Ofada stew, also known as ayamase stew or designer stew, is a delectable Nigerian stew made with palm oil, fermented locust beans, and bell peppers. Serve with cauliflower rice for a delicious African keto lunch or dinner!
Ofada stew actually borrows its name from the type of rice it was originally served with, known as Ofada Rice.
Ofada rice is an aromatic variety of rice grown in parts of Nigeria. It has a more robust flavor than regular rice since part of the rice bran is left on the grain.
I will never forget the first time I tasted ofada stew. If you’ve ever tasted it, you’ll understand my sentiment. The taste is one you don’t forget easily.
Ofada stew has a very unique and addictive flavor. The taste is refreshing and comforting, and there is a real chance that you’ll end up eating way more than you intended!
Green and red bell peppers: I have tasted ofada stew made with only green bell peppers and made with only red bell peppers. I personally prefer a combination of both, but you can mix and match as you see fit.
Or use what you have on hand. I use a ratio of 3 green to 1 red bell pepper.
Palm oil: Palm oil gives ofada stew its unique taste, especially when bleached (more on that later).
Habanero pepper: The traditional ofada stew is made with scotch bonnet peppers, but you can use them interchangeably.
Iru (fermented locust beans): I use iru in some of my African soups like my okro soup recipe. It is quite popular in Nigerian soups and gives a traditional, umami flavor when added in small quantities. You can omit this if you don’t have any on hand.
Meat: I used beef for this, but you can also use goat meat or chicken.
Bleaching palm oil might sound strange, but this is quite common in many West African cuisines. It involves heating the palm oil till it loses its red color (and turns a light orange hue).
Why bleach palm oil in the first place? Palm oil is bleached because some very traditional dishes rely on bleached palm oil for their unique flavors.
You can make the same dishes without bleaching the oil, but the taste will be very different. This ofada stew is one of those dishes.
Bleaching palm oil is quite straight forward to make if you know how to do it right. If done improperly, you might end up with a smoking kitchen and a screaming fire alarm!
To bleach palm oil, pour it into a pot, turn the heat down to low, then COVER the pot with a lid. The last part is essential as this will prevent a smoking kitchen.
If you have a stove fan, turn it on. Also, make sure the kitchen is well ventilated.
Then set a timer. I only bleach mine for 5 minutes, but you can do it safely for up to 10 minutes.
Turn off the heat when done and cool for another 5 minutes before opening the cover to prevent splashes.