English names for garri, zobo and other Nigerian foods

by Miz Tee

Nigeria is perfectly multilingual. Most of the names we call our foods are derivatives and sometimes cannot be traced to just one Nigerian language.

Trying to find the perfect English names for most Nigerian foods has sort of always created controversy.

It is not particularly important that we Anglicize these names — the need appears to heighten in written English where the writer usually feels using the Nigerian names in combination with a perfect English translation will create better understanding.

My opinion is that except in cases it is extremely required, the Nigerian names for food and drinks can stand, whether in spoken or written contexts.

Here are some English names for some popular Nigerian foods and drinks:

1. Garri

Garri is a popular West African food made from cassava tubers that have been peeled, washed, cut into small sizes and ground into a pulp. The resultant paste is bagged and stored for a few days before it is fried to produce garri.

Garri is not to be confused with cassava flour which is produced by grinding dried cassava tubers into a smooth powder.

The cassava flour is used to make fufu under intense heat and cannot be soaked and taken raw like people do with garri.

What is the English name for Garri?

Garri is not powdery but grainy, so calling it cassava or tapioca powder doesn’t work.

I’ve read where some persons used “cassava flakes” to mean garri in English, but this is wrong. Flakes are flat, thin pieces (as in corn flakes) but garri is not in flake form.

A more appropriate English name for garri will be granulated cassava or cassava granules. Coarse-grained cassava also works.

2. Zobo

Zobo is the name given to the popular drink made from the Roselle plant. Roselle is a species of Hibiscus (Hibiscus sabdariffa) native to West Africa.

The proper English name for Zobo is hibiscus tea. You can also call it Roselle plant tea.

3. Akara and Moi-Moi

Nigerians do a lot with beans, from cooking it for a long period to make ewa to grinding it into a paste to make moi-moi.

The same bean paste that moi-moi is made from can be used to make akara. To get the bean paste, dry beans are washed and ground or blended in a machine. Salt and pepper and other ingredients are added to taste.

For moi-moi, the paste is wrapped in foil or leaf or put into small cups and then steamed. To make akara, the paste is cut into small balls and fried in hot oil.

What are the English names for akara and moi-moi?

The most suitable English name for akara is bean buns while moi-moi can be called bean pudding in English.

4. Kuli-Kuli

Kuli-kuli is a popular Nigerian snack made from groundnuts. Kuli-kuli is particularly popular in the Hausa region of Nigeria. Kuli-kuli can be eaten alone or in combination with soaked garri.

The appropriate English name for kuli-kuli is peanut bars.

5. Suya

Suya is a popular Nigerian street food made by presenting grilled meat on skewers. Suya can be made from any meat type, from beef and chicken to innards.

The most appropriate English name for suya is beef kebabs or beef satay. For chicken suya, you can call it chicken kebabs.


Miz Tee is a senior writer at DNB Stories.

This article will be updated as more information comes along.

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