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Iru (also known as dadawa / dawadawa, ogiri, ogirisi, ugba, netetou, kainda and soumbala) are the fermented beans of the Parkia biglobosa locust tree that grows throughout West and Central Africa. They're a popular traditional ingredient in many West African cuisines, particularly in Nigeria, where they add depth and complexity to stews, soups, meats and vegetables
Iru has been used for centuries for its delicious and healthful properties. Rich in protein and natural fats, it imparts a deep umami flavor to any savory or sweet dishes. Since the British colonization of Nigeria and the introduction of mass-produced, imported seasonings and bouillon cubes, iru and the traditional, labor-intensive methods of producing it, are in danger of being lost.
- Origin: Kwara State, Nigeria
- Process: Boiled, fermented and sun-dried
Ingredients: 100% fermented locust beans (Parkia biglobosa)
- Tasting notes: Dark Chocolate • Roasted Nuts • Mild Cheese • Miso
- Use as you would dried mushrooms or other dried natural sources of glutamates - soak in hot water to soften, or add to soups and stews.
- Add iru as an aromatic at the beginning of the cooking process to sauteed dishes, along with garlic, onions, etc.
- Use iru instead of MSG or bouillon cubes in West African (and other) recipes.
- Pairs well with: Black Urfa Chili, Cobanero Chili, Oregano Buds
We're partnering with Tunde Wey and his new brand, FK.N.STL to source this incredible ingredient from women producers in Nigeria's Kwara State, with sourcing & processing by Kasher Organic Farms.
"For centuries Nigerians have used indigenously fermented seasonings and condiments to imbue their foods with rich complex flavor. Different ethnic groups developed myriad techniques to turn seeds and stems into pungent and powerful pastes and pellets, transforming innocuous ingredients into delicious meals. In 1969, Nestle entered the Nigerian market, and the ensuing period has seen artisanal fermented condiments, like Iru, replaced with factory produced soy-based bouillon cubes.
Iru, fermented locust beans, is a disappearing condiment, a victim of Neo Colonialism. Disappearing condiments are indigenously produced condiments being displaced from kitchens, dining tables, recipes and dishes by produced products from global brands."
(Learn more at www.disappearingcondiments.com.)
Locust beans grow in long, green pods from the branches of the Parkia biglobosa tree. The tree itself fixes nitrogen in the soil, and grains and other crops are often planted around the based of the tree to take advantage of the richer soil and protection from the sun that it provides. The fresh beans are surrounded by a yellow pulp, which is sweet and tart and is an important source of vitamin C. Other parts of the tree, including the bark and leaves, are also used medicinally.
After the pods are harvested, the inner dry seeds are boiled to soften the hulls, which are then removed by pounding them in a wooden mortar with sand. The beans are washed and boiled again, and then packed into a calabash gourd lined with ash, which is wrapped with leaves to ferment for 24-36 hours. There are several methods for making finished iru, including a wet preparation and mashing the beans into cakes, but ours is a style called iru woro, sun-dried as loose beans.
In some styles, the locust beans are combined with soy beans, melon seeds, pumpkin seeds or sesame seeds. Ours is made with only locust beans.
Iru is a great addition to my pantry. The fermented savory flavor adds umami to dishes. I crush the beans into powder in my mortar and pestle and then add it to my aromatics while they are sautéing. So far I’ve used it in red beans and rice and in pilafs. Wonderful spice and it arrived faster than expected.