Okpa Enugu and Abacha are the most popular native meals that visitors enjoy in all parts of Igboland, and both are native to Enugu. Both are however native meals patented in Enugu. Many visitors and citizens who live outside the South East region widely copy the recipe. The uniquely branded native Enugu State meals are prepared and served with different garnishings in all the four culturally groups of Enugu, namely Agbaja (Udi and Ezeagu), Ogwu (Aninri, Awgu and Oji River), Nkanu (Nkanu and Nike), and Nsukka. As there are dialectical differences among these clans, so are the recipes for making Abacha a bit different. There may be variations in preparing the abacha but the method for preparing Okpa is however the same everywhere we go.
Well, let us tell you this. If you visit Enugu and fail to sample okpa enugu and abacha meals, note that your trip is not complete! You have to return to try one or both of them! They are really nice meals, as visitors to Enugu testify after tasting one of them.
Okpa is a paste prepared like moin-moin. It comes wrapped in fresh leaves. The seed is either pounded at home (after they are soaked and fermented) or taken to the open market where they are ground into flour for the preparation.
Okpa seed is Bambara nuts. It is from this seed that the delicious paste emerges. Bambara nut has many native names in Nigeria, including Gurjiya or kwaruru in Hausa language.
There are things to watch out for if you want to buy okpa in Enugu. Although desperate housewives make ends meet have now perfected y learning how to make the paste, some of them prefer to wrap them in cellophane paper. Others go further to hide the cellophane wrapping inside the native leaves. Never buy any of these.
The best and healthiest version is the one that comes wrapped only in special leaves as it is cooked.
The best and by the most original okpa is arguably prepared in (Oji River LGA) and by Udi people, with Nsukka coming a distant third. The Achi people have so perfected the brand that they are the only ones that now serve the healthy version (wrapped with leaves). It is a great advantage to people traveling westwards. Travelers going to the Northern parts can buy the Udi Okpa at 9th Mile Corner or make a stopover at Obolo Afor to get the Nsukka version.
This cheap and filling food has now caught up fast and can be found in all parts of Nigeria, hawked by Igbo women who have mastered the simple art of cooking it.
Abacha is by far the most widely enoyed delicacy in Enugu State. It is a basic meal on the family menu. Female children are taught to prepare the meal, although men are also trying their hands at it. In the past, it served as a starter meal in a typical 2-course family dinner. Today, however, the menu is so enriched with garnishing that it has become a standalone one-course meal.
Abacha is made from cassava tubers. It is prepared as flakes before the actual conversion begins to take place. The tubers are harvested, peeled, boiled, and grated into flakes. The flakes gathered into a raffia bag and soaked overnight. They are then washed thoroughly and thereafter dried in the sun.
To make abacha, the flakes are soaked in warm water, emptied into a pan and mixed with the ingredients. All use palm oil, salt, and ukpaka. The Nsukka and agbaja versions (also favoured by Achi people), add potash into the mix. Most visitors however prefer the Awgu version that does not come with the addition. Thus, the standard abacha is the one prepared by people from in the northern part of Awgu, and it is this version that visitors are most likely to find in restaurants and roadside eateries in Enugu. The basic abacha is cassava and served with dried fish. The modern abacha is much richer – through experimentation, it is now served with onions, veggies, and stock fish, making it look appetizing and taste even better.