The Beauty Of The Efik People(Efere Afang )
Apart from the Igbo’s, if there’s any people more passionate about their culture, it’s the Efik people of Nigeria.
The Efik speaking people are made up of an ethnic group sitting along the Cross River estuary and the banks of the Calabar River in Nigeria. (efikusa.org)
The Efik culture emphasizes the respect of seniority and their food. In the Efik culture, stealing is frowned upon. It is also known that the Efik women as a sign of respect do not shake hands with men in public.
All Efik speaking people are seen as royalty/freeborn. It is also said that love is expressed better by the Efik women to their husbands/lovers through the art of cooking. It is said that once an Efik woman cooks for you, you never go back 🙂
In Nigeria, a majority of people frown on the Efik/Calabar people and see them as house helps because of their almost flawless home-keeping abilities, but I truly beg to differ…The Efik people are truly royalty and their women are treated as queens! In the early days, when a man marries a second wife, his first wife never loses her position in the home. In fact, she is looked at as the head of the home and would be the one to share chores and other things when it came to attending to the family(Efik history project).
A while ago, I saw the images of the Efik masquerade called Ekpe. It reminded me of the masquerades we saw in my father’s village in the east. They are usually dressed in beautiful colors and dance with pride and own every scenery. They are known to be sacred, so don’t go touching one when you see them. I even heard that women are not allowed to watch some masquerades(not sure which one).
When it comes to their cooking, the use of foreign flavors is totally frowned upon. As a food blogger, I have fused the flavors; stating what was/is original. Like other ethnic groups in Nigeria, a lot of the Efik recipes are going extinct and these days, you can see a lot of Efik speaking people coming together to form an alliance; hoping to preserve their history.
Afang soup is a huge part of the Efik history and it’s very easy to mess up if you do not have the patience or skill. I had the patience, but I lacked the skill; until I spoke to an acquaintance; Asandia Hogan and she walked me though the process. Making Afang, reminded me of how my mother cooked for us as children. Every ingredient is added at the end of when the other has mixed with the meal. They are never added at once. In fact it is sacrilege to add everything into one pot in an Efik kitchen. They will beat you ehn!
Apart from the food and culture, the Efiks do not ever want to be mistaken as Ibibios. I don’t know why, but if you try to generalize them, you will cause fight o hehe.
Before the recipe, here are some Efik proverbs culled from the Efik history project group on Facebook. I’m like the only full blooded Igbo woman there. I don’t understand jack of whatever is said, but they speak a little English enough for me to love it 🙂
- 2lbs and 20oz spinach(substitute) or water leaves(squeeze to remove any excess water)
- 2 cups Afang or Okazi leaves
- 1½ lb assorted meats
- 1 cup whole dried prawns
- 1 cup nko nko or whelks(deshelled periwinkles work)
- 1 hand full of head on shrimp
- 3 fresh habanero peppers(ata-rodo)
- ½ cup crayfish powder
- Dry fish(soak in warm water and wash out impurities)
- 1tbsp dry pepper powder
- ½-1 cup palm oil(eye ball your use)
- salt to taste
Note: Please make sure you wash your vegetables as always; and drain before using. If using stock fish, cook along with the meats at the beginning. Soak your Afang leaves in cold water for a few minutes if you are using the dry ones. Add more fresh pepper at the end to taste. It helps keep the soup fragrant. Do not add any extra water 🙂
- To prepare the Afang (Okazi) leaves, (soak if using dry Afang to soften; then wash and drain as you generally would your vegetables) place it in a mortar with salt or bouillon, one habanero pepper and ¼ cup. crayfish powder; then pound. Pound the leaves and remove any stalks until you have formed sort of a paste with the leaves(use a blender if you want); then set aside.
- Place the meats into a pot, season with 1 tbsp. of the crayfish powder, the dry pepper, salt and bouillon(if using). Pour water to the level of the meats and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and cook the meats until tender and until the water has almost dried out. Add the water leaves, half of the oil being used, the remaining crayfish, whelks, dry prawns and a habanero pepper. Cover the pot and simmer on low. When the water from the water leaves is almost dry, add the Afang leaves, the remaining habanero pepper, the left over palm oil, dry fish and fresh shrimp. Taste for seasonings and cook for another 3minutes or until the shrimp has turned pink. Do not be tempted to add any water. Add more palm oil to loosen the soup if it’s too thick. Cook for another 3 minutes to remove the raw taste of the palm oil and serve with any swallow of your choice.