5 Delicious Nigerian Swallows To Eat With Your Soup

If you’re not Nigerian, you may be asking: what the heck is Nigerian swallow? Surely, you’re not talking about the bird! Hold on to your hats. No. The popular term “swallow” refers to the starchy, dough-like accompaniment to many traditional soups and stews. It is made from a variety of ingredients, ranging from yam to cassava to plantain to corn to rice. As you can imagine, it is called “swallow” because you are meant to pinch a morsel of it, dip it in your stew or soup and well…swallow it. 

The traditional way of eating swallow is with a clean hand, but we modern folks tend to use forks. Eating it with your hand all take some getting used to if you’re not familiar with this style. It’s an art to be honest – the rolling of the swallow between your fingers, making a well to scoop the soup into, bringing it from plate to mouth without it dripping down your arm. You get the idea.

In this post, I will share 5 delicious swallows that you can make today. This is by no means an exhaustive list as there are still so many to try, but I hope this provides a good starting point for you! How many of these have you tried?

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1. Amala

We will be talking specifically about Amala Iyan which is made using yam flour. It is most commonly eaten amongst the Yoruba is western Nigeria. It is made by combining yam flour and water, and cooking until you have a thick, smooth, dough-like consistency. When cooked, amala turns a dark brown colour. The taste is very earthy. Although I didn’t enjoy it as a kid, I have since grown to love it. 

Serve with: efo riro, ewedu or gbegiri. 

2. Eba

Also referred to as garri, this swallow is made from the aforementioned garri – dried, grated and fermented cassava. It has a coarse texture and is made simply by combining the garri with hot water until you have a soft dough-like consistency. 

3. Plantain Fufu

As you can gather from the name, this swallow is made using plantain. You can indeed use plantain flour, but you can also make it fresh by blending green unripe plantain with water then cooking on low heat until you have a soft dough. This is usually considered a low-carb option for those who want to enjoy swallow but are unable to consume high amounts of carbohydrates.

Serve with: egusi, efo riro, garden egg stew and other traditional soups.

4. Pounded Yam

This one is my favourite! Fresh yam pounded to a sticky, soft dough. The stuff of dreams. The mild taste makes it the perfect canvas for a variety of stews and soups. If there’s only one swallow you try on this list, it should be this one. The traditional way of pounding yam is in a giant mortar and pestle. These days, we use food processors to get the job done.

Eat with: egusi, efo riro, ofe nsala and other traditional soups.

5. Cassava Fufu / Akpu

Made from the fermented paste of blended cassava. After blending, the paste is left to ferment for 5-7 days in order to eliminate the toxic compounds that are naturally found in uncooked cassava. It has a strong smell and a stretchy texture.

Serve with: egusi, efo riro, ogbono and other traditional soups.

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