Perhaps the most dynamic food in Nigerian kitchens, yam appears on dinner plates in various forms: boiled, pounded, fried, flour-coated, blended, baked, roasted. One of these variants is the asaro—the Yoruba yam porridge.
Fondly referred to as “asaro elepo rede rede,” which loosely translates to “lovely red-oil yam porridge,” the food has enjoyed even cultural references by legendary artists like Orlando Owoh. The sweet delicacy bears some similarity to the Hungarian goulash and mashed sweet potatoes.
The preparation typically begins with heating palm oil in a pot and adding sliced onions and locust beans. After about two minutes, one adds salt, blended paper, and bouillon cube, according to taste.
The white yam slices, which must have been parboiled with salt for about eight minutes, are poured into the sauce. If one is feeling a bit adventurous, they could add shredded beef, ponmo, smoked fish, crayfish, pumpkin leaves, and parsley to the mix, and stir thoroughly. These are left to cook for about 15 minutes, after which the yam is expected to soften.
The next part could go in two different ways depending on the tastes of the person doing the cooking: you mash only half of the softened yams or mash all of them. You leave it on fire for another five minutes. Then the food is ready.
When properly done, asaro is a thick orange or yellow-ish mash served with stew and meat, fish, or plantain.
Kanyinsola Olorunnisola is a journalist, social critic and literary enthusiast. He is the recepient of the 2017 Fisayo Soyombo National Essay Prize, the 2020 Speculative Literary Foundation’s Diverse Writers Grant and the 2020 K&L Prize for African Literature. He is the founder of SprinNG, a platform dedicated to the development of young African writers.