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Obe Ata (Nigerian Red Pepper Sauce)

[Photographs: Vicky Wasik]

Nigerian obe ata is so many things that it can be hard to define. At its heart, it’s a sauce that can be used as a base for soups, stews, and braises that feature all sorts of meats, vegetables, and even eggs. But it can also be cooked down until it grows thick and spreadable, at which point it can be used as a condiment or a dip.

This recipe, adapted from two different recipes from chefs Simileoluwa Adebajo and Esther Ikuru, presents a master method for making the basic sauce, which can then be served with various meats like a stew or cooked down into a condiment for dipping.

Its main ingredients are red bells peppers along with hot fresh chili peppers like habaneros (or Scotch bonnets), tomato, onion, garlic, and more. Beyond that, other decisions for flavoring the sauce are up to you. You can use more or less red palm oil to stain it a deeper maroon color and give it an earthier, sweeter flavor; you can add flavorings like Nigerian curry powder, fresh ginger, and ground Cameroon chilies, which are both spicy and smoky; you can even choose whether to make it a totally smooth purée or leave it chunkier for some texture.

If you serve it as a stew, you have just as much flexibility with what you put in the stew and how much you use of it. This recipe makes a large quantity of sauce, so you can divide it up and use it in different ways. Try briefly simmering cooked chicken in it (as the recipe below suggests), or try turkey, beef, lamb, or goat—cooked tripe is a popular option, too!. Hardboiled eggs can be shelled and gently simmered in the sauce as well. Lots of vegetables, like sweet potatoes and greens, can be cooked in the sauce for a vegetarian option.

As a dip, it’s great with plantain chips or with fufu (a starchy dish made from pounded and boiled cassava root and green plantains).

The best thing is to make a big batch and get creative: obe ata offers a world of serving possibilities.

Published at Wed, 04 Mar 2020 10:24:24 +0000