West African fufu is the newest viral meals on TikTok

Joeneen Hull had never tried fufu, but for weeks the 31-year-old nail artist watched mukbangs of people dipping warm pieces of starchy batter into rich, flavorful soups.

“One day I just thought, ‘You know what? Today will be the day, ”she said. “I long for it so much. I don’t even know what this food tastes like and I long for it. “

On January 4th, she drove nearly 80 miles from Moreno Valley to Veronica’s Kitchen, a Nigerian restaurant in Inglewood. Initially determined to order multiple soups, she showed an employee several pictures from the restaurant’s Yelp page. He suggested that one would be more than enough. She decided on two: egusi and okro (okra) soup.

From her car, which was still parked in front of the restaurant, she filmed herself as she dipped a sip of batter into the okro soup. “Bomb – it’s so worth it,” she said to her phone camera.

Next the Egusi. “I don’t know what they put in, I couldn’t even begin to guess,” said Hull. “Oh my god, it hits.”

Hull’s Fufu videos quickly spread on TikTok and garnered more than 6 million views, but their intent was never to go viral. “I just wanted to get good food and record it so other people could see that it was good food,” she said.

To the surprise and amusement of the African diaspora, Fufu has a moment. #Fufu videos have been viewed more than 250 million times across the app. The videos were shared and discussed publicly on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter as well as privately on WhatsApp and in group chats.

The #fufu or #fufuchallenge tags are a mix of new Fufu lovers like Hull. People who respectfully said it was not for them; People who disrespectfully spit it out; and members of the African diaspora mocked or gently scolded those who tried.

One of the most famous Fufu proponents of TikTok is Keith Atowo, a 24-year-old pharmacy student from Ypsilanti, Michigan, who picks up on @keitheats_. Best known for sharing videos of himself eating – and sometimes cooking – traditional West African dishes and has helped introduce dozens of people, including Hull, to Fufu. He has 260,000+ followers and a no-frills approach to content creation – no soundtracks, special effects. When he’s hungry, he sits in front of his camera with crockery from Cameroon – he moved to the United States when he was 12 – and begins every video by describing what’s on his plate in his soothing voice. The rest of the clip consists of the sound of him quickly ripping through his plate and enjoying the dish.

Atowo said some West Africans – angry at videos of people spitting Fufu – criticized videos like his online for making eating a viral challenge. He said his goal is not to start a trend, but he sees Fufu’s popularity as an opportunity to channel money to businesses in the U.S. and increase interest in travel to African countries.

“It’s good that people are learning about our cultural food. It’s good that people want to try, ”said Atowo. “Not only will it create business for many of the African restaurants that we have … but people will be more interested in going to Africa.”

At least it generates local business. TikTok users like Hull generally mention where they ordered from, which has resulted in free advertising for minority small businesses across the country. In Veronica’s kitchen, business quadrupled in the week after Hull highlighted the restaurant, said owner Veronica Shoyinka, who has been selling Nigerian food in Los Angeles since the 1990s. A regular customer who visited Wednesday afternoon called her warmly “Madame TikTok”.

Many new customers had never tried Nigerian food before. Hanna Kim, a 23-year-old community health worker from Los Angeles, made the trip after reviewing the TikTok videos. She said the fufu challenge reminded her of the birria taco trend that swept the app over the summer. “I think it’s so cool how we share each other’s cultural foods, and we can experience that and see updated reviews from people who eat it and share their opinions,” said Kim. (She ordered fufu and egusi soup with chicken.)

It’s not clear how long the trend will last, but so far it has produced at least one regular customer. Two weeks after her trip to Veronica’s kitchen, Hull tried a second Nigerian restaurant in Inglewood, Aduke Nigerian Cuisine.

“I think, like most people, when you look at it, you come up with your own idea of ​​how it will taste,” Hull said of Fufu. “And once you’ve tried it, it tastes absolutely nothing like that.”

Here’s a guide to trying fufu and other West African dishes:

What is Fufu?

In general, fufu is a spongy dough made by mixing yam, cassava, or other flours in hot water. It’s popular across West Africa, although different regions have different names depending on how it’s made. (In Nigeria, for example, “fufu” specifically refers to fermented cassava dough, while yam dough is referred to as crushed yam.)

OkayAfrica has an in-depth look at the different types of fufu, but beginners should stick to Yam Fufu.

One mistake people sometimes make is not getting enough soup with every bite. Fufu is literally unseasoned dough that has no taste of its own. Think of it as a tool – don’t dive in, scoop up.

Fufu is usually wrapped in plastic wrap. Some TikTok users believe there is a need to beat it. It is not.

There is also a debate about whether to chew fufu. Traditionally, it is swallowed whole, but gagging for punch is not recommended. “Chew it,” said Atowo. “I’m not going to tell anyone to do something they can’t.”

What is egusi soup?

“It’s just hearty,” said Hull. “It has a little spice that I love. It’s hearty. I can’t compare it to any other food. “

The Egusi soup consists of dried, ground pumpkin seeds, spinach, habanero chillies, tomatoes, onions, ground crabs, palm oil and a type of meat like chicken or beef.

“It’s unique,” Shoyinka said of the taste. “A lot of people who have tried, especially Americans, love it because it’s pumpkin seeds, it’s what they know. They make pumpkin pie. We make soup out of it. “

Do I have to get egusi?

Egusi soup can be an acquired taste. “If you’re just starting out, be sure to try Jollof rice,” said Atowo. “Jollof rice is just rice with spices and flavor. It’s like fortified rice. “Get the rice with a side fried chicken or plantain.

As for egusi alternatives, okro soup with okra is another great choice. Efo Riro Soup is a spinach dish and red tomato stew is simple but tasty.

Beyond Fufu, there’s Moi Moi, which is made from black-eyed peas that have been soaked, mixed, seasoned, and steamed with hard-boiled eggs.

Goat meat pepper soup – made by cooking seasoned meat and often served with rice – is another option, especially for people who enjoy the taste of liver and other offal.

Where can I get West African food in Los Angeles?

In Inglewood, Veronica’s Kitchen and Aduke Nigerian Cuisine (formerly Mid-City) serve traditional Nigerian dishes.

Mama D’s African Cuisine, a new African restaurant in Boyle Heights, offers a Cameroonian variant of West African cuisine, as does the African Chop Food Truck.

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