Hmm…! Ekpang nkwukwo is made from cocoyam (taro), is not your every day dish and not everyone can handle it. A labour of love and flair for the intricacies of Naija cuisine (and a bundle of patience) are required to prepare ekpang. I can remember visiting my aunty in Calabar when I was younger. We would probably eat ekpang once over a 3 week holiday. Back in Lagos, my mum would rarely prepare it at all. After I decided to venture into the land of preparation of ekpang nkwukwo I completely understood why. I spent well over 3 hours preparing the dish before I even got round to lighting up the stove. Oga better count himself lucky. I was in #determined mode when I started relive memories of my past and cook this up. Needless to say it was well worth it. Ekpang is a delicacy of the Efiks and Ibibios of South Eastern Nigeria, but it is highly sought after and enjoyed by many across and beyond Nigeria.
There is no ekpang nkwukwo without periwinkles.
This is dried fish. There is also smoked fish which tends to be charred and much harder than this which can also be used. Different kinds of fish comes both dried and smoked in Nigeria.
Here is are the ekpang rolls wrapped in both efo and pumpkin leaves. I couldn’t find cocoyam leaves when I was ready to prepare this dish.
The easy part about cooking this dish is that you can literally put everything in your cooking pot all at once and start cooking.
Ekpang takes so long to prepare, but so little time to consume. I could only take a few shots of the finished dish before I had to put my camera away and dig in.
1kg Cocoyam, peeled, washed and grated
100g Wateryam (optional – I skipped this), peeled, washed and grated
Fresh Cocoyam (ugwu in Ibo) leaves (substitute with spinach or pumpkin leaves. I used pumpkin leaves)
500g Beef (substitute or add goat meat snails or fish – all optional. I skipped these)
300g Dried fish
200g Stockfish, slightly cooked (optional. I skipped this)
4 Chili Pepper to taste (optional and amount are up to you)
3 stock cubes
Salt to taste
2 medium onions
2 cups Palm Oil
2tbsp scent leaf (still trying to figure out what leaf this is) chopped (substitute mint or fresh basil)
Pre-prep: Beef, periwinkles and smoked fish
- Season and boil the beef (or your chosen meat, chicken) and create the stock (if you are using beef)
- Top and tail the periwinkles. Cook the shelled periwinkle for approximately 5 minutes in salted water and then clean properly and set aside
- Soak the smoked fish in hot water and salt and clean thoroughly to remove any grit
Caution: Raw cocoyam has the tendency to itch or irritate your skin. You may want to wear latex gloves when preparing this dish.
- Peel, wash and grate the cocoyam into a bowl – it will have a pudding-like consistency
- Peel, wash and grate the water yam and add to the cocoyam in a bowl (the water yam I purchased was too watery so I skipped it)
- Season the yam mixture by crumbling 2 stock cubes, ½ tablespoon of salt and a table spoon of palm oil
- Mix the seasoning evenly through the yam
- Wash the cocoyam leaves, pumpkin leaves (or substitutes) thoroughly in water and drain in a colander
- Pick the leaves off the stems, place a small amount of the yam mixture into each leaf and wrap
- Place the cleaned periwinkles in bottom of a medium cooking pan – line the pan with the periwinkles
- Layer the (ekpang) wraps on top of the periwinkles in the pan. You will eventually have several layers
- Add in the dried fish, chopped onions, diced peppers, crumbled stock cubes, ground dried cray fish, scent leaf, salt, and palm oil
- Add the 3 cup of water and cook on medium heat for about 15 minutes
- Stir slightly and continue to cook for another 10 minutes
- Taste the ekpang to ensure that it is cooked properly, if not add a little more water and cook for a few more minutes longer on low heat
- When ready, serve piping hot in a bowl