"Swallow" The Truth

I am Nigerian, born and raised, on "swallow food" I live most of my days....(# in the Fresh Prince tune & rhythm).

Some will ask, what is swallow food? It is our tradition, it is the way we eat...! Literally speaking, swallow foods are foods that are swallowed and not chewed...! I see your brows raising....😃😃😃..... well mostly swallowed with little need to chew.

Its the way we eat....really there is no further explanations for it. "Swallow" is a carbohydrate rich dish, usually moulded into a dough, and served with a variety of soups. There are different types varying with the type of vegetables used to  make them. Typically, "swallow" can be made from yams, plantains, potatoes, maize, cassava, millet, rice etc. They can be made solely from one type or a combination of the vegetables referenced above.

How to Make "Swallow"
As mentioned, a swallow dish can be made from a variety of vegetables that have been processed one way or another.

1. The simplest method is boiling and pounding the vegetable, examples include yam and green plantain, into a soft elastic dough.

2. The other method involves sun drying and grinding vegetables such as, again, yam, green plantains, millet, cassava, into a flour/powder, which is then cooked in hot water, resulting in a soft elastic dough.

Traditional Vs Modern
Though the process of making traditional swallow dishes could be really tedious and time consuming, they remain very popular and enjoyable to every Nigerian. The main traditional swallows are pounded yam (iyan), eba/gari, amala and tuwo and they remain very much prominent on everyday menu. On the average, a typical Nigerian will have one swallow dish every day!

On the other hand modern techniques are being applied to the ways traditional swallow dishes are being made, also new ingredients are being used to make swallow dishes. Some of these dishes include Poundo, Oat Fufu, Wheat Fufu, Fortified Poundo

Poundo: - this is one of the new flours used to make an equivalent of pounded yam (iyan). It is not entirely made with yam and the process of making the flour is very different compared to how the traditional yam flour is made.

The yam flour used in poundo is made by boiling yams, made into a slurry and dried using drum driers. The dried flakes that emerge are then milled into fine powder. This flour/powder on its own will not produce pounded yam with the same qualities as the traditional pounded yam so Poundo is usually a blend of other types of flours including (but not limited to) cassava flour, mashed potato, ground rice, corn or potato starch. A clever blend of these different components produce the taste and texture that is achieved by stirring some poundo flour into hot water.

Ignorance: A lot of people are ignorant about the fact that Poundo is not a 100% yam product. It is a deception which has so far gone unchallenged. The packaging on one of the top brands simply says made from dehydrated yam but does not specify the proportion....! By law (from the food standards agency, labelling must include percentage content of all ingredients in the food.)
In addition, Poundo contains anti caking agents and preservatives which some worry about in terms of impact on health.

Wheat Fufu: - this is a new addition to the family of swallow dishes. Its a new trend that emerged from the concerns that some have about the carbohydrate content of traditional swallows. It was believed that wheat fufu had a health advantage over the well known ones.

Wheat fufu is basically made by adding wheat flour to boiling water and stirred to make a soft elastic dough just like yam flour. Whole wheat flour is often used, because that is believed to contain more fibre and minerals.

The fact that the fibre content in whole wheat is high is established, but the other facts about wheat being high in carbohydrates and can still lead to obesity or type 2 diabetes, is often ignored, and then the fact that it is also quite high in gluten, which can cause serious allergic reactions in some people is also ignored!

Oat Fufu: - similar to wheat, oats have also been explored to make swallow dishes, mainly due to the health benefits it promises. In this case, usually rolled oat is milled into flour and cooked in the same way, by adding the flour into hot water and stirring to make a soft elastic dough.

Oat fufu is considered to be light to eat and able to lower blood cholesterol. It is also high in fibre and nutrients.

These new trends are welcome and quite exciting. They bring different elements to Nigerian cuisine particularly convenience and variety... There are however issues that arise from these new concepts, some of which I will try to explain below:

There are real concerns about how these new dishes can impact on health. Lets make no mistakes, all of these dishes are very rich sources of carbohydrates and that means, they can also lead to the development of obesity or Type 2 diabetes.

Taste Test
Many argue that the tastes of these new dishes cannot compare with the traditional ones..! Now that could be true but my take on this notion is that each of these new dishes have its own character...and that should be respected. Its up to individuals to adjust to this taste or not...

Checkout An Overview of popular Swallow Dishes here


  1. Thank you for this.
    Please can I make swallow out of millet powder?

    1. Hiya, I believe you can. But to be able to get the right consistency, you may have to add a complementary source of carb.

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