Vickie Remoe Institute of Digital Communications

The smellier the ogiri the sweeter the sauce


Ogiri may be smelly but it is one of the most important ingredients used in cooking that can make a particular source tastes very delicious.

Ogiri is best known West Africa and it is popular among the Igbos and Yorubas of Nigeria. In Sierra Leone ogiri is produced by moist solid fermentation of Sesame Seeds locally known as Benne Seed and it is quite similar to that of the Nigerian Ogiri.

As we all know, fufu is one of the two staple foods of Krios and the sauce they use to eat their fufu such as ‘sawa sawa’ (sorrel) involves the use of ogiri and that was how the ingredient became popular in Sierra Leone. Now apart from the Krios, the different tribes in Sierra Leone have adapted to the use of ogiri as it is now used in preparing cassava leaves, potato leaves and a list of others.

Ogiri is made of fermented oil seeds known as sesame seeds, salt and water and smells like cheese. There’s an entire process involved in getting it ready for use.

Here are a few steps involved in preparing ogiri. It is made with benne seeds that are soaked overnight, pounded in the morning, washed thoroughly and sieved in order to remove stones. After, it is then boiled for some time and finally wrapped for three days so it can ferment.

There are three common methods for wrapping Ogiri in Sierra Leone and they are as follows:

  1. The use of dried banana leaves, 
  2. The use of fresh smoked leaves
  3. The use of plastic wraps

After the three days of the fermentation process, it is finally ready for use. A well-prepared ogiri is always brown in color.

This is when it is rolled as balls in different sizes and taken to the market to sell or use.

Notwithstanding the odd smell, ogiri has some good health benefits. The fermented sesame or benne seed can be used in controlling diabetes and cholesterol levels. It aids digestion and promotes good sight. It can also be used to treat stroke and hypertension.

Now to why it makes food tastes so delicious. Benne seed which is also known as sesame seed has one of the highest oil contents of any seed. It has a rich and nutty flavor and very cheesy.

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