Looking at the ‘cubes’ and manufactured spices used in cooking today, one would sometimes wonder whether the meals of our mothers and grandmothers were palatable. The answer to this is a resounding yes because our mothers had local spices and condiments which were healthier and even cheaper than those used today. Before the popularity of the modern day ‘cubes’ one local condiment used was the dawadawa. Dawadawa has almost faded into extinction and if one surveys the average adolescent; he or she would most likely not have an idea what it is or how it’s used.
The original dawadawa is prepared from a plant called the locust bean which is actually a tree. The fruit from this tree is eaten by some people and the seeds are what are used to prepare dawadawa. This is made into sticky black balls which have a strong odor. Dawadawa is a fermented product which is rich in vitamins, energy and proteins. It is used as a seasoning and for its users is essential in soups.
To produce dawadawa, the seeds of the locust bean tree are boiled, pounded, cleaned, and rendered down into a black paste, which is then put aside to ferment. After two or three days the odorous paste is pressed into cakes or balls. The product is dawadawa and it has a shelf life of up to a year if kept in traditional earthenware pots.
Dawadawa is a concentrated food containing a good balance of protein, fat, vitamins and minerals. Dawadawa is rich in proteins including lysine an amino acid but is deficient in two other critical amino acids, methionine and tryptophan. It also contains about 17 percent of a semisolid fat and has a group of vitamins, particularly vitamin B2. This makes dawadawa a nutritional powerhouse. Dawadawa can also be produced using soybean.
Dawadawa can be used to enhance or intensify meatiness in soups, sauces and other prepared dishes. It is considered the most important traditional food condiment in the entire West/Central African Savanna region. Its use and popularity is being negatively affected by imported and locally produced flavor boosters and condiments.
Those familiar with dawadawa instantly recognizes an unmistakable unique aroma. This aroma which is sometimes described as ammoniacal or pungent mellows when dawadawa is used in cooking. As we visit the market this week lets seek out dawadawa and give it a try.