Seeking Foo Foo? A Very Unique Food. (long)
Spent some time traveling in Africa many years ago and had an excellent dish called foo foo (alt. fufu) in Ivory Coast. Sort of the national dish of Ivory Coast.
The traditional way to make foo foo is to boil cassava and green plantains. They are then pounded together in a large mortar and pestle. The kind you have to stand up to use.
Foo foo is a traditional food that takes a few hours to make any real quantity. I tried to help make it while I was there; using that huge mortar and pestle efficiently is no small thing. I could never get the rhythm or the aim right to be really effective. It truly is a "slow" food that takes a ton of skill to make.
Foo foo is traditionally a side dish served with a spicy stew. It's subtle complex taste and amazing texture is the perfect foil for a spicy rich stew.
The thing is, once you do the pounding, the resulting starch is like nothing I have ever eaten. It is very gelatinous and gooey. Just for a point of reference the texture is a little like mucilage that has dried out too much.
I know that sounds bad, but that is just to give you an idea as to the texture. It is really amazingly delicious.
It is also actually quite difficult to eat for a beginner, because foo foo is traditionally eaten out of a communal bowl and shared by the whole table. It is traditional to eat using only your right hand, no utensils, and it is very hard to tear off a piece from the mass of foo foo in the bowl. At first I made quite a mess of it.
In fact, in Ivory Coast there is even sort of a running joke that white people can't eat foo foo because they can never tear off a bit to eat. You sort of have to snap some off. If you just pull, it will never break and stretches somewhat like chewing gum.
I once had something called foo foo at a West African place in Adams Morgan in D.C., but it was made from a mix and not at all the same.
So finally, my questions are:
- Has anyone had real foo foo anywhere in the U.S.?
- If not, any ideas of how to make it? The one thing that I can think of is trying to make some using a food processor with a plastic blade. Pretty darned sure that it would not be the same though.
I just did a google search of chowhound.com and it seems there are some promising leads, but nothing sounds quite like what I had. In Cuba they eat something called foofoo, but that is not the same.
Other African foods that I have never seen in the U.S.:
- Kenke: tangy fermented cornmeal cooked in a leaf. Bit like a tamale, but the fermented corn meal taste is totally different. Traditionally eaten in Ghana with dried fish and chile paste as sort of a meal on the go as you can hold it in your hand.
- Leafcutter. Ghanian delicacy that I never got around to trying. It is actually groundhog.
- Red Red: boiled bananas with red beans and sweet red palm oil. Traditional schoolboy breakfast in Ghana.
- Jollof Rice, National dish of Senegal
- Millet-based cous cous, popular in Mali
- Fresh cashew fruit with the cashew on it
As a Peace Corps volunteer in Accra in the late 70s I ate a LOT of fufu. I grew to love it and had it at least 3 times a week. I worked hard and walked everywhere, so I, like my Ghanaian co-workers did not gain weight from eating it as we probably would here.
For some reason, I have been craving fufu like crazy for the past year or so. I've tried the faux version (potato flakes and bisquick) many times, but it just is not close enough. I don't know why some enterprising people (Ghanaians maybe?) don't just import the mortars and pestles needed to make proper fufu. With the possible exception of good palmnuts, ALL the ingredients for fufu and the accompanying soups are readily available---at least they are in South Florida. All we are missing is the hardware. I got really good at turning the fufu as others pounded, and I think pounding out some balls after all these years would be like riding a bicycle once I get the hardware.
I wonder about the description of the texture of fufu as " very gelatinous and gooey... dried mucilage..." That is way off the mark, and it sounds very unappetizing. Fufu is not sticky nor glue like; it is more akin to risen bread dough.
Anyway, I miss it, and all the wonderful sounds, aromas and expectations that accompany the preparation of fufu. It is good eats and an indelible experience that I would love to have again.
Before you go out and break your body, check out this mochi maker. The process sounds exactly the same as the traditional Japanese method of making mochi, which they only use at festivals nowadays. Otherwise, everybody just buys the machine and lets it do the work.
I suspect it is the cassava as well as the pounding that is responsible for the texture. Casseva is where we get tapioca from. So that might have a lot to do with the mucus-like, gelatinous and gooey texture. Using a food processor would probably yeild the same result if you started with some cassava
Fufu is just an African dumpling of sorts, so the ingrediants (plaintain, yams, cassseava, flour, potatoes) will determine the final result.
If you are looking for it in a restaurant, i would ask what ingrediants were used to make it.
The Congo cookbook has a discussion on Fufu and recipes for many of the dishes you mentioned. They also have a recipe for elephant soup. There's a real dilema for you. I just killed an elephant, I'm tired of roast elephant, any hound suggestions for other recipes? Actually, the cookbook says the meat is dried to make jerkey to preserve it. Still, that has to be one intense cooking experience.
I digress. Back to fufu.
Here are some recipes from the web using various ingrediants. There is also a store that sells various Aftrican ingrediants. Also a directory of African restaurants in the US and Canada.
Fufu using casseva
Fufu using food processor
yam fufu balls recipe
Chef Zoe Sharpe's Plantain and Yam Fufu (scroll WAY down on page or use "find on page" option for fufu
http://www.planetutica.org/html/zoe_s_world_archived_texts.html#Recipe for Plantain and Yam Fufu
Fufu using bisquick and potato flakes (scroll down
Safari African Food Market
Directory of African Restaurants
Sounds like you had a wonderful adventure in Africa. Lucky you.
The picture below is supposed to be of someone eating fufu.
re: Stanley Stephan
Haha, that first link sounds like how they make glue in ghana. I have been in ghana for the past year plus and have been comtemplating the effectiveness of a food processor as a substitute for large mortar. I'm glad to find that others have tried this! As soon as I find some cassava, it's on! Next step, palm oil. Anyone seen some in san diego?
Where are you located?
I've had foofoo prepared by a nigerian friend of the family in the US. You may want to check to see if any of the nigerian places around have any. HE did quite a bit of pounding with a large mortart and pestle but said that is wasn't exactly right and described the ordeal of doing it the "right" way.
I've seen jollof rice at a few places here in chicago