot water.
Step 8: More leaves or plastic bags can be used to cover the wraps. Cook on medium to high heat with the lid on.
Step 9: Check it after at least an hour of cooking. When the Okpa is solid throughout, it is done.
Okpa is best enjoyed with pap for breakfast. Some people take it with Garri, coke, or even Oatmeal.
Nutritional Value Of Okpa
One of the significant benefits of Okpa is its nutritional content. Bambara beans, which are the primary ingredient in Okpa, are high in protein, fibre, and essential minerals such as iron, calcium, and potassium. This makes it an ideal snack for vegetarians and those who are conscious about their health. Some of those nutritional values include:
- High protein content: Okpa is an excellent source of plant-based protein, containing up to 25% protein by weight.
- Rich in fibre: Okpa is rich in dietary fibre, which is essential for proper digestion and gut health.
- Low in fat: Okpa is a low-fat snack that provides satiety without adding excessive calories.
- Rich in vitamins and minerals: Okpa is a good source of several essential minerals and vitamins such as folate, thiamine, magnesium, and iron.
- Gluten-free: Okpa is gluten-free, making it a good option for people with gluten intolerance or celiac disease.
- Low glycemic index: Okpa has a low glycemic index, which means it doesn’t cause significant spikes in blood sugar levels.
Okpa is healthy for the body and essential for its correct operation because of its countless and outstanding health advantages. A few of the health benefits of Okpa are as follows:
- It prevents bone disease
- It helps to prevent malnutrition
- It aids in boosting blood levels
- It prevents insomnia
- It contains antioxidants that help to prevent cancer
Final Thought On How to Prepare Okpa
Okpa is a delicious, nutritious, and affordable Nigerian delicacy that is loved by many. It is a snack that can be easily prepared at home and can be enjoyed at any time of the day. If you’re ever in Nigeria, be sure to try out this hearty and delicious snack.