Kitchen Butterfly, one of Nigeria’s foremost food bloggers, insist the correct name for this quintessential Nigerian dish is moin-moin. It’s also often called moi-moi, and even moyi-moyi. Kitchen Butterfly, aka Ozoz Sokoh, generally knows her stuff though so I will stick to moin moin.
A hot and humid day in Lagos she showed me how to make these delicious steamed bean puddings the traditional way – wrapped in banana leaves. It requires quite some skill, as it’s not easy to wrap a runny batter in the fairly sturdy banana leaves. The taste though, as with anything cooked in banana leaves (ask the Ugandans!), is delightful.
You don’t easily get hold of the right type of banana leaves in South Africa, but fortunately you can make moin-moin in any type of mould. I have even seen it made in small plastic bags and classic ceramic ramekins work well, or any type of small cake moulds (plastic or metal).
For me moin-moin is one of the great examples of vegetarian or vegan African food. It doesn’t have to be, but it can easily be. The basic recipe opens up to a lot of possibilities. In Nigeria moin-moin can be served plain, or include fish flakes or egg for example. You could easily experiment with added ingredients and spicing. The basic recipe simply uses fresh chilli pepper, but why not try adding fresh herbs or other spices to the mix?
When I made the moin-moin for this blog post I made one basic batter and one to which I added a slice of canned bell peppers, the Spanish type, to add some color. I do the same when I cook Jollof rice, to get a rich, red colour. In Nigeria, cooks use tatashe, an intensely red pepper originally from northern Nigeria. I haven’t found this in South Africa and doubt it’s widely available elsewhere, so roasted peppers make for a good substitute for colour (not the grilled version though as it would add the wrong flavour).
To make moin moin you need to master the art of peeling black-eyed peas, and that’s no easy feat (see recipe below). But it’s worth it.
Moin moin, makes about 6 standard size ramekins
- 325 gram dry black-eyed beans
- 1 large onion
- 1 fresh chilli pepper
- 1 slice roasted pepper or tatashe
- 1/2 cup water or stock
- 2 hard boiled eggs
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Soak the beans overnight. Then peel the beans by rubbing them against a chopping board.
How to peel black-eyed beans: Keep beans in a generous amount of water in a bowl in your kitchen sink. Place a small chopping board at a slight angle into the bowl. Grab handfuls of beans and rub against board. Stop now and then to pour off water and peels. It’s easiest done if you keep the bowl under a running tap and stir water and beans with your hand to make the peels float to the top. Then pour off water and peels quickly. Repeat until all the peels have come off. This is quite hard labor and takes a while.
Once all beans are peeled (no more black spots), place the beans and other ingredients (minus the eggs) in a mixer and process until you have a smooth, fluffy paste. It should be a fairly thick runny batter, not a paste.
Cut eggs into halves or squares, depending if you want eggs in all your moin-moins or vary between moulds.
Grease the moulds with a little vegetable oil. Pour in moin-moin batter to about one third of the moulds. Add the eggs, then fill up mould until about 2/3 full. The moin-moin will rise when being steamed so don’t fill it all the way up. Once the moin-moin cools they sink back and become less fluffy.
To steam, pour water in a wide pot on the stove. Place the moulds in the water, and carefully stack on each other if need be. Bring water to a boil and then turn heat down to low. Be careful to make sure the boiling water doesn’t splash into the moin-moin as this will spoil them. Put a lid on the pot and steam for about 30 minutes or until the bean cakes are done (they will have risen quite a bit and appear solid).
For a vegan version, simply omit the eggs. Serve warm as an accompaniment to Jollof rice or other main course, or on its own as a main course with salad and vegetables.