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Garri (also known as gari, garry, or tapioca) is a popular West African food made from cassava tubers. The spelling 'garri' is mainly used in Cameroon, Sierra Leone, Benin, Togo and 'gari' in Ghana. Either spelling is used in Nigeria.
To make garri, cassava tubers are peeled, washed and grated or crushed to produce a mash. The mash is placed in a porous bag and weights are placed on the bag for one to two days or more to press excess water and starch out. It is then sieved (or sifted) and fried in an extra large clay frying pot with or without oil. The resulting dry granular garri can be stored for long periods. It may be pounded or ground to make a fine flour.
Eba is a stiff dough made by soaking gari in hot water and kneading it with a flat wooden baton. Kokoro is a common snack food in Nigeria made from a paste of maize flour mixed with gari and sugar and deep-fried.
Garri comes in various consistencies, which can roughly be categorized into rough, medium and smooth. Each type is used for a particular food.
As a snack or light meal, garri can be soaked in cold water (in which case it settles to the bottom), mixed with sugar and sometimes roasted peanut, with evaporated milk sometimes added. The amount of water needed for soaked garri is 3:1. Garri can also be eaten dry without water, but with sugar and roasted peanut added.
In its dry form, garri is also a nice accompaniment for soft cooked beans and palm oil. This food mix is called yor ke garri in the Ga language, in Ghana. This food is usually eaten with fried plantain, commonly known as kokor. The combo is a common meal for lunch.
For a full meal, garri is usually cooked by adding it to hot water, then kneading it into dough. This is eaten with different types of thick, leafy vegetable stews, melon seed stews, or peanut stews.
Smooth garri (known as lebu to the Yoruba) can be mixed with pepper and other spicy ingredients. A small amount of warm water and palm oil is added and mixed with the hand to soften up. This type of garri is served with fried fish. It is also served with frejon on Good Friday.
In West Africa, there are two types, white and yellow garri. Yellow garri is prepared by frying with the addition of palm oil to give it a yellow colour; white garri is fried without palm oil.
Many variations of yellow and white garri are very common all over Nigeria. One variation of white garri is popularly known as Ijebu-garri. This is produced mainly by Yorubas of Ijebu origin, in Nigeria.
In Ghana, garri is judged by its taste and grain size. The sweeter types with finer grains are more valued over sour, large grain varieties. Commercial food vendors on the other hand prefer coarser grains with high starch content, as this yields more quantity when soaked in water.
Buyers often look out for crispier grains when trying to determine freshness.
Garri can be eaten without further cooking by placing it in a bowl and adding cold water; ijebu-garri is made to have finer grains, and a pleasantly sour taste, making it very suitable for consumption in this way. Sugar or honey is then added as well as chunks of coconut, groundnuts, tigernuts and cashew nuts. Milk may also be added.
Most garri, however, is cooked by adding it to boiling water and stirring to make a stiff paste or porridge, which among the Igbos is known as utara, and among Yorubas as eba. Utara (or eba) is normally eaten with soups, of which several different kinds are available. Most parts of Africa where cassava is grown have an equivalent staple dish.
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