My Orishirishi Story: Tales From A Tour of Tastebuds

An unrepentant Foodie’s guide to exploring Nigerian cuisine and other stories.

We have William Cowper (the English Poet) to thank for the apt phrase which describes Nigerian food: “Variety is the spice of life.” As a culinary explorer, sampling the extensive range of dishes in my home country is a continuously savoury delight.

Growing up in Africa’s megacity of Lagos, my understanding of Nigerian cuisine was limited to dishes from my Yoruba culture. I was often impatient for my mother’s special efo that was a staple in our home, and when it was time for egusi? I was fully ready!!  The ogbono soup though? Not so much. However, I reunited with this meal in my later years and (eventually) grew to love it!

To think that there was so much beyond my mother’s kitchen? I was in for a pleasant surprise! Then, I moved to the UK where I spent over twenty years, immersed in different cultures. As a relentless traveller who has always seen life as something to constantly experience like it is the first time. In 2003 there was a strong pull to come back to  Nigeria in (2003), where I would discover what Orishirishi truly means. 

Orishirishi is the Yoruba word for “variety” but it is used generously by most regions in Nigeria to connote enjoyment. From soups to stews, rice dishes to small bites, we know how to make a meal seem like a party.

Another thing about Nigerian food: We love our palm oil and spices. As I travelled from city to city on one work project after the other, I marvelled at the use of ingredients peculiar to each region. The South Region was the most fascinating for me because that was where I found the legendary native soup and my craving indulgence, edikaikong. From the north, the sweet-and-sour taste of groundnut soup awaited me..

My discoveries inspired the launch of Orishirishi kitchen, an online takeaway food brand with a vast menu. The brand has since evolved and is now incorporated in the menu at Bogobiri House Hotel. People troop into our hotel try food from Orishirishi and return with more people; the reception has been amazing.

So, what did Tola Akerele do next? She wrote a cookbook! 

I want everyone who is interested in Nigerian cuisine to be able to try out a recipe from any part of the world. With the Orishirishi Cookbook, I documented a vast range of recipes culled from our kitchen. From the delicious assorted native soup of the South-South region to the distinct taste of afang soup by the Efik-Ibibios or the unmatched textures and flavours of gbegiri and ewedu from the South-West, this is a celebration of premium culinary experiences from around Nigeria. Here, I share important stories about our culture, not just with words, but with images to guide you through each process from sourcing ingredients to serving the finished meal. 

So, check it out if you haven’t already. Definitely worth your time and taste buds!