A few years ago, a popular Lagos quick service restaurant burst unto the scene with a menu item called 'Yamarita". This dish had 3 main elements - Yam pieces in a batter and fried, a chunky tomato and pepper sauce and battered fried whole fish which you could swap for peppered fish or peppered chicken for a little more money. It remains one of their best sellers and I honestly had never seen it anywhere else.
I have to confess to not exactly being a fan of yam but my mother is from Ondo state and people from that state are huge yam eaters. They can start the day off with hot mounds of pounded yam. So I have been told. My grandmother (God rest her soul) had designated yam pounders and pounded yam everyday was just a part of life. Then I got married. To a man from Ondo state. His family has designated yam pounders too and he likes his yam as well. So I have had to introduce yam into our culinary repertoire and be inventive so I can enjoy the meals as well.
It never occurred to me to try this dish at home until my mom in a conversation ages ago suggested I try yam wearing underskirt. I was like 'huh'. She said yamarita or dundun oniyeri translates as yam wearing underskirt. I had a good laugh. I actually still giggle thinking about it.
It can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be - all depends on what you choose to accompany the dundun with. Dundun Oniyeri is simply yam pieces dipped in seasoned egg wash and fried. Some people add flour or cornstarch for a bulkier batter.
I usually serve my dundun with this smoked fish sauce which is so easy to make but tongue bitingly yummy. The whole meal takes less than an hour to put together from start to finish but its one of those meals that is so delicious and packs such a visual punch that novices will think you spent longer slaving over the hot stove.
To serve 4, you will need:
- 4 slices of yam - cut into wedges or "chips"
- 2 eggs
- Salt and dried cayenne pepper to taste
- Flavorless oil for frying - vegetable, canola or sunflower will work
- 1 large dried smoked catfish or any fish of your choice
- 200g whole red crayfish
- 1 cooking spoon palm-oil
- 1 large red onion
- 1 stock cube
- 2 cups blended tomato/pepper mix
- 1 tablespoon of ground crayfish
- Efinrin/nchawun/scent leaf to taste - optional
Start with slices of yam cut into wedges or 'chips'. Wash and drain and pat dry and set aside
In a separate bowl, crack your eggs and season with salt and some dried cayenne pepper if you wish. Whisk well and dunk your yam pieces in the egg wash. Ensure each piece is completely coated and drop the yam pieces into a pan of hot vegetable or canola oil and fry till golden brown.
The core ingredients for the accompanying sauce are dried smoked catfish and red crayfish. You can use any kind of smoked fish that you prefer really. I use this catfish because I have a source that calls me as soon as she finishes smoking the fish so its not hanging around for ages in the market.
Soak the dried smoked catfish and red crayfish to soften. Using your hands, skin and debone the catfish and flake into chunks and set aside. Take the heads and tails off the red crayfish and set aside. Save a little bit of the water used to soak the seafood for the sauce.
In a pot, add palm-oil and heat till it begins to smoke. You are not trying to bleach the oil. Just make it very hot. Add finely chopped onion and a stock cube and fry till onions begin to brown. Add blended tomato and pepper mix and fry sauce. Add blended crayfish and salt to taste.
Once sauce is seasoned to taste, add the dried smoked fish and red crayfish and cook on low heat for another 10 minutes. At this point, you can add some efinrin/nchawun/scent leaf which adds a whole different dimension of flavor to the sauce.
And that's it. That simple. Serve and enjoy!