It was on a breezy Sunday morning. I had a feeling that it was going to be a great day, the ambience that followed while I listened to soft music made sure of that. At the end of the day, one thing made it great and terrible at the same time.
I am Temmy and my obsession with dodo cannot be quantified. On this particular Sunday I was hurt by dodo and the only thing that could comfort me was of course, dodo. Fried plantain is called “dodo” in Nigeria.
It started with season two of a popular psychological horror movie series “You”. Season two had just been released and I thought I would watch it that Sunday morning. I started to crave fried plantain— something that happens everyday. Then I thought to myself, “You” would make the most sense if accompanied with fried plantain and my favorite yoghurt. I always have plantain in the kitchen, I never run out of it. On days that I do, it is the market’s fault.
I had cut and gotten ready to fry the almost overripe plantain. The plantain was now frying and Is at down on the kitchen chair waiting for it to be ready. I picked up my phone and played the first episode of “You”— my mistake. My hand got fried with the plantain a few minutes after.
I got hooked with the first episode of the series and forgot I was frying plantain, it started to burn. My dodo is burning but it is okay, I like it. What isn’t okay is when it gets over burnt— no one wants that. I dropped my phone and went to see my fried plantain. The moment I touched the pan, it turned over to its side and the hot oil grazed my right hand. Oh no! My skin was sizzling and I could feel the effect in the middle of my head.
I do not have a scar but I remember the feeling every-time I look at my right hand. All through the day when people asked me how I am doing, I said “I am doing great, plantain did this to me and I’ll carry the tale everywhere I go like the scar on a knight’s right arm after the battle has been won”. I felt hurt but my almost burnt fried plantain comforted me. I made sure to eat all of it and even fried more for the second episode
Plantain is like that school kid everyone loves. If you don't like them, you're probably projecting a personal problem— just being a bitter person. There is every reason to just love plantain. I can’t speak for everyone in the world but I certainly can for myself and other Nigerians. It's a consensus that Nigerians who don’t like plantain lack taste in sweet things.
There is a Nigerian saying that says, “It is the work of one’s hands that decides what one eats for dinner – for some it is pounded yam, for others it is pounded plantain or nothing.”
I have always loved plantain. It is that side dish that just gets me every time. It got me the nickname - “Plantain Queen”. It fills the mouth with its sweetness and the body with its nutrients.
Just like people, food travels too. Plantain is believed to have originated in the Southern part of Asia. Then it kept moving from there. It grew in India, Indonesia, America and Africa. Now, plantain is grown in over fifty countries and used in different forms with fried plantain being the top ranking use of plantain. In the eastern part of Africa, countries like Tanzania use plantain in beer production.
Plantain— notice how it glides off the tongue easily? It tastes as sweet as its name sounds. Plantain looks like a banana but it is different. Bananas can be enjoyed raw but plantain has to be processed— fried, boiled, smoked— to enjoy it. Also, it is usually longer than a banana. It is naturally sweet, it almost tastes like sugar. Although Nigeria sits fifth on the list of countries that produce million tones of plantain annually after Cameroon, Ghana, Uganda and Columbia, the staple food remains one the country's favourite and most maneuverable food.
The carbohydrate-rich food makes jollof rice and chicken a complete meal. The versatility of plantain crowns it as the best side dish. It's like a beautiful person that fits into every type of cloth. The one that comes through on every occasion. The life of the party. Plantain can be fried, grilled, boiled, baked, made into porridge, mashed, dried and processed into flour by grinding. The processed flour is made with unripe plantain and can be turned into morsels downed with any kind of Nigerian soup. Old people mostly enjoy this. This is because it has a lower amount of starch and can be easily digested.
Plantain porridge is accompanied with vegetables, fish and every other kind of ingredient that is deemed worthy.
The grilled plantain is called “bole” (pronounced: buh-li)— a common roadside food. Usually in Lagos, “bole” is eaten with groundnut or palm oil while in Port-Harcourt, this city appreciates “bole” so much, they eat it with spicy stew made with palm oil, roasted fish and sometimes, localspice. Their ways with bole are just native that they make the Lagos style seem exotic. They have a festival just for it and it is called the “bole festival”. PortHarcourt people think Lagosianseat bole wrongly, and Lagosians think people of Port-Harcourt are too “extra” with the way theygarnish their “bole”. These arguments have been said to be on for long but one thing Iacknowledge is the sheer love for plantain itself in these cities of Nigeria. Personally, I prefer thePort Harcourt style.
The fried plantain is known as “dodo” in Nigeria and “Kelewele” in Ghana. It is made by slicing or dicing the plantain, whichever way it is preferred, and frying it in hot vegetable oil. Quick and easy to make. It is usually crispy on the outside and soft inside. The fried plantain can be eaten alone or with scrambled egg sauce. In Nigeria, the popular jollof rice and chicken is incomplete without this side dish. It is also mostly used as a side dish for beans. It is a general knowledge that “dodo” is best enjoyed when it is almost over ripped. In Nigeria, abomination simply means enjoying fried plantain without sprinkling salt on it right before frying it.
Fried plantain can be spiced up and made in a more interesting manner. The people of Ikire town of Osun state; a south western part of Nigeria, makes spicy fried plantain and calls it “dodoIkire”. This is prepared by using overripe plantain (some people use it fresh nowadays), pepper, palm oil and salt. A mixture is made from the overripe plantain, salt and pepper, which is then fried in a medium heat palm oil till it is black. After this is done, it is molded into a ball shape and crushed chili is sprinkled on it. Dodo Ikire is black, squidgy and round or conical. It is put in transparent nylons, the shape is specific, no other street food in Nigeria looks like it.
Dodo and Dodo Ikire have surely earned themselves seats as two of the topmost street snacks/food in Nigeria.
Fried plantain cut in small pieces can be packaged and sold as plantain chips as well. It is a good choice of snacks while in the yellow bus. “Plantain chips are the first snacks that finish on my market everyday, people buy it with all kinds of soft drinks in traffic”, says Abike. Abike is a young lady that makes a living by hawking plantain chips, chinchin, biscuits and carbonated drinks in Lagos traffic.
Want to know something even more interesting?
Plantain is recommended for old people, pregnant, newly post-pregnant women and children. Aside from its sweet , happy taste, it has so many nutritional benefits. Plantain is high in iron, Vitamins A, C and B6, potassium and magnesium. If plantain had an advertisement, the tagline befitting is “Tasty and sweet Nutrition, just for you and I”
Vitamin A aids good vision, B6 enhances the brain’s actions and C acts as an antioxidant. Potassium and magnesium controls or lower blood pressure.
Hence, you won’t be exaggerating if you said Nigerians enjoy plantain however way it is made.