West African cuisine is as exciting as it is sumptuous. You can’t have enough of the authentic dishes of the land. And one dish that charms its way into the hearts of West Africans is fufu. But what is fufu whose fame follows it to West African restaurants in Europe and the U.S?
What’s interesting about fufu is that it is almost a religious affair especially among the Ashanti people in Ghana. A day is never complete if a Ghanaian man hasn’t fed his appetite with this culturally symbolic dish.
Women too are not left behind when it comes to the ‘religious significance’ of eating fufu. They learn how to prepare it from a young age and they equally enjoy it just like her men do.
So, what’s behind the undying fame of this West African staple food that got TikTok’s #FufuChallenge on fire?
What is Fufu?
Fufu originates from Ghana which explains why it is worshipped by Ghanaians. Its charm transcends to Nigeria – you must have seen Nigerian men enjoy a fufu dish in Nollywood movies. Theirs is made from cassava or yams.
Well, fufu is prepared from fermented cassava ground into a dough. It is a popular accompaniment for chicken or meat stew. Interestingly queries of fufu inspired an almost similar dish that is part of the Caribbean cuisine.
Although its roots are in Ghana, you’ll be surprised to find this meal in other West African nations. Guinea, Liberia, Cote D’Ivoire, Togo, Benin, Cameroon, Angola, Gabon and parts of DR Congo enjoy fufu too.
How is Fufu Prepared?
Preparing fufu is not an easy task. It is intricate and skilful, perhaps it is the reason why young Ghanaian women spend years learning how to prepare it.
In expounding what is fufu, you must understand its preparation method. Traditionally, this meal comes from pounded cassava that is then allowed to ferment. The fermentation gives it a distinctive sour taste.
Cassava powder is boiled together with green plantain or cocoyam. You can choose how thick you want it to be by simply adding more water. However, the thicker it is the better it gets when eating it with a soup-like stew.
Fufu is best enjoyed by eating with bare hands. There is an unexplained logic and traditional chemistry on why it gets so sweet when eaten with fingers. You scoop a portion and dip it in your stew and straight to your mouth.
Popular stew soup that accompanies fufu includes groundnut soup, palm nut soup, or egusi soup. These are authentic soups in West Africa.
African Fufu History
Much as Ghana is credited to being fufu’s homestay, it’s coming to be dates back to the 16th century. Portuguese traders from Brazil introduced fufu to Africa and when it landed in Ghana, ancestors named it ‘fufuo’. They mixed the fermented cassava with plantain and pounded it to get a sticky mixture. Since then, they passed this lesson from generation to generation.
Ideally, ‘fufu’ loosely translates to a mashed mix. The food then became a staple dish in Ghana before spreading to other West African and Central Africa nations. You can also find it in Caribbean nations.
Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic all have African inspired fufu. However, Caribbean fufu is has a firm texture and a strong flavour too compared to what is in Ghana.
African Americans view eating fufu as a way to connect with the ancestors who discovered it in the 16th century.
Is Fufu Healthy?
Reminiscent of many other traditional West African dishes, fufu is a nutritional power pack. The numerous health benefits it brings forth tell of another story besides answering definitively what is fufu.
Firstly, it has low cholesterol levels and is rich in potassium and fiber. The resistant starch in it aids in digestion by providing beneficial bacteria in the gut and reduces inflammation too.
In general, the proof of how good fufu lies in its preparation. The grounding – usually done by women with a large pestle and mortar – defines how good the meal will be.
Additionally, the sensuality of eating with your fingers adds a magical touch to the meal.