The Northerner’s Pride – Tuo Zaafi

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Have you ever wondered how the inhabitants of the northern part of Ghana, west Africa always have too much energy to spare? This article is here to quench that curiosity.

As I remember in my primary school days, I was made to believe without proof that food is anything solid or liquid, that when taken into the body provides energy. Over the years, examining northerners, I have come to realise the truth in this statement.

Allow me to introduce you to the meal Northerners take pride in, the healthy meal with vegetables that still leaves you craving for more, Tuo Zaafi.

Tuo Zaafi is a Northern Ghanaian dish made by cooking a combination of maize or millet flour, water herbs, and meat, as these are the primary food products of the region.

In the Hausa language, Tuo means stirred, and Zaafi means hot. Sticky, starchy, and full of carbohydrates, Tuo Zaafi is traditionally served with okra soup. Tuo Zaafi consists of 3 separate dishes, which are combined for the final dish – the meat stew, the ayoyo sauce, and the Tuo Zaafi itself.

This meal is similar to banku, although it is quite soft and less sticky, and is made by cooking the corn dough and adding a little cassava.

One may ask, what is so special about this meal, that sets it apart from other foods, making it popular?
What sets Tuo Zaafi apart and makes it a popular meal across the country are the nutritious and rare herbs used in making the accompanying soup, including the dawadawa and ayoyo leaves.

The leaves used for the soup is called,, “Ayoyo”, in the English language, Corchorus. This is a genus of phanerogams with 180 species belonging to the Malvaceae family. It is native to tropical and subtropical regions around the world. In Ghana, it is known as Ayoyo.

Ingredients (excluding items for goat meat stew ) are:
A bunch of fresh ayoyo leaves. The alternative is a frozen pack of ayoyo leaves (also known as jute or ewedu leaves)
1 cup Cassava flour
1 cup Corn flour
Herrings or other smoked fish
Salt to taste

Step 1 – Make the ayoyo sauce

1. Thoroughly wash the ayoyo leaves and cut into tiny pieces (if using fresh leaves), or if using frozen ones, allow to defrost or defrost in a microwave.

2. Put 1 cup of water in pot, place on stove, and turn heat to high until water boils. Then lower the heat to medium.

3. Add the ayoyo to the boiling water and stir periodically with a wooden pestle until the leaves break up in the water, and it starts to froth and bubble. As desired, you can add smoked or dried herrings and salt to the ayoyo for additional flavor.

4. Lower the heat to low, and continue to stir for another 10 minutes. Then turn off the heat, and set aside the ayoyo mix till you’re ready to serve.

Step C – Make the Tuo Zaafi

1. Boil 2 cups of water in a pot, until it is boiling.

2. Scoop 1 cup of corn flour and mix with cold water. Stir thoroughly until the mixture is consistent. Add the mixture to the boiling water and stir with a wooden pestle, taking care to avoid any lumps. Once fully mixed, leave it to boil for ~8 to 10 minutes. Then scoop out about a third of the mixture to use later.

3. Add the remainder of the corn flour to the boiling porridge mixture, and stir with the wooden pestle as the mixture gradually solidifies. Add the flour bit by bit, and continue to stir. As needed, add the set-aside mixture to the pot to keep the mixture moist at all times. The goal is to avoid lumps. Practice makes perfect here, so if you are not successful at avoiding lumps the first time, don’t beat yourself up too much.

4. After stirring for 20-30 minutes, the Tuo should be ready. Scoop a bit and mold into somewhat round shapes, or directly into the serving dishes.
Do not forget to wash your hands with soap under clean running water.

(Steps in preparing Tuo Zaafi. Copyright, Foodche.com)

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