Flavor enhancer is a compound added to food to supplement or enhance its natural flavor. Flavor enhancers are used to bring out the taste in a wide range of foods.
Ogiri is one of the African Nigerian aromatic seasoning flavor enhancer, made from fermented oil seeds.
Ogiri has an oily gray pasty consistency and a very strong pungent smell. The smell is greatly reduced when frozen.
It is best used in the preparation of Nigerian traditional dishes, especially in soups and stews. It lends a deeper richer flavor to the dish.
African food preparation is not complete without the use of locally available flavor enhancer.
Just as salt is important in meal preparation, the addition or omission of some locally made seasoning can make or break a dish.
Food Enhancer Types In Nigeria
In Nigeria, some of the commonly used flavor enhancers are Ogiri from melon seed, iru from African locust beans, ogiri ugba from African oil beans seed and Dawadawa from soy beans.
Different parts of Nigeria have different names for Ogiri. We have the Ogiri Igbo, ugba, okpei, the Yorubas call it Iru while the Hausas call it Dawadawa. For this write-up, I will focus more on Ogiri okpei.
Ogiri okpei is a flavor enhancer formed from fermented oil seeds such as egusi seeds, Prosopis africana (Mesquite seeds), fluted pumpkin seeds, castor oil seeds, and sesame seeds.
Okpei is one ingredient in soups/stew you can’t miss the smell even if you were miles away.
With its uniquely “funky” pungent aroma, it sets the whole house and environs on a high pitch once added into the pot. Even very little quantity, yet its smell is unavoidably noticeable.
Ogiri okpei is of West Africa origin, precisely Igbo part of Nigeria and it is characteristically dark-brown in appearance.
Ogiri Okpei, irrespective of the strong pungent smell comes with a lot of amazing health benefits
The fermented locust bean seed is used in controlling diabetes and cholesterol level
It helps to promote good sight and aids digestion, it is used for treating stroke and hypertension.
Flavor Enhancer: How to Make Ogiri Okpei
The Nigerian Ogiri is prepared by most tribes in Nigeria in many different ways.
The preparation of Ogiri-okpei is not a day affair, because the seeds – egusi, fluted pumpkin, castor oil seeds or sesame have to be allowed to ferment.
Fermentation contributes to its pungent aroma!
- Firstly, wash the seeds of choice and clean thoroughly in clean water.
- Secondly, cook the seeds until tender and can easily peel off, then, wash the cotyledons and pour in a sieve to drain
- Thirdly, add the cotyledons into a clay pot or vessel then cover with local leaves like plantain/banana leaves.
- Fourthly and most importantly, allow to stay for at least 4 days to go through fermentation.
- After that, ground the fermented seeds into a smooth thick paste, then mold into small balls/circles and allow drying under the sun.
- Lastly, once the ogiri okpei is sun-dried, your flavor enhancer is then ready for usage.