When I think about the Nigerian Christmas menu, a lot of dishes come to mind and then I think of my Dad.
My Dad always believed in eating out on Christmas day. Many will think it’s because he was thinking of the amount of cleaning up we would have to do. However, we didn’t have a washing machine and although we had a cook, Christmas day was always their day off.
When you live in Nigeria everyone has a cook, cleaner, security guard and driver, I think you will find that to be the case in most third world countries.
I think the only reason Dad wanted to eat outside is that he didn’t want people in the house. He would invite my cousins and anyone that he knew that was free and he’d treat us to a Christmas lunch in a restaurant. Every year we went to a different restaurant. He taught us to love exploring different cultures and their food. Sometimes he would let us decide where we wanted to go but most of the time he made the decision. We never spent a Christmas together in the UK but if we did, we would definitely go out to eat. I don’t think we would have ended up in the pub, primarily because to him it would be like going down to the pub for Sunday lunch.
So when I think of my favourite Christmas dish, I’m spoilt for choice but I’ll focus on what you will find on a Nigerian Christmas menu. So what does the Nigerian eat on Christmas day?
A Nigerian Christmas Menu
Depending on what part of Nigeria you are from, what you eat will vary. However, one thing we all have in common during Christmas is there will always be Jollof rice and fried rice on the menu. If you haven’t heard of Jollof rice, what rock are you living under? Even Jaime Oliver knows about it, however, most West Africans think he butchered the dish.
Snacks or Dessert
Before any festive occasion, Christmas, Easter, birthdays, anniversaries and thanksgiving, my Mum always made sure the following was available for people to snack on. I’m from the northern part of Nigeria so some of these snacks are based on what is available from my region:
- Chin-chin – the beauty of chin-chin is that you can cut it into any shape you want. It’s easy to make and I’ve seen people make different versions of this popular crispy West African snack. My friend Yewande Ojo makes a lighter version and the coffee flavour is my favourite one, check out yojoscrunch. If you want to learn how to make it yourself then try out this recipe.
- Kuli-kuli – another popular crispy snack in West African made from peanuts. It can be eaten alone or crushed and added to salads, Suya pepper and kilishi. I haven’t found anyone that does it just right in the UK but you can make it with peanut butter paste, I’ve found this video on YouTube.
- Alkaki – twisted doughnuts made from wheat, fried and then soaked in honey. Wanna make it at home, try out this recipe.
- Ridi – sesame seed candy made with this is so easy to make. You can even add coconut for a different flavour, try out this recipe.
- Fried meat – I know this one might seem weird but meat is considered a snack especially in the northern part of Nigeria. Fried beef, goat or chicken is served with Suya pepper ofcourse.
- Puff puff – this fried donught balls do not last the day so you make sure you grab one quickly cause once they are made they are gone. Try this easy recipe for puff-puff.
Depending on when you wake up you might find the following on the table, we sometimes have these as a snack or as an accompaniment to a meal. We don’t have specific meals for specific times of the day, anything goes at any time of the day.
- Plaintain – the best way I can describe this is like a large banana (but not a banana) that is fried, boiled or roasted. You can even have plantain chips – like puff-puff, once they are made they are gone especially when they are fried or chipped.
- Masa (or waina) – the best way to descripe this crumpets made of fermented rice and which is then fried. You can even stuff them if you want. Goes very well with a vegetable soup or it can be eaten on its own.
- Punkaso (fried dumpling) or Kosai (like bean fritters) with Akamu porridge which is made from maize, sorghum or millet (Hausa Koko).
Like most households, lunch is the main event of the day right after the Christmas day service (if you are a Christian). On the table you will find:
- Pepper soup – this could be fish or offal and tends to be more of starter.
- Jollof rice and fried rice – don’t confuse this with Chinese fried rice. This is Nigerian fried rice.
- Alale (also known as, moi-moi) – steamed or baked bean paste.
- Tuwo (pouded grain or tuber) – this could be shinkafa (rice), acha (fonio), alkama (wheat), masara (maize), semo (semolina) or dawa (guinea corn). There is always someone that wants to eat tuwo on the day, we are Nigerian afterall.
- Miya (soup) to go with the tuwo – this could be kuka (baobab), taushe (pumpkin), ganye (greeny usually spinach), kubewa (okra) and the list goes on.
- Fried fish – pick any fish you like but tilapia and catfish are very popular in Nigeria.
You will notice that there is no turkey on the list, some households might have this but it tends to be smoked. I personally don’t like turkey so you won’t find it on my table.
If you’re like me and you’ve been munching on snacks throughout the day (especially that puff puff) you don’t have any space left. Dinner tends to be eating leftovers, there is so much food leftover and you are spoiled for choice.
This is just a small subset of what you can find and a lot of the dishes are based on what we eat in the North.