Though I haven’t quite been sold on the whole TikTok thing yet, the bite-sized video app is doing wonders for spreading knowledge of Black food history, sharing the joy in discovering the marvels of Asian food, and yes, showing us dubious things like tortilla wrap hacks. Now it’s introducing the Internet to the West African staple, fufu. PRI’s The World has a primer.
Fufu is a spongy dough made of cassava, white yams, or plantains, and it’s eaten primarily with lunch and dinner. But this isn’t an easy food to make: it takes some muscle. “It’s elbow work,” Ghanaian-American chef and former Top Chef contestant Eric Adjepong told The World. “Whether you’re using cassava or plantain or a combination of both, they have to be steamed. And then, you have to work the dough.”
Nigerian chef Joyce Etim explains how to eat it. “You fetch just a little portion, just like a small ball,” she said. “And you mold it with your hand. Then, you make a dent with your finger. Then, you dip it inside the soup. As you dip it inside the soup and place it in your mouth, you’re supposed to, like, lick your finger.”
TikTok videos tagged #fufu have been watched more 310 million times collectively. Most reaction videos are positive, though there are still a few who aren’t so into it. Fufu recipes vary: some are fermented, some are sour, some are sweet. But some West African chefs like Nigerian chef Lola Osinkolu have been surprised at the attention to this dish.
“Oftentimes, you know, the knowledge about African food is limited when you leave Africa,” she said. “So, I’m glad [it’s trending] because the beauty of African food is coming out there to the public. And people are seeing and appreciating it. It gladdens my heart.”