Fufu is a staple food of West and Central Africa. It is made by boiling starchy vegetables like cassava, yams or plantains and then pounding them into a dough-like consistency. Fufu is eaten by taking a small ball of it in ones fingers and then dipping into an accompanying soup or sauce. In the French-speaking regions of Cameroon, fufu is sometimes called couscous (couscous de Cameroun), not to be confused with the North African dish couscous.
Sub-Saharan African fufu
A similar staple in Sub-Saharan Africa is ugali, which is usually made from maize flour (masa) and is eaten in the eastern African Great Lakes region and Southern Africa. The name ugali is used to refer to the dish in Kenya and Tanzania. Closely related staples are called nshima in Zambia, nsima in Malawi, sadza in Zimbabwe, pap in South Africa, posho in Uganda, luku, fufu, nshima, moteke, semoule and bugari in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and phaletshe in Botswana.
In Nigeria and Ghana, fufu is white and sticky (if plantain is not mixed with the cassava when pounding). The traditional method of eating fufu is to scoop some of the fufu in ones right hand and roll it into an easily ingestible ball. The ball is then dipped in soup and swallowed whole. Chewing the ball of fufu is traditionally discouraged.
Methods of Preparation
Pieces of boiled cassava or other tubers are pounded together in a giant wooded mortar using a wooden pestle. In between blows from the pestle, the mixture is turned by hand and water gradually added till it becomes slurry and sticky. The mixture is then formed into a ball or a rounded slab and served.
In the Caribbean and the nations with populations of West African origin, such as Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Puerto Rico, plantains or yams are mashed and then other ingredients are added. In the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, the dish is described as mangú and mofongo, respectively. The difference between West African fufu and Caribbean “fufu” is noted in both the texture and the flavourings, Caribbean fufu and mofongo being less of a dough-like and more of a firm consistency. Another difference can be seen in mofongo, unlike Caribbean fufu and West African fufu the Puerto Rican mofongo is fried then mashed with broth, olive oil, and stuffed with meat (traditional chicharrón), vegetables, or seafood.
The vegetable or source of fufu in the anglo Caribbean is not fried first. Plantain is not used as much, as it is used in so many dishes. Fufu is usually part of or added to a soupy sauce or on the side with a soupy dish.
In Barbados its called Cou Cou and uses cornmeal or, less commonly, breadfruit instead, like several other English Caribbean island.In Haiti it is called Tum Tum. It is mostly made of breadfruit but can be made of plantain or yams. Also it is usually served with an okra based stew or soup.
Origin of Fufu
Fufu originated from Ghana, where it is pronounced “fufuo”. The word fufu comes from the Twi language. It is eaten with light (tomato) soup, palm nut soup, groundnut (peanut) soup (called nkatikwan in Twi), abenkwan (palm nut) soup or other types of soups made with a variety of vegetables and other ingredients, such as nkontomire (cocoyam leaves). Soups are often made with different kinds of meat and fish, fresh or smoked.
Fufus prevalence in the West African subregion has been noted in literature produced by authors from that area. It is mentioned in Chinua Achebes “Things Fall Apart“, for example.
West African Mashed Yams
- 1 kg white yams
- 2 tablespoons butter
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Place the unpeeled yams in a large pot, cover with cold water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil for 15 to 30 minutes, or until the yams are cooked through and tender. Drain and let cool somewhat.
- Peel the yams, chop them into large pieces and place them into a large bowl with the butter, salt and pepper. Mash with a potato masher until very smooth. Alternatively, put the yams through a potato ricer and then mix with the butter, salt and pepper.
- Place the fufu into a large serving bowl. Wet your hands with water, form into a large ball and serve.
Cooks Notes & Variations
Cuban Fufu: use all plantains and mix in some pieces of roast pork or pork cracklings. Add a quick squeeze of lime juice if you like.
Substitute cassava root (yuca) for the yams.
Use half yams and half plantains if you like. Simply boil the plantains unpeeled along with the yams. Then peel and mash along with the yams.
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