Abacha and Okpa are two famous native meals in Enugu that residents and visitors to the Coal City State not only enjoy but have also widely copied.. By the way, Enugu comprises four culturally distinct groups including Agbaja (Udi and Ezeagu), Ogwu (Aninri, Awgu and Oji River), Nkanu (Nkanu and Nike), and Nsukka. Although there are dialectical differences among the clans, there are common words that are used across, the most famous being “wa” for “no.
The two distinct and famous meals which are native to Enugu people are “Okpa,” and “abacha.” If you have visited Enugu before and did not taste any of these two delicacies, know that your trip is not complete! You will have to return to try one or both of them! They are really nice meals, as testified by visitors who have tasted any of them.
Okpa is a paste that is prepared like moin-moin and comes wrapped in fresh leaves. The paste can be pounded at home (when the seeds are soaked and fermented) or simply taken to the open market to be ground into flour before its preparation.
Okpa is actually the name of the seed (Bambara nuts) from which this delicious paste is made. The Bambara nut is called Gurjiya or kwaruru in Hausa language.
There are things you should watch out for if you want to buy okpa in Enugu. Desperate housewives who want to make ends meet have now perfected the art of cooking okpa but some of them prefer to wrap them in cellophane paper. Others hide the cellophane wrapping behind the native leaves. The best and healthiest version is the one that comes wrapped only in leaves as it is cooked.
The best and by the most original okpa is made by Achi (Oji River) and Udi people. Travelers going to the Northern parts of Nigeria can buy the Udi Okpa at 9th Mile Corner while those travelling to the Western parts will buy them at Oji River along the highway. 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 used delicacy native to Enugu State. It is a basic meal that every child born in the Igbo hinterland of Enugu finds on the family menu. Every female child is taught to prepare the meal, as they are taught to prepare other meals. In times past, it was a starter meal in the 2-course family dinner. Today, however, the menu is so enriched that it now comes as a standalone one-course meal for the family.
Abacha is made from cassava tubers. The tubers are boiled, sliced using a grater and soaked overnight, before being washed thoroughly and thereafter dried in the sun. To make abacha, the flakes are passed through warm water. It is emptied into a pan and mixed with palm oil, salt, ukpaka. In Nsukka, agbaja (Udi and Ezeagu), Achi, and most parts of Nkanu, abacha is mixed with potash, which makes it not acceptable to most people who may not have grown up with the taste. The best abacha is produced 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.