Today, I’ll share an easy recipe for ugba (African oil bean seed)sauce with smoked turkey, mixed seafood and kale, which pairs well with yam and is great with other starchy foods like rice, eba and boiled plantain.
My first introduction to Ugba – African oil bean seed was as a child. My mum would bring some from Ilaro (South Western Nigeria), where it is called apara. She would either cook it with egusi soup or soak it in salty water to be eaten as a snack.
I thought we were one of the few people who ate this, as most of my friends didn’t know what it was. I had no idea how big it was in other cultures in Nigeria until I ate nkwobi (a popular Igbo food); and found that it contained African oil bean seed. Ugba is more widely consumed by the Igbos in the Eastern part of Nigeria than other tribes. It is one of the main ingredients in abacha, nkowbi, ofe ugba, isi ewu etc.…and of course, this ugba sauce.
What Is African Oil Bean Seed?
Africa oil bean seed is also known Ugba, (Igbo), Ukpaka (Igbo), Ukana (Efik), Apara (Yoruba). It is used as a condiment, meat replacement or eaten as a snack in some parts of Nigeria.
Ugba/Ukpaka is the edible seeds contained in the fruit of the African oil bean tree. Ugba tree grows primarily wild in the southern and eastern parts of Nigeria and some coastal regions of West Africa.
It has shiny brown colour and looks like giant locust beans.
The seeds are processed before consumption by boiling and dehulling, followed by fermentation. The length of fermentation could be between 2-10 days, depending on the end-use of the ugba seed. In Igbo/Efik recipes – Ugba seed is usually cut into thin slices. By contrast, in Yorubaland, the seed is generally split into halves before use.
In terms of nutritional values, the African seed oil is a good source of protein, hence why it is used as a meat replacement. It is also rich in oils and some essential fatty acids.
How To Make Ugba Sauce
Here are the ingredients you need...
- Red palm oil
- Bell pepper
- Scotch bonnet pepper
- Ground crayfish
- Smoked turkey
- Sliced Ugba
- Mixed seafood
A few notes about the ingredients...
- Ugba: If you cannot find fresh ugba, you can also buy dry ones. This would need soaked in hot water for 30 mins before use.
- Meat/Fish: You can add your preferred protein to the African oil bean seed sauce—meat, fresh fish, dry fish etc. You can also exclude these to make a vegetarian dish.
How to make it...
Wash the ugba slices in water and drain in a colander.
Cut the smoked turkey into bite-sized pieces.
Wash the kale, remove the thick stalk and slice thinly.
Defrost the frozen seafood mix.
Peel the two onions. Slice one and keep aside.
Blend the remaining onion with garlic, scotch bonnet pepper, bell pepper and tomatoes.
Heat the palm oil in a saucepan for around 30 secs, then add the sliced onion.
Leave to cook until translucent. Add the blended pepper mix, simmer for 15 mins before pouring in the smoked turkey, crayfish and ½ a cup of water. Cover the pan and cook for 15 mins.
Add the ugba and kale. Allow to cook for 10 mins. Taste for salt, add more if needed; then add the seafood. Smoked turkey and ugba are both salty, only add salt after you've added both ingredients to the sauce.
Cook for 5 mins and remove from heat.
In Nigeria, you will find Ugba in most markets where Igbo foodstuffs are sold. Outside of Nigeria, you will find it in the freezer of most African and Asian shops. You can also find dry ugba in some Etsy shops.
Some traditional Nigerian recipes to try are;
African Oil Bean Seed (Ugba) Sauce With Smoked Turkey and Kale
- Wash the ugba slices in water and drain in a colander.
- Cut the smoked turkey into bite-sized pieces.
- Wash the kale, remove the thick stalk and slice thinly.
- Defrost the frozen seafood mix.
- Peel the two onions. Slice one thinly and keep aside.
- Blend the remaining onion with garlic, scotch bonnet pepper, bell pepper and tomatoes.
- Heat the palm oil in a saucepan for around 30 secs, then add the sliced onion.
- Leave to cook until translucent. Add the blended pepper mix, simmer for 15 mins before pouring in the smoked turkey, crayfish and ½ a cup of water. Cover the pan and cook for 15 mins.
- Add the ugba and kale. Allow to cook for 10 mins. Taste for salt, add more if needed; then add the seafood. Cook for 5 mins and remove from heat.