Yoyo

To the south of Nigeria is the mighty Atlantic Ocean, and what this means is, a great deal of seafood, especially in the southern towns and cities.

Funke Koleosho's Yoyo Recipe

For instance, the people of Lagos state, one of the most industrious states of Nigeria, are known for some of their seafood delicacies. Steamed, stewed, dried, salted, barbecued, fried or smoked, there is a wide range of different delicious fish, shellfish, mollusc etc., to be enjoyed! Name it, crabs, prawns, shrimps, periwinkles, lobsters, clamps, sea snails etc, the range is huge. I was surprised to discover that Nigeria is actually a seafood exporter!, specifically shrimps/prawns!!

In addition to the different types of fish/seafood which accompany many dishes, I particularly have fun memories of a snack/street food known to the Yorubas of Lagos State as yoyo (pronounced youryour...)

Yoyo sold on Apongbon street  in Lagos

Yoyo refers to the small fish, (baby herring, small-fry, smelt or whitebait) caught in the local body of waters called Osa (part of the Atlantic Ocean) seasoned with salt and chilli, deep fried, and sold on major inner city streets in Lagos particularly in the Isale Eko district of the state, and eaten as a snack or in combination with gari drink, fried yam or bread.

I can still remember the crunch you get from eating yoyo with the peculiar spicy salty taste which always increased my craving for "a sugary and very cold drink"! Since moving to England, yoyo is one of my most "haunting cravings". Suddenly I get a strong desire to eat them but because they are not readily available, I would make do with any available fried fish....until I discovered a frozen fish store that sells them.....

Yoyo served with ice cold drink of Gari (plus some prawns & fried fish)

Nutritional Data/Health Benefits
I did a little research on yoyo (smelt, whitebait, small-fry) and I discovered that these tiny fish are actually quite good for you! They are high in protein and are a good source of minerals (such as zinc, phosphorus, manganese and selenium) and vitamins (such as Vitamin B12 and Niacin).

More importantly, yoyo is rich in monounsaturates; (the same type of healthy fat found in nuts) and polyunsaturated fatty acids, also known as omega-3 fatty acids, which are believed to reduce inflammation and are essential for memory and cognitive functions in the body.

In other words, don't miss any chance you get to eat yoyo...below I share my very simple recipe for making them.

What you need
  • 1 (500g) pack of frozen or fresh smelt/small-fry/whitebait
  • Some plain flour
  • Some seasoning (suya barbecue seasoning)
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • Coconut oil (for frying)
  • Finely sliced bird's eye red chilli (for garnish)

What to do:
  1. Allow the fish to thaw completely if you bought them frozen. 
  2. The fish do not usually need gutting, but wash thoroughly and allow to drain off all water/moisture using a colander/sieve. Note: it is important to allow all the water to drain off.
  3. In a bowl, mix about 5 spoons of plain flour with 1-2 spoons of suya barbecue seasoning. (you can use any other preferred seasoning or spice). Also add some salt and freshly milled black pepper. 
  4. Dust the seasoned flour over the fish and ensure each gets a good coating. This coating will ensure the fish does not crumble during frying. Set the coated fish aside for about 30 minutes. This will allow any trace of moisture to be removed. Frying the fish wet will cause popping and "spitting" during frying. (Alternative to frying, you can grill or bake the coated fish in the oven, even though you have to note that the results won't be the same!)
  5. Deep fry in hot coconut oil for about 10 minutes, or until fish turns slightly golden and crispy.
  6. Drain excess oil using a kitchen towel. Serve with ice cold gari drink, fried yam, bread or any other cold drink of choice.


Yoyo served with Gari drink plus some spicy fried fish and prawns.

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