They entertain audiences far and wide with their drums, dance and song of ancient Nigeria.
This time, however, the Nigerian KAPO dancers, drummers and singers, will be in Los Angeles to perform along with Balinese, Greek, Mexican, Egyptian, Tahitian and other folk dancers at the 41st Annual International Folk Dance Festival at the Music Center Pavilion March 5.
So when the troupe arrived in Los Angeles, Akpor Ofebele, the director of the Kunle Akpor Performing Organization of Nigeria (KAPO), decided to show us how his favorite Nigerian breakfast food is prepared and served.
Ofebele wore the typical costume identifying natives of the Midwestern part of Nigeria called Bendel State, while his dance partner, Ronke Shittu, doned the colorful hausa (“maiden”) costume typical of Kano State in Northern Nigeria.
They didn’t need the costumes, of course, but the costumes gave the cooking of a native food a more accurate perspective. And our photograph, too.
The cuisine of Nigeria, explained Shittu, is a simple one based on black-eyed peas and rice, yams and plantains, plus other staple fruits, vegetables, grains and groundnuts of the region. Meat is a rarity to be eaten on special occasions. However, as almost all of the rivers running through Nigeria yield shrimp and prawns in abundant quantities, they are often included in the diet.
For breakfast the typical food is called akara, a sort of fried patty made with uncooked, but pulverized black eyed peas ground into a batter with onion, chili peppers, tomatoes and egg. In ancient Nigeria, the peas were ground, but even Nigerians today will happily settle for using a blender or food processor, instead. Shrimp in fresh or powdered form is added to the batter for extra protein. With the fried patty, a cereal, much like oatmeal, is served to give sustenance until the next meal.
The patties are very nourishing and would make wonderful vegetarian appetizers, breakfast cakes, or an entree with other vegetables or rice. The patties would also make a nutritious sandwich filling, much as you would serve falafel in pita bread with lettuce, tomatoes and hot sauce.
Shrimp powder, black eyed peas and chile pepper can be found at Jamaican or Caribbean food stores.
NIGERIAN BEAN CAKES
1 pound black eyed peas
1/2 onion, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 eggs, beaten
1 to 4 tablespoons chili pepper powder or 2 red chiles, seeded and minced
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
4 medium shrimp, cooked, shelled and chopped or 2 tablespoons shrimp powder
Vegetable oil for deep frying
Soak beans long enough to soften, about 2 hours. Rinse, drain and slip off skins.
Put beans in blender or food processor and process 5 minutes or until smooth paste is formed. Place in bowl with onion, tomato paste and eggs, mixing 2 minutes with whisk, adding enough water to keep batter soft, consistency of cooked oatmeal. Stir in chili powder, salt, thyme, curry powder and shrimp.
Heat oil until hot. Drop batter by tablespoonful into hot oil and fry until golden on 1 side. Turn and fry on other side until golden. Remove with slotted spoon and drain on paper towel. Makes 12 patties.