Crayfish, also known as Crawfish in some parts of the world, but a much smaller specie of crawfish, could easily be mistaken for one of those ingredients that don’t add much to a dish. Firstly, they’re really small, so they’re hardly anyone’s choice of protein, because come on, who wants these guys lying around in their plates, when there’s Lobster, Pork chops, or a nice juicy steak? So let’s just say they don’t fit into that league. So crayfish had to carve out a niche for itself. Now no other food can do what it does, at least not when it comes to Nigerian cuisine.
Somehow, sometime, for some reason, in Nigeria, our fore fathers or mothers; since men didn’t as much as know the location of the kitchen in those days, because at the time in Africa, they believed the kitchen was a woman’s place. Anyway, our “fore mothers”, discovered how to enhance the flavours of our local cuisine by adding dried ground crayfish to their foods. Ever since, there’s hardly any local Nigerian cuisine that doesn’t have crayfish in it. Now we have ovens which makes drying crayfish less cumbersome, but who wants to do all that when they’re all over the market. Although, if you’re a D.I.Y (Do It Yourself) kinda person, then here’s a link to how you can dry your crayfish at home http://www.allnigerianrecipes.com/food-ingredients/crayfish.html
I remember when I was in boarding school. The dinning hall food was mostly terrible. So when we went home for the holidays, we’ll grind some crayfish and put it in a container. Then sneak it in with the rest of our luggage when school resumes. During lunch or dinner, we sprinkled some of the ground crayfish on our food, and Bam! Just like that, the food tastes okay. You might wonder why just “okay”, after all crayfish is supposed to be an amazing season right? Well, you’ll have to imagine how terrible the food tasted prior to the addition of crayfish.
Bare in mind that crayfish, as little as they look, have a very strong aroma and equally strong flavour. So the quantity you use is dependent on the kind of food you’re making. For local nigerian soups like Afang, Edikang ikong; the names are a mouthful but they are absolutely delicious. But don’t take my word for it, look how amazing they look in these photos, and try to use your mind to taste them.
Also Egusi (ground melon seed) soup. Now this is one soup which you can’t afford to scrimp on the crayfish. It plays a very important role in the overall turnout of the soup. No matter how tasty the stock. No matter the variety of meat and smoked or dried fish you use in making egusi soup. If the soup does not have sufficient quantity of crayfish, and when I say ‘sufficient’, I don’t use the word lightly. The soup will turnout to be a sorry disappointment.
Ironically, ground crayfish as a seasoning, doesn’t work as well when it comes to nigerian Fresh Seafood Soups. Especially in one of the most amazing seafood soups you will ever taste, if you haven’t tried it already. Fisherman Soup (recipe coming soon)-originated from the Efik tribe of Nigeria.
Fisherman soup has absolutely no crayfish in it. This is because the delicious flavours of the fresh seafood, can easily be masked by the strong and imposing flavour of the crayfish. What’s the point of having Fisherman Soup if you can’t taste the fresh seafood?
In conclusion, crayfish gives our local cuisine the characteristic and unforgettable “local nigerian flavour”. That’s why we even use it as a seasoning in some of our rice dishes. To you out there who has never tried a dish that has been properly seasoned with ground crayfish, add it to your bucket list. You’ll be glad you did.