“Abacha” aka African Salad

An awesome delicacy of the Igbo people

On a guided tour to Awhum waterfalls in Enugu state, I came across a famous street food that was refreshing yet bland, unappealing yet completely appetizing! I saw a young lady standing along the dusty road leading down towards Awhum Monastery selling an unrecognizable item that was white in color and thread like in nature. She had a big bowl before her and sold to the numerous pilgrims on their way to the Monastery. I watched with a look of confusion as a pilgrim eagerly munched on three strips he pulled out from his polythene wrap. “That is Abacha!” my tour guide exclaimed, as he laughed at my facial expression. I had never seen or heard of such food in Nigeria before. “Abacha?” I repeated. “and what is it made of?” He explained that it was simply boiled cassava, a special delicacy the Igbo people call ‘African Salad’.

In other parts of the world, Abacha is popularly known as Tapioca, believed to be native to Northern Brazil, spread throughout South America and carried by the Portuguese and Spanish explorers to most parts of the world, including West Africa. In Nigeria, tapioca has been eaten since pre-colonial times and now Abacha is one of the most popular street foods in Igbo land and I had to try it!

As my tour guide began to describe how insanely tantalizing and tasty the final Abacha meal is, my mouth began to water. I bought two scoops of cassava food which was soaked in the crystal clear spring water and topped with pieces of coconut fruit. The cassava strips were almost tasteless, yet I hungered for more. The almost bland but subtle milky taste had the power to quench my increasing thirst as I kept walking towards the waterfalls. I finished the whole pack before I got to the valley floor and hungered for more but the descent of heavy rains sent all the street hawkers packing along with my Abacha.