How to make soya bean Wara (Nigerian tofu)

My dear friend Ojiugo served some spicy soyabean wara (a Hausa word for curds) at her birthday party a few months ago. It was so delicious I nearly ate the whole tray! I asked her to share the recipe on the blog and she kindly agreed, yay! This is one recipe you’ll want to bookmark. 

One of the many reasons why I love soyabean wara* is that it’s such an international food. With one mouthful, you’re eating a traditional Northern Nigerian, South Western Nigerian and Ghanaian delicacy. With the same mouthful, one tastes food that has long been central to Chinese and Japanese cuisine and has rapidly become a staple in vegan and vegetarian dishes in Europe and the United States. This nutrient dense complete protein crosses all borders.

*I specify soyabean wara here because cow’s milk wara is also made by the same process and enjoyed widely in Northern and South Western Nigeria. For the rest of this recipe, I use ‘wara’ to mean the soya bean variety.

The main reason I love wara though is its versatility. Fried and spiced cubes hawked and sold for /10 naira a piece and the wara kebabs favoured by Ghanaians are only a few ways of enjoying it.  Other ways include:

  • scrambled and curried wara (which goes SO well with fried plantain)
  • wara in egusi soup (fried/oven roasted before cooking in the egusi soup. I love how it soaks up the soup flavor)
  • oven roasted wara marinated before hand in ginger and garlic
  • wara in fresh Thai spring rolls
  • ehuru and pepper flavored fried wara
  • oven roasted small wara bits/scramble in your sphaghetti sauce or salads
  • oven roasted wara for burger patties

and so much more. The foodgasm – inspiring possibilities are endless. Oh and there’s more. Half way through the process, you get soy milk. Flavour that with vanilla and you have the perfect accompaniment for pap and all your cereals…

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Below is the recipe to get the basic block of wara, which you can then spice and further cook to your taste. It’s quite a long process, but well worth the effort. The great thing about making it yourself is that you can add in your own twist. In this recipe, I have added some pepper and onions to the wara.   Feel free to skip this step.

Ingredients

  • Soya beans (6 cups)
  • Coagulant (eg Epsom Salt)*
  • Diced onions, pepper (Optional)

*Here, I used Epsom salt (Magnesium Sulphate). It is readily available in many pharmacies in Nigeria.   In the past, I’ve gotten it from Hmedix, Lawcas Pharmacy and a roadside pharmacy in Enugu.   It has numerous other uses (from constipation relief to muscle-ache relief).  In wara making, it produces a firm and slightly grainy wara. Other coagulants include vinegar, lemon or lime juice (these 3 leave a slightly sour taste), nigari and food grade gypsum.

Materials:

  • Muslin Cloth/Cheese cloth (like the one used to make akamu/pap)
  • Porous/sack Cloth (like the one used in making akamu/pap)
  • Blender or Grinding machine
  • Large bowl

How to Make it:

Step 1: Pick out stones and other foreign material from the soya beans (no need to do this if you are using store bought packaged beans) and rinse well in cold water.

soyabeanssorting.jpg

Step 2: Soak the beans for 4 – 10 hours. Note that soya beans swell and rise to about 3 times their original size. So use a large bowl put in A LOT of water to accommodate this rise.

Step 3: Drain the soaking water and rinse the soya beans

Step 4: Grind the beans to a smooth texture. With the commercial grinding machine I used, the beans were put through 5 times to get a smooth paste. If you ask around open markets in Nigeria you can usually find people offering commercial grinding services; the same people who grind tomatoes for stew and egusi seeds for soup. If you do not have access to this, a blender or food processor should do. However, ensure that the beans are very well soaked and that you grind several times. If using a blender, add enough water to assist the grinding.

Step 5: If a grinding machine was used, add water to the bean paste till a watery consistency is achieved.

Step 6: Over a large bowl, strain out the mixture. The milk will remain in the bowl and the chaff will remain in the bag. Discard the chaff or dry it and feed it to your pet goat (#lifegoals 🙂 ). To get the most out of your soya beans, keep adding water till the liquid from the cloth begins to loose its milky opacity. This will however reduce the thickness of your soymilk (if you want to stop at the soymilk stage). However, adding more water does not affect the amount of wara you eventually get  (if you plan to continue to the wara stage).

filteringgg.jpg

Step 7: Pour the milk into large pots and boil.
potsofsoymilk

Step 8: To get soymilk, continue boiling for up to 20 minutes. (Tip: Once the milk starts boiling, it foams up. You can sprinkle some water on the top and the foaming will subside). After boiling for 20 or more minutes, let it cool in the pot. Strain the liquid to remove the film that forms above the milk and then sweeten/spice it up to your taste. Bottle and refrigerate. I used one of the pots above for soymilk and the others for wara.

Step 9: Now, back to the wara: While your milk is heating up, prepare your diced vegetables and Epsom salt solution. Dilute some epsom salt in half a cup of warm water. I used one tablespoon of Epsom salt per pot of milk.

veggies ready.jpg

Step 10: Once the liquid starts boiling, add in your vegetables and then add the Epsom salt solution a little at a time

Step 11: The milk will begin to separate into clear liquid and large curdles.

Step 12: Let boil for a few more minutes, making sure that the liquid is well separated from the curds. Add less or more of the Epsom salt solution as necessary.  Your pot should look something like this:

Wara ready.jpg

Step 13: Prepare your porous sac (I used a cloth sac used in the final step of akamu making). Put the contents of the pot into the bag. Careful. It’s hot.

Step 14: Press the bag to press out the excess liquid.  Use a big wooden spoon or turning stick for this.  Remember, it’s hot!

Step 15: Wrap up the bag and place a heavy object(s) on your wrapped bag. [I placed a tray on the bag pictured below. On top of the tray I then placed my big storage container filled with rice]

almost-ready-wara

Step 16: Let the water drain for about 15 minutes

Step 17: In the bag, we have a solid block of wara ready to be spiced and fashioned into so many nutritious dishes. Yayy!

wara-final

You can refrigerate your wara in a dish with water for up to a week. To keep fresh, change the water every day. It also freezes well. It keeps in the freezer for up to 3 months. 

Extra: One easy way to prepare your wara is to put some spices into a bowl with a tiny bit of water.  Toss and coat your wara in the spice mix and shallow fry till golden brown.

Browned tofu.jpg

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