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Ekpang Nkukwo


Origin of Nigerian Foods: Ekpang Nkukwo

When Efik and the Ibibios are mentioned, two things readily come to mind, their fattening room tradition and their heavenly delicacies. While the first is a time honoured tradition of the people of Old Calabar region, the second constitutes a part of their women’s identity. The fattening room tradition is one of the essential rites that mark the transition from maidenhood to womanhood. It is a resource centre of sorts where women are prepared to assume new roles as wives, mothers and entrepreneurs.[1] Participants are taught the intricacies of cooking and home management skill during their stay in this room.[2]

Ekpang Nkukwo is one of the delicacies to emerge from the ancient kitchen of the people of the Efik and the Ibibio. It is one of the elaborate meals prepared and served the young ladies in the fattening room. Today, it is served on special occasions like traditional marriages. I consider Ekpang Nkukwo one of Nigeria’s healthiest meals. It is prepared from grated cocoyam (Colocasia esculenta) and water yam (Discorea alata), both of which are good for diabetic patients. Cocoyam has blood sugar and fat reducing properties that help in the management of diabetes.[3]  Water yam, on the other hand, has low sugar content which makes it ideal for diabetic patients.[4]

Ekpang Nkukwo is usually garnished with seafood. This is hardly surprising as the Efik-Ibibio live close to the river; as such, periwinkles, shrimps and crab feature a lot in their cooking. It is pertinent to mention here that after grating the cocoyam and water yam, the paste is originally wrapped in nkukwo (cocoyam leaves). However, in its absence, such vegetables like ugu (pumpkin leaf) and nchanwu (scent leaf) can be used as substitute.

The first time I tasted this food was at my godmother’s. She had an Akwa Ibom cook at the time. The lady is a whiz in the kitchen. Anyways, when my sister and I heard what was on the menu that evening, we were curious. So we befriended the cook, Aunt Victory and she invited us into the kitchen where we got our first lesson on the preparation of Ekpang Nkukwo. We helped her grate the water yam and cocoyam. We also helped her wrap the paste in scent leaf. Since we cooked for eight, I can tell you for free that wrapping the teaspoon size paste in leaves is one hell of a stressful exercise. Nevertheless, we thoroughly enjoyed our meal but my sister declared at the end of it that this food is to be enjoyed in restaurants, but it would not make it into her menu. Can’t say I blame her. Ekpang Nkukwo should not be in the menu of a lazy cook like my sister. Lol.

[1] Philip Effiong, Nigerian “Fattening” Rooms, Reinventing the Total Woman, 2013,

[2]  Philip Effiong, Nigerian “Fattening” Rooms, 2.

[3] Sade Oguntola, Cocoyam like Unripe Plantain Good for Diabetics-Study, February, 2, 2017,

[4] A.O. Oko and A.C. Famurewa, “Estimation of Nutritional and Starch Characteristics of Dioscorea alata (Water Yam) Varieties Commonly Cultivated in the South-Eastern Nigeria,” British Journal of Applied Science and Technology, Vol. 6, No. 2, 2015, 146.

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Obiamaka Angela Udevi

Udevi, Obiamaka Angela holds a Master of Arts degree in History & International Studies. She's a freelance writer with a passion for food and healthy living. She can be contacted through her email address,



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