For people in Enugu State, few foods bear the popular imprimatur of abacha. Commonly but erroneously called “African salad,” abacha is made from dried cassava flakes and garnished with ugba (fermented oil bean) and fresh vegetable and fish or ponmo, thick cow skin.
While it is made all over Igboland, Enugu abacha remains the standard. For Enugu people, it is a mark of hospitality, a representation of tradition passed on across generations.
Its making is simple. Either akanwu (potash) or ngu (palmfruit ash) is dissolved in water and stirred with palm oil until it becomes a yellowish paste, which may be heated, and pepper, crayfish, seasoning, and onions are added. The ugba, which must have been rinsed with warm water, is added, as is the abacha, which must have been soaked in water until softening. Garden egg leaves and onions are chopped or sliced and added.
Wet slices of abacha, before the preparation, could be eaten with groundnuts or coconut.
Abacha has been regarded as having health benefits, including bone protection and blood circulation. It could be eaten as a dessert or main course, and at every event—weddings, parties, life celebrations, burials—it is often present.
Otosirieze Obi-Young is a writer, editor, journalist, and curator. He is Editor of Folio Nigeria, where he profiles innovators and facilitators in culture, art, photography, business, activism, and health. He has vast experience working in literature. He has sat on the judging panels of The Gerald Kraak Prize and of The Morland Writing Scholarship. He is an editor at 14, Nigeria's first queer art collective, and Curator at The Art Naija Series, a sequence of e-anthologies exploring different aspects of Nigerianness. For three years, Nov. 2016 to Apr. 2020, he led the transformation of the literary blog Brittle Paper into a continental powerhouse, ideating and administering The Brittle Paper Awards, the first by an African publication. His work in queer advocacy has been profiled in Literary Hub. In 2019, he won The Future Awards Africa Prize for Literature. In 2020, he was named among "The 100 Most Influential Young Nigerians." He completed a collection of short stories in 2016 and his novel in 2020. Find him on otosirieze.com or on Twitter & Insta: @otosirieze.