Akara (bean cakes), is a well-loved Nigerian snack that’s served at family functions and other events. In fact, it’s safe to say that no event is complete without it. It’s made from a combination of ground beans, onions, chilli and deep fried in oil. I never get tired of watching the moment the round paste bubbles to the surface of the oil, golden brown in colour and oozing with that special calorific taste and goodness that you can only get from eating fried food.
The akara connection
So, why am I waxing lyrical about akara? Quite simply, it features quite a bit in #lookingforbono. One of the minor characters in the book is Mama Seyi, a lady who sells food by the roadside and keeps quite a few of the characters in the book in calorific stupor. Her days are also filled with curses directed at our hapless hero Baba, who in true (and shameless) form, buys food from Mama Seyi on credit without any intention of paying it back.
As I’m passionate about food, it seems right to showcase some of the food featured in the book. Ordinarily, I would cook the food, write up the recipe and put it up on the website, complete with photographs, but I don’t really fry food (I’m more of a ‘griller’). Second, making akara requires quite a bit of deep frying, a process I’m not overly fond of doing myself (although I’m very happy to partake of the end result).
This is the bit where I actually thank God for YouTube. I checked out a couple of videos and have linked to one instructional video for making akara.
Incidentally, akara is called acarajé in Brazil. I’m not surprised. A huge percentage of slaves taken to Brazil and Cuba during the slave trade were of Yoruba/Nigeria extraction, so naturally, many of the Afro-Brazilian/Afro-Cuban foods that are eaten today bear traces of their Nigerian origin, even their names.
My point? If you love Afro-Brazilian/Afro-Cuban food, you’ll like akara.
How to make akara, Mama Seyi style
In this first video, an akara seller (as they’re called) demonstrates how to make akara. I included her video, because my character, Mama Seyi runs a street stall selling akara, just like this lady’s, in surroundings much like hers as well. I wanted authenticity, and this video really delivers.