One of the most recognizable stews in the Yoruba cuisine, efo riro is a delicacy that is always welcome on every plate. Made from leafy greens, it is a potpourri of diverse ingredients that make for the most sophisticated of traditional dishes. Though its specific culinary character is determined by what is included in the meal, efo riro is always dynamic, a considerable advantage over its siblings such as egusi and ewedu.
When made well, eating efo riro is a stimulating affair: it has a rich tastiness that excites the tongue and a greasiness that manifests as delicious drips from the corners of your mouth.
To make efo riro, one needs vegetables: ugwu, amaranth or spinach. These vegetables would be the base upon which everything else is made. Now, the other ingredients could include bell peppers, scotch bonnet, salt, onions, bouillon cubes, palm oil, locust beans, ponmo, cray fish, stock fish, beef, turkey, catfish, tripe, and cow leg.
The preparation process depends on what meats or fish one decides to cook the efo with. But for most meats and fish, one has to cook them first with onions, salt and cubes till they are just soft enough to be eaten on their own. Then, in a different pot, heat up some palm oil and add diced onions. Fry the peppers till there is no more water. After this process, which takes roughly fifteen minutes, come the locust beans and crayfish. At this point, one stirs thoroughly to ensure all the ingredients blend well together. The cooked meat and/or fish then join the mix, all awaiting the vegetables.
The vegetables, thoroughly washed preferably with hot water, are added to the spicy mix, followed by another thorough stir. The heat has to be turned off at this moment and the pot left alone, with the lid closed. For five minutes, the residual heat simmers the rest of the food and does the remaining work of making the food table-ready.
When the food is ready, efo riro is a mouth-watering display of oily, peppered greens drowned in assorted meats and fish that look – and promise to taste – irresistible and delicious. The stew can be paid with an extensive range of foods like eba, amala, fufu, asaro, rice, pounded yam, semo, boiled plantain, and so many other choices.
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.