Our family has embarked on virtual travels to various countries and regions. To explore these countries and their cultures, we have followed along with the festivals, cooked and eaten traditional foods, learned of traditional handicrafts with hands on exploration, along with many activities to immerse ourselves. Chronicled here are some of these activities.

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Sunday, March 1, 2015

West African Staple Food: Making Fufu at home

Left,  Boy pounding cassava in Benin (Photo credit Dietmar Temps CC); Top Right, Yam fufu being pounded in Ghana (Photo credit Terrie Schweitzer CC);  Bottom Right, Fufu being served with sauce poured over it in Guniea (Photo credit Marta P CC)

Fufu, (or foufou or foofoo) in its many forms is a staple food in many parts of Africa, and certainly throughout West Africa. I read in a memoir that the author knew she was approaching a village by the sound of the pounding.

In West Africa, it's made by boiling a starchy vegetable, either yam, cassava, cocoyam or plaintain (or combination of any of these), then pounding them in a giant wooden mortar with an equally giant wooden pounding stick until it feels like dough. This takes a fair bit of time and effort, and is often a group effort!

Here's a very short video to give you a sense of the work involved!

Pounded fufu in a mortar; Mound of fufu served next to soupPhoto Credit: Right - Flixtey (CC); Left - Londonsista (CC) 

It's typically served as a mound of fufu, either on the side or in the dish with sauce ladled over it. 

Making Fufu at home

Making pounded yam fufu at home

To make fufu, first yam was peeled, cut into large pieces and boiled until soft - approximately 30 minutes. We started by mashing it with a potato masher, then pulled our our fufu stick - I actually bought one about a year ago when in Toronto. A heavy wooden spoon would be comparable. Then the girls and I took turns pounding it. One of us would hold the pot while the other banged away at it. We did it in 2 minute shifts each - for about 15 minutes. Then we decided it was good enough! It did change consistency, but didn't look like what I've seen in photos :)

We also tried making it from a boxed mix. It's a flour like mix you add water to - heat it over medium heat and stir it,  until it changes to a golden color. That's important - the first time we just stirred the mix together and it tasted raw. Probably because it was :) We've made the box mix a few times to go with our West African meals. It's easier to make, the consistency is better and we prefer its taste.

Making fufu from a boxed mix

To eat fufu, you pinch off a piece from the mound. Ball it together with your fingers and make a small indent in it. Then you dip the fufu into the soup or sauce and eat. It can be pretty messy for the inexperienced!

How to eat fufu

Making fufu was fun and hard work at the same time - I'd say fun for the novelty of it, and from how ours looked (not a doughy consistency) we didn't pound it long enough by West African standards! I'm also certain it isn't something we'll do again - luckily, there is boxed mix :)

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  1. That's interesting that you would do it again. You obviously enjoyed the taste of it? It surprises me that eventually it would turn into a dough like consistency. If you didn't have the boxed version, would you consider it worth the work required?

    1. Not with real yams - Elle like the boxed fufu, and since it's such an authentic part of many West African meals, we made it a few times. I'm undecided though as to whether we'll make it again unless for a theme night of sorts. I much prefer bread!

  2. It sounds similar to poi, I wonder how similar it is.

    1. Hmm a little similar in that it has a bland taste and texture.

    2. Hmm a little similar in that it has a bland taste and texture.

  3. We are so lucky to be able to prepare our food so easily. It makes me grateful to think about it.

    1. We really are Phyllis! It's so easy to take for granted, but worth taking the time to recognize how lucky we are.

  4. I'm impressed by your hard work. Imagine how fit the Africans who make it all the time must be! Your sauce looks nice - what is it? It looks like the Thai chicken soup I eat, but I'm sure it's something much more African.

    1. Seriously, their arms must be steel! The sauce was called Egusi soup - I had hoped to include it in our recipes because its fairly common. It's made with ground egusi (a type of melon) seeds and pumpkin leaves (we used spinach). The problem was it tasted so bitter, not one of us could finish it and it ended up mostly in the compost! I wonder if it's because I had bought the package of seeds months earlier and they had gone rancid - I had bought them in Toronto and couldn't source any locally, so no way of comparing.


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