If you have never heard of amala, you are not alone. Amala, or Kokonte as the Ghanaians call it, is a swallow made from elubo (yam, cassava, or unripe plantain flour) that is gaining popularity in the United States, but it is originally from Nigeria. It has many health benefits that make it a desirable choice for people looking for alternatives to wheatmeal. In this blog post, we will discuss everything about amala: what it is, where it comes from, how it is made, and the health benefits of eating amala. Get your quality elubo from niyis.co.uk.
What is Amala?
Amala is a brown dough-like Nigerian meal made out of yam, cassava, or unripe plantain flour. It is made by mixing the flour in boiling water and stirring continuously to get a smooth starchy brown dough. It is usually served with ewedu soup, gbegiri soup, and stew, but can also be eaten with other soups.
Where does Amala come from?
Amala is a local food from the western and southwestern parts of Nigeria. It is eaten mostly by the Yorubas, who are from the southwestern parts of Nigeria but is now being eaten anywhere across the world.
Types of Amala
There are three types of amala. They are: Amala made from yams (Amala Isu), Amala made from cassava (Amala Lafun), Amala made from plantains (Amala Ogede). Let’s take a look at them closely.
Amala made from Yam (Amala Isu)
This variety of amala is made from yam flour. Yam is the common name for the species of the genus Dioscorea, and it is majorly grown in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America, and Oceania; the majority of this species, however, is cultivated and harvested in West Africa. The best yam to use for amala is the Dioscorea cayenensis because it has a high starch content.
Yam can be cooked and eaten by steaming, roasting, frying, baking and powdering; however, because it is likely to perish quick, due to its high water content, it is advisable to process it into a non-damaging product like yam flour, which goes through a drying process.
Yam flour has an off-white colour, but because it is made from dried yams, the yam flour turns dark brown when turned into boiling water. Amala Isu is a rich source of carbohydrates, especially in the parts of West Africa where yams are cultivated.
Amala made from Cassava (Amala Lafun)
This variety of amala is made from cassava flour. Cassava is a shrub of the family of Euphorbiaceae. Like yams, cassava is a major source of carbohydrates in Nigeria. The largest cassava producing country in the world is Nigeria.
Amala Lafun is when dried cassava is processed into dry powder. It also turns dark brown when turned into boiling water. Cassava can also be processed by fermenting and becoming flaky powder, called Garri, and when made with boiled water, Eba, which is mostly eaten by the Ijebus of southwestern Nigeria.
Amala made from Plantains (Amala Ogede)
This variety of amala is made from unripe plantain flour. Plantains are staple foods of the genus Musa, the major group of banana varieties. Although plantains have more starch content than bananas, they have lower carb content than their counterparts, yam and cassava, making them a reasonably good diet for diabetic patients, or others who prefer foods with lower carbs.
The unripe plantain is processed into dry powder, and unlike its counterparts, when it is turned into boiling water, it turns into a lighter brown.
How is Amala flour Made?
Amala Isu is made by gathering as many old yams as there can be, peeling them, and then locally drying them for three to five days, depending on the quantity. They can also be dried using tray dryers, for the industrial method.
Once you have made sure that they are void of any moisture content, they will then be milled with a milling machine to a fine powder.
The resulting powder is called yam flour, or as the Yorubas call it, Amala Isu.
Amala Lafun is made by the same process as Amala Isu is made; getting cassava, peeling them and, drying them. Drying cassava might not take as long as it would take to dry yams though, but they should be dried properly, locally or ,industrially.
Once all moisture content is removed from the cassava, the next step is to mill them in a milling machine to get a fine powder. The resulting powder gotten after milling is called cassava flour, or as the Yorubas call it, Amala Lafun.
Amala Ogede is processed the same way yams and cassava flour are, but with plantains. Get the plantains, peel them, and dry them locally or industrially. Drying plantains would not take as long as drying yams and cassava would take, because it is thinner than them. However, they should be dried properly to get a quality fine powder.
After the drying process, the plantains should be ground in a milling machine into a fine powder. The resulting fine powder is the plantain flour, or as the Yorubas call it, Amala Ogede.
How to make Amala
A large pot
Scooping spoon or igbako
A large wooden or turning stick
Pour water into a bowl and put the scooping spoon or igbako in with the wooden spoon or turning stick. Add water enough to mix the flour into a large pot and put it on medium heat and bring to a boil. When the water starts to boil, take some of the hot water and then put it in a kettle to preserve it, in case the amala is too strong.
Lower the heat and add the flour and stir with a turning stick until all of the water is absorbed. Wash your hands and use clean hands to check the texture of the amala. Add the saved hot water to the amala in case it is strong and leave it to simmer for five minutes; however, if it is too soft, add more flour to the mix and add little water and leave it to simmer for five minutes.
Stir again until it is made into a smooth paste, then take out the scooping spoon and scoop the corners of the pot, taking all the unkneaded amala dough and kneading again.
Soak the scooping spoon inside the bowl of water again, take it out and scoop to serve on a plate, or in nylon, and then place in a cooler, or wrapped in a napkin inside a bowl to keep it warm.
Precautions to take when preparing Amala
Preparing amala is quite easy and fast, however, there are certain things to keep in mind when making amala so it does not have lumps — amala is best enjoyed when it is smooth throughout.
Stirring the amala into a smooth paste is the most difficult part of making amala. If it is not stirred constantly, it could develop lumps. So, stirring throughout the preparation is one easy hack to have a lump-free amala.
Make sure the water or the flour is not more than the other, they have to be equal to first be evenly mixed before further heating brings it to the dough stage. Most times, expertise helps one know how to measure the water and flour, but if you are not an expert, it is better to take from the boiling water, turn the flour into the water left in the pot, and then add more water immediately when you notice the powder is still more.
Make sure amala is prepared on LOW HEAT, so it does not burn through before it is even done cooking. Boiling the water can be done on medium heat though.
What can Amala be eaten with?
In the southwestern parts of Nigeria, where amala is a treasure, it is eaten mostly with ewedu and gbegiri soup with stew and lots of protein like pomo, beef, goat meat, etc. However, amala can be eaten with any soup; egusi soup, efo riro, ogbono soup (my favourite), and okra soup.
Health Benefits of eating Amala
Amala is a good source of carbohydrates and is rich in dietary fibre, it helps to get rid of waste products of the body. It also helps reduces the risks of heart conditions caused by high cholesterol.
Amala contains vitamins and antioxidants, so it helps boost the immune system. It contains anti-inflammatory properties, which help with digestion. It helps repair cell damage and is good for menopausal women because it contains vitamin B6, which helps balance hormones.
Where to buy Elubo (Amala flour)
Still wondering why amala is so special, especially in the southwestern parts of Nigeria? Well, if you followed through with the blog from the start, you will discover that amala is not just a culture or heritage thing, it is packed with so many health benefits, and this is what gives it so much attention.
So, stop being curious about why it is so special, and go enjoy the luxuriousness this local dish has to offer!
Do not forget to get your quality elubo from Niyis, we;ve got you covered.