It is many things: comfort food, desert, main dish, party meal, Sunday lunch, a bar treat on a Friday night. Nkwobi is one of the most recognizable and versatile delicacies in Igboland. A delicious, spicy cow foot dish best paired with palm wine or chilled beer, it is a popular attraction in many bars and restaurants with indigenous-themed menus.
It is typically cooked with tiny pieces of cow foot, leaves of utazi, edible potash, crayfish, stockfish, scotch bonnet, ehu seeds, palm oil, ugba, and onions.
One starts by boiling the cow leg till it becomes soft and dry. It is advised to use pressure cooker as this process alone could take up to three hours. In a different pot or bowl, one mixes potash with water till it completely becomes liquid. After this, the liquid potash is mixed with palm oil till it forms a yellow-ish or bright-orange paste. You then add Cameroon pepper, calabash nutmeg, dry pepper, seasoning, crayfish, and a sprinkle of salt to the paste. After mixing all of this together, washed ugba is then added to the paste.
At this point, the boiled cow leg is poured into the same pot as the paste and mixed till the meat is entirely coated with the paste. One then puts everything back on fire for five minutes. Following this process, utazi is added sparingly.
Just before serving, the meat is garnished with large rings of onions. The meal is often served in shallow wooden bowl and eaten with fingers or forks.
Beyond the delicious taste and camera-ready appearance of nkwobi, it has certain health benefits. Cow feet have been noted to contain gelatin, which is then converted to collagen; collagen improves digestion and gut health while acting as protective covering for delicate organs in the body and enhancing skin appearance by replacing and restoring dead skin cells. Nkwobi also contains iron, which facilitates the formation of hemoglobin, which transports oxygen to various parts of the body.
Though it originates from Igboland, nkwobi’s popularity has extended beyond the Southeastern part of the country. It is served everywhere else in restaurants owned by Igbo people, appearing in restaurant menus from Toronto to London.
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.