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By: Stephen K. Derigubaa
I write this Article to vehemently refute the assertions that Tuo Zaafi is the most delicious food from the Northern part of Ghana, specifically the Upper West Region. Dear reader, by the end of this write up, you will appreciate the fact that Tuo Zaafi is just a linguist and Tumbani, the paramount. The people of the Upper West Region have some rich foods like, tumbani, tuo zaafi, koose(beans dough cakes), masa etc. But for the purpose of this article, I will only talk about my favorite, TUMBANI.
Whereas Tuo Zaafi is a local dish best eaten with soups, such as ayoyo(green green), okra soup, vegetable soup, groundnut soup and jojo (vegetables in groundnut soup), Tumbani is a lazily chewable food best eaten with stew of various kinds. Tumbani is a steamed food made from beans flour. It could also be made using Bambara beans flour but majority of Tumbani fans snub Bambara beans tumbani for the beans made ones because the Bambara beans one is tougher than the beans made Tumbani. Be thou informed that, this all-time best local mouthwatering delicacy is proudly brought you by the people of the Upper West Region of Ghana. However, other regions have been making the imitated versions of this food. That’s quite unfortunate as our ways of life are not easily imitated. Be warned! I will just end up in the realm of malapropism, if I try using words to describe the unfathomable taste of this dish. All critics insinuating that Tumbani is difficult to prepare, I unreservedly quash, and pronounce same null and void. And because of this, I will take you through the process of its preparation.
As stated early on, it is prepared from either beans or Bambara beans. To be able to make soft, smooth and eye friendly Tumbani, you first soak the beans in water for at least a day, dry it and then dehusk it at the grinding mill and then grind it. It is imperative to note that, to enjoy the naturalness and beauty of an original Tumbani, there are specific leaves that are cut fresh, notable among them being, plantain leaves, soft and fresh mango leaves etc. With regard to plantain leaves, you cut them into the sizes of an adult palm. It is however regrettable to learn that, some devourers of our rich culture have resorted to the use of polythene bags. Well, one can use it but do not forget when polythenes are heated, it produces some toxic chemicals that could harm you over time. On that note, if you are an addict of Tumbani like myself or want to enjoy it like I do, and enjoy the naturalness; I sincerely advice you use the leaves which is very healthy and appetizing.
After washing your fresh leaves, put a pot or source pan of water (a bit below the middle of the source pan) on fire. You fetch the beans dough into a suitable container and add water of a reasonable quantity and stir it into a bit thick porridge-like form. At this point depending on the quantity of the mixture, you add a spoon(s) of saltpjetre solution. This aid the tumbani to stick to the leaves in the boiling process, gives the tumbani an attractive natural color, taste and makes it soft and smooth. By now the water should be very hot about to boil, do not allow it boil but let it be at the verge of boiling. Now cut the mixture using your clean hand or medium size ladle on the slice of leave and gently drop it into water in a dispersed manner. After putting the mixture on the leaf, you can decide to use another leaf to cover before dropping it gently and horizontally into the water. After putting for a while you can stop and cover it and allow it boil for about 4 minutes then you open and continue putting but do not fill the pot, allow enough space for steam circulation to cook the tumbani. After about 10-15minutes of airtight steam-boiling, your tumbani should be ready. Remove it from the fire, and to aid easy removal from the leaves, drain the hot water out and pour cold water on it then remove your tasty tumbani having the shape and size of the leaves you used.
I must unequivocally state that, a well-cooked tumbani must go with a rich and sumptuous stew with enough oil and fried meat in it. For me, I prefer consuming tumbani with stew and fried pork. It is imperative I emphasize on enough oil because tumbani stew needs more oil, onions and meat than any other normal stew. This food is best eaten during day time between the hours of 10am-3pm. This is because, it is a heavy food and one consumes a lot of water after eating. Unlike tumbani, tuo zaafiu can be eaten anytime because it doesn’t last in ones stomach. It is passed out through frequent urination. No wonder it’s popular than tumbani because, it is cheap to prepare or come by anywhere in Ghana and so it has lost its originality, these cannot be said of tumbani. Yes, just five slices of tumbani can take you for the whole day without feeling hungry, I consume 10 to 15 slices for a day. Tumbani, foodwise, is my first love. Try it.