I'm sure we can all relate to this:
After being at an event for hours, the tummy starts to rumble, and we are starving!!
Eventually, the servers walk in with little plates or trays of food! We could scream with excitement! These appetisers also known as small chops are simply the best thing ever.
They curb ragging hunger and wet the palate while waiting for the main meal.
What makes the perfect appetiser?
For me, it should be small individual portions of food, that can be held in one hand or on a toothpick. It should not be messy to eat, and of course it should be tasty too.
However, there is always flexibility, because who says that pepper-soup for example cannot be served as an appetiser?
There is an abundance of small chops in Nigeria, and we have gone as far as adopting some from other countries too and made them a part of ours.
Let’s get right to it…
Meaty Selections Nigerian Appetisers
Here are some delicious protein-rich Nigerian appetisers:
1. Asun (Spicy goat meat)
Asun is a tasty Yoruba delicacy is made up of small pieces of barbecued goat meat mixed with a small amount of a peppered sauce. This will give the flavour of the sauce on the meat, without it being messy.
The grilling process makes it crispy on the outside, but the meat is tender on the inside. Parboiling the meat before grilling gives this inner tenderness.
Goat meat is a great source of protein, and perfect to keep hunger away. It can be served with toothpicks for convenience.
2. Peppered snails
Again, the concept is similar to Asun. Where boiled snails are sautéed in a peppered sauce, resulting in a dry but flavourful finish.
African snails are big and chewy. They are a special treat. The uninitiated may be turned off by the thought of snails, but seriously after these bad boys have been washed, de-slimed and cooked they taste amazing.
Adding them to a peppered sauce, elevates them further. The peppered sauce is commonly a fried mixture of scotch bonnet (ata rodo), red bell pepper (tatashe), tomatoes, garlic, and seasonings.
This will be a showstopper amongst the small chop gang! They can be served with toothpicks or on a skewer as kebab.
3. Peppered Gizzard
Okay, I’m sure you are getting the picture now about these peppered proteins. In fact, the possibilities are endless. Think of chicken, beef, fish and so on.
However, gizzard deserves a special mention. Gizzard is a small muscular organ that helps in digestion.
We commonly use chicken gizzard in Nigeria. Adequate cleaning is essential as it can be sandy. Gizzards should be parboiled with spices, fried (or baked) to give a crispy texture and then sautéed in a peppered sauce.
You can add chopped bell peppers and fried ripe plantain to the mix to make the classic “Gizdodo”. Serve in small plates or with cocktail sticks.
4. Battered fish
This is a simple and tasty appetiser. The fish is rolled in batter and deep fried. Traditionally the batter is made with white flour, baking soda and water. Optional extras include milk, egg, beer, and various spices of choice.
White fish like cod works best but other types can work too. Try to use boneless fillets, this provides a better eating experience. You can also serve a side sauce for dipping.
A trip to Aboki to buy suya is certainly one of the average Nigerian’s favourite pastime. So why not bring that experience to your small chop menu? Suya is a street food.
Thin sheets of beef are commonly seasoned with “suya spice”, skewered and grilled. Serve as bite size kebabs or with cocktail sticks at your event.
6. Toothpick kpomo
I once heard a saying that goes: “Kpomo no dey do TV or billboard advert, yet e dey sell” This is so accurate because we sure do love kpomo in Nigeria.
Kpomo is essentially cow skin, that has been burned, cleaned, and soaked in water to make it swell. Health concerns about kpomo is related to how it is burned, using tyres and petrochemical for the fire will leave harmful particles on the skin.
Although the protein content of kpomo is not much, it does provide some fibre and collagen. Collagen is important for strong hair, nails, and supple skin.
As an appetiser, kpomo can be sauteed in a peppered sauce or placed on skewers with vegetables.
Pastry based Nigerian Appetisers
In this section we will be looking at small chops that are made with dough. Dough is commonly made of flour (or a starch), fat and water. It can be used as a base or covering for the food.
7. Puff puff
Puff-puffs are springy golden deep fried dough balls. They are well favoured small chops in Nigeria as they are perfect as a“grab and go” meal. The dough is commonly made of flour, yeast, sugar, and water.
8. Chin chin
Chin chin is perfect for nibbling on and therefore will make a great appetiser.
Like puff puff it is deep friend dough, but chin chin tends to be crunchy while puff puff is soft. The main ingredients for the dough are flour, sugar, butter, and milk. Egg and baking powder are optional, they will give it a softer consistency.
You can also play with the flavours by adding spices like nutmeg or cinnamon. You can cut the dough to a desired shape. Common shapes are small squares or thin strips.
This is also known as bean cake. Black eye beans are soaked in water, the coat is peeled off and it is blended usually with scotch bonnet, onions, and seasonings. The mixture is then whisked to incorporate air and deep fried.
The outside is golden and oily, and the inside is white and doughy. They make excellent small chops as they are small individual portions of tasty food.
10. Mini meat pie
Seriously, Nigerian meat pie and a chilled drink is a complete meal in its own right. The perfect Nigerian meat pie is very specific, and some people struggle to get it right. The dough is soft and buttery.
The filling is not dry, and it is commonly made up of mince beef, carrots, potatoes, and seasonings of choice.
Everything is then baked to a beautiful golden finish. Why not give your guests something to smile about, buy serving mini versions as appetisers?
11. Nigerian egg roll
The typical Nigerian egg roll is made by wrapping a boiled egg in a thick dough and deep frying it. The dough is made of flour, yeast, salt, and water.
These are different to scotch eggs. Scotch eggs are boiled eggs, wrapped in sausage meat, coated with breadcrumbs and deep fried. Nigerian egg roll and scotch eggs are nutritious and tasty appetisers.
12. Sausage rolls
Sausage rolls are made by wrapping a piece of sausage in a pastry dough. You can make your own sausages or buy pre-made ones. You can cut it to your desired size and bake in the oven till golden.
Samosas are triangular or coned shaped savoury pastry are a firm feature in the average Nigerian small chops’ selection. It originates from India, but we have adopted it completely.
The dough is made with flour, oil, water, and salt. This is filled with peas, turmeric spiced potatoes, and a mince of choice (commonly beef or chicken).
The entire samosa is then deep fried till golden. There is the option to make vegetarian samosa and to bake or air fry it too.
14. Spring rolls
This is another adopted and loved addition to the small chops’ family. This is originally a Chinese recipe. If you searched for spring rolls on google you will see varieties, different pastry, fillings, and cooking style.
The ones you will find at Nigerian parties are the deep-fried versions.
The filling can be anything really, but commonly a protein (like pork, turkey, or beef mince), a selection of thinly shredded vegetables (like carrot, onions, and cabbage) and seasonings. These are folded in spring roll pastry wrappers and deep fried till golden.
Small dishes Nigerian Appetisers
Here are some appetisers that can pass for a full meal:
15. pepper soup
Nigerian pepper soup is a spicy, yet hearty and comforting soup made with chunks of various meat. Popular varieties include assorted beef, goat meat, and catfish (aka point and kill) pepper soup.
The pepper soup spice is made up of various herbs and spices. It is sold commonly in the market or at African grocery stores. Pepper soup can be served in smallportions as appetisers.
They are nutritious and healthy. Their spicy kick will certainly get your taste buds all fired up for the main meal.
Nkwobi is a tasty delicacy in Nigeria. It is basically spicy cow foot. The cow foot is cleaned and deboned. Authentic Nkwobi is cooked in a palm oil and potash curdled paste.
Some people have health concerns about potash and alternatives can be used such as baking soda to curdle the palm oil. Nkwobi is normally spicy, and it can be served in little calabash plates.
17. Isi Ewu
Isi Ewu is another popular delicacy in Nigeria, it is spicy goat head. Isi Ewu is cooked like Nkwobi in a curdled palm oil paste and the goat brain can be used to thicken the paste.
The goat head can be cooked whole or in pieces. Isi Ewu is traditionally served in a wooden mortar. However, you can serve it in little plates as an appetiser.
Nigerian Appetisers bottom line:
There you have it, so the next time you are planning your event, don’t hesitate to wow your guests with some of these mouth-watering selections. These tiny but flavourful meals will surely keep them yearning for more!