Masa is cherished for its unique, slightly tangy taste and soft, spongy texture – a combination that sets it apart from other rice-based dishes. If you’re looking for a new and unique culinary experience, I highly recommend giving this recipe a try.
Nigerian Masa, also known as rice cakes or waina, is a popular traditional Northern Nigerian delicacy, particularly among the Hausa ethnic group. It is made from rice and is often enjoyed as a snack or breakfast meal.
Renowned for its unique taste and texture, Masa has become a beloved snack or appetizer across the country, often enjoyed at special events, family gatherings, and casual get-togethers.
These fluffy, slightly tangy, and golden brown cakes are typically served with a spicy pepper sauce or soup.
What makes Masa so special?
The secret to Masa’s distinct flavor profile lies in the fermentation process that the rice goes through before cooking.
Masa is made from a fermented rice batter that creates a slightly tangy and sour aroma, a characteristic that sets it apart from other rice-based dishes. The rice used for Masa is typically a short-grain variety, such as Tuwo rice, which is known for its ability to clump together and create a desirable texture when cooked.
The fermentation process not only adds a distinctive flavor to the dish but also aids in breaking down the rice grains, making them easier to digest.
The Process – Step-by-Step Guide to Making Nigerian Masa
- Soaking the rice: To prepare Nigerian Masa, the rice is first soaked for several hours or overnight, which helps soften the grains and allows for a smoother batter.
- Creating the batter: After soaking, the rice is blended with water, cooked rice, and finely chopped onions to form a thick paste.
- Fermentation: The mixture is then combined with active dry yeast and sugar to kickstart the fermentation process. This mixture should be left to ferment for about 8 hours or overnight. As the batter ferments, it will become bubbly with a sour and slightly sweet taste.
- Seasoning: Once the batter has fermented, season it with salt and add some baking powder to enhance the flavor and texture of the cooked Masa.
- Cooking: Masa is traditionally cooked in a special Masa pan, which features round, shallow molds that give the rice cakes their iconic circular shape. You can also use a non-stick frying pan with a little oil to cook it. Spoon the batter into the molds or onto the pan, and cook until the Masa turns golden brown on both sides.
Masa is best enjoyed fresh and warm, served with a variety of spicy dipping sauces, soups, or stews. Some popular accompaniments include:
- Suya pepper sauce: A spicy, peanut-based sauce that pairs beautifully with the tangy flavor of Masa.
- Spicy tomato-based sauce: A rich and flavorful tomato sauce with a kick of heat to complement the rice cakes.
- Miyan Taushe: A Nigerian pumpkin soup that adds more depth to the Masa experience.
The combination of the slightly sour Masa with the bold, spicy flavors of the sauces creates a delicious taste experience that is truly enjoyable.
When making Masa, it’s essential to keep some crucial tips and tricks in mind to ensure you achieve the desired taste and texture. Here are some important things to note:
- Choose the right rice: Opt for a short-grain rice variety, such as Tuwo rice, which is ideal for Masa due to its ability to clump together and create a pleasing texture when cooked.
- Soak the rice properly: Soaking the rice for several hours or overnight is crucial for softening the grains and making them easier to blend. This step helps create a smooth batter for your Masa.
- Fermentation time: Allowing the batter to ferment for at least 2 hours to enable it to double in volume. I personally like to leave it overnight (between 6 to 8 hours). This is essential for achieving the slightly sour and tangy aroma that characterizes Masa. Be patient and give the fermentation process enough time to work its magic.
- Keep an eye on the batter consistency: The batter should be thick enough to hold its shape when spooned into the molds or the pan. If the batter is too runny, add a little more soaked and blended rice to thicken it. If it’s too thick, add a small amount of water to thin it out.
- Proper oiling: Make sure to oil the molds or frying pan adequately before cooking the Masa. This step prevents the rice cakes from sticking to the pan and ensures they turn golden brown.
- Cook on medium heat: To avoid burning your Masa, cook it over medium heat. This allows the rice cakes to cook evenly without getting too dark on the outside while remaining uncooked on the inside.
- Use a powerful blender: The Masa should be well blended, so it’s advisable to use a very powerful blender. This ensures that the rice grains break down completely, creating a smooth batter.
African Masa Recipe
- 2 cups rice use The Tuwo Rice, Arborio, or Jasmine Rice
- 2 teaspoons yeast Active dry
- ¼ cup water for proofing the yeast
- ¼ cup cooked rice Pre-cooked
- 2 tablespoons yogurt optional
- 1 small onion
- ½ inch ginger
- ½ cup water for blending
- 2-4 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- vegetable oil
- Wash the rice a couple of times until the water runs clear. Then soak it in water for at least 6 hours or overnight. This will help soften the rice, making it easier to blend.
- In a small bowl, mix the active dry yeast, 2 teaspoons of sugar, and 1/4 cup of warm water. Set aside for about 10 minutes or until the mixture becomes frothy.
- Drain the soaked rice and transfer it to a blender. Add the cooked rice, yogurt (if using), onion, ginger, and 1/2 cup of warm water. Blend until you achieve a smooth batter.
- Pour the blended rice mixture into a large bowl and add the frothy yeast mixture, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Stir well to combine. Cover the bowl with a clean cloth or plastic wrap and allow the batter to ferment in a warm place for at least 2 hours. You can as well leave it to ferment overnight ( 8 hours) if you want it more tangy.
- Add the baking powder, sugar, and salt to the fermented batter and stir until well combined.
- Add about a quarter teaspoon of oil inside each hole of the masa pan and preheat it over medium heat. You can also use a non-stick pan if you don't have masa pan.
- Stir the fermented batter again and scoop the batter into the preheated pan, filling each hole about two-thirds full. Cook the masa for 2-4 minutes on each side or until golden brown and cooked through. Repeat with the remaining batter, greasing the pan as needed.
- Serve warm with a spicy pepper sauce, such as Yaji (Suya spice), or a savory soup, like Miyan Taushe or Miyan Kuka. You can also go sweet with honey, maple, or powdereed sugar.
- Use a very large bowl if you choose to ferment the batter for longer than two hours, as the batter will rise significantly before it collapses and may spill over if the bowl is too small. This precaution will save you from wasting your rice and having to clean up your surface.
- For a more tangy flavor, allow the batter to ferment for up to 8 hours.
- If you don’t have a masa or pancake pan, you can use a non-stick frying pan and cook the masa in small dollops, similar to pancakes.