Dambu Nama - A Meaty Treat

Funke Koleosho's Dambu Nama
I have often been asked if I have any recipes for Northern Nigerian cuisine......the truth is I also am still getting to learn about this cuisine myself and and with the exception of suya bbq, groundnut soup and a few drinks, I have no Northern Nigerian Cuisine recipes of my own!

Growing up, I do not recall eating that many Northern Nigerian foods but based on my subsequent visits to some northern cities, I have acquired the taste for some. My all time favourite is tuwon' shinkafa (a rice dish) served with groundnut soup. I also love the popular meat snacks suya barbecue (get recipe here), kilishi and dambu nama. These snacks often require quite a bit of prepping and processing so I never got round to making my own, because there are so many vendors about, who sell them. We just had to find the best made one around!

Since moving to the UK, I have had to improvise the making of these snacks to manage my cravings for suya in particular and also dambu nama. I still haven't  tried to make kilishi from home because its processing requires 40 degrees sun heat (which I don't think i can achieve here); but I have tried several times with success each time, making suya barbecue. As for dambu nama, I tried it a couple of times at home with very little success but when my wonderful friend Lami Falowo came visiting one day, she showed me the art of making perfect dambu nama.

According to Lami, dambu is a popular meat snack in Northern Nigeria and its more commonly prepared during the Muslim Sal-ah celebrations. The choice meat for making this snack for Sal-ah is lamb but beef and chicken are also used. Dambu can be eaten on its own as a snack or in combination with other dishes such as rice and fried eggs.

I have always had the impression that making dambu is a long and arduous process, but Lami proved to me that if you do really enjoy eating this delicious snack, then the process of making it can be soooo simple.

So for the remaining part of your New Year celebrations, try dambu as part of your array of canapés/snacks and enjoy something truly different! Think Chinese crispy duck, think Nigerian Dambu Nama...

What you need
  • Beef (trim off traces of visible fat and other connective tissues)
  • Yaji (ground ginger, chilli powder, ground garlic)
  • Fresh very ripe tomatoes
  • Bouillon cubes
  • Onion
  • Peanut oil (you can use other vegetable oil as an alternative)
  • Salt

What to do
  1. Cut beef into very large chunks, wash and set in a large pot. Add chopped onions, chopped tomatoes and salt. Also add some bouillon cubes/powder. Work seasoning/spices well into the meat, add some water and boil until all the water/stock dries out. Allowing this to happen enables the meat to absorb all the added seasoning. The amount of water you add will depend on the quantity of meat. Monitor this stage closely and continue to add more (hot) water until meat is tender and the fibres peel off easily. 
  2. Traditionally the meat is then pounded in a large mortar, but using a mallet and a chopping board can also be used to achieve similar results. Pound/beat the meat into a fibrous pulp. Then add the yaji spices and work into the pounded meat.
  3. Heat fresh peanut oil in a large pan and shallow fry the pounded meat (usually for about 5-8 minutes). This stage is crucial to achieving the right texture for the dambu. If the oil is too hot, it becomes too dry and brittle. If the oil is not hot enough, it soaks up too much oil. You must have a couple of testers before frying the whole lot. This tester also helps you  achieve the right level of spice & seasoning to add. Add your spices/seasoning a little at a time until you get your preferred taste. Be careful not to add too much salt/bouillon cube because I came to discover that frying increases the saltiness.
  4. Remove the freshly fried dambu and remove excess fat by placing on clean kitchen towels.

Hint/tips -
  • Use beef with less fat
  • Use only fresh oil that has not been used for frying anything else.
  • Add salt, seasoning a little at a time (to the pounded meat) and fry a few testers each time to check salt level. Frying removes moisture from the meat and makes the taste of salt more pronounced.
  • Once fried spread dambu on a large tray lined with kitchen towel, to aid quicker cooling and draining of excess fat. 
  • Store dambu in a zip-lock food bag to avoid it drying out and loss of favours. This way it can be stored in the fridge/freezer for weeks.
  • Save the oil used to fry the dambu. Its excellent for making stews/red pepper sauce.

You can enjoy dambu in a variety of ways:
  1. Dambu Lettuce Wraps
  2. Dambu Nama with Scrambled Eggs
  3. Dambu Served with Sweet Potato Balls
  4. Simple Dambu Salad

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