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Recipe for Isi Ewu

Isi ewu is an Igbo delicacy that looks like nkwobi. Both are different. Well, except for the principal ingredient (cow leg in nkwobi, goat head in isi ewu), the ingredients and method of preparation of both meals are the same. They are both served in a small wooden mortar called okwa.

Isi ewu is a comfort food usually served in bars and local restaurants in Nigeria. Before we start discussing the recipe, bear in mind that goat head is usually tough so you can spend hours cooking it. The best medicine for it is the pressure pot. It will save you time and gas.


1 Goat Head

Red Palm Oil

Ehuru seeds (calabash nutmeg)

Ngor or edible potash

Stock cubes


Utazi leaves (Gongronema latifolium)


Pepper and salt (to taste)

How to Cook

Cut the goat head into small sizes. Make sure that the essential parts like the ears and tongue are cut wholly. These are called the particulars. They are usually served in a separate dish with the Isi Ewu. Die-hard isi ewu lovers will demand it, so make sure the particulars are intact.

Goat head is usually messy so you have to take time to clean it properly. Wash it with an iron sponge. Don’t forget to clean the tongue too. Please note that the goat brain is not thrown away.  It is wrapped in aluminium foil like moi moi and cooked alongside the meat. Afterwards, it is used to thicken the sauce 

When you’re done cleaning the meat, put it and the foil-wrapped goat brain in a pot. Add chopped onion, seasoning cubes and salt to taste. Cook with a small quantity of water until it is tender. The meat stock in the pot should be little when you turn off the heat. This is to ensure that the seasoning gets into the skull. 

Dissolve the ngor in a little water and sieve out the particles. Edible potash can be substituted with ngor. Edible potash, however, has side effects the commonest of which is stomach upset. I prefer to use ngor because I sometimes react to edible potash.

Pound or blend the crayfish, pepper and calabash nutmeg. Calabash nutmeg is what gives this food its authentic local flavour. Please also note that the calabash nutmeg cannot be substituted with regular nutmeg.

Next, rinse the ukpaka in lukewarm water, strain and set aside. Rinse and slice the utazi leaves. Cut the onions into rings for garnishing. Set these aside for later use.

Take out the brain and mash until it becomes a smooth paste. Pour palm oil into a clean pot. Add the filtered ngor liquid into the oil and stir with a wooden spatula until the mixture thickens. Add the mashed brain, the blended ingredients, stock cube(s) and salt. Mix these thoroughly.

Next, add the ugba and the meat. Stir thoroughly to ensure that the meat and ugba are well incorporated into the palm oil mixture. Taste for salt and adjust if necessary.

Place the pot on the fire and allow the mixture to simmer for about five minutes. Stir from time to time to ensure that it does not burn. Then, turn off the heat. Your isi ewu is ready.

Serve in a small wooden mortar called okwa. Garnish with the onion rings and utazi leaves. Isi Ewu can be best enjoyed with Palm wine or any chilled drink.


Info Guide Nigeria

Guardian Life

Featured image source: The Guardian Nigeria

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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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