Amongst the Yoruba, food is a vital aspect of their culture. It is a symbol of hospitality and social status. It is believed to nourish and bind families together. Food consumption is both a basic necessity and a learned behaviour of comportment. Early in childhood, tastes are acquired from shared collective values about what is good and suitable to eat. Thus, from Gbegiri and Amala to Ijebu garri and even Ofada rice, food is to the Yoruba, a constant reminder of who they are and where they come from.
Just like Abakiliki and Anambra rice grown in parts of South-Eastern Nigeria, Ofada rice is the type of local rice grown in most parts of South-Western Nigeria. This rice derives its name from Ofada, a small community located in the Obafemi Owode Local Government Area of Ogun State where it was first cultivated. Ofada rice is believed to have been introduced by veterans returning from the First World War. The time of the first cultivation of this rice is believed to be 1940.
Ofada rice is upland rice grown on free-draining soils where the water table is permanently below the roots of the rice plant. It is short, unrefined and burgundy striped. This rice is cultivated without chemicals. After harvesting, it is left to soak in water for five to seven days, before it is parboiled, sun-dried and sold or stored in airtight container for family use. The fact that this rice is unrefined makes it nutritionally superior to white rice. It allegedly has about twice the fibre content of white rice. This makes it a perfect meal for the health conscious. But one annoying inconvenience in cooking Ofada rice is, as it is with other types of local rice, the presence of stones. Destoning the rice requires painstaking attention. Anything less will result in an unpalatable meal of rice interspersed with stones.
Ofada rice is mostly consumed as parboiled white rice. This food emits a unique aroma but it is not the most attractive meal on the buffet. The perfect sauce for this rice is Ayamase sauce. This food is traditionally served in a plate lined with uma leaves.
O. O. Adekoyeni, S. A. Fagbemi and A. R. Ismaila, “Ofada Rice Identity, Physical Qualities and Processing Technology Options for Upgrading: A Review,” Annual Research and Review in Biology, 23 (2), 2018.
Emma Thrussell, “A Recipe for Identity: Food and Culture in Oaxaca, Mexico,” A Thesis Submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Discipline of Anthropology, University of Adelaide, 2015.
Featured image source: Nigerian Foods