Asida, A South Sudan staple diet
Asida is a cooked staple food made from grains, commonly sorghum, red millet, or corn, as shown above. It is eaten with almost every meal, be it meats, stews, fish or vegetables. It is consumed similar to other staple diets such as rice or mashed potatoes. To eat Asida, cut a piece using the Right hand, mold between the fingers, create a dip in the middle, scoop the stew and place into the mouth.
Asida as consumed in Africa
Asida is is consumed throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, where it has many different names. In Uganda it is called Posho, in Swahili language- Ugali, in South Africa – Pap, in Zimbabwe – Sadza, in West Africa – Fufu. Many different grains may be used to make it including Teff, cassava, or plantains. Refined white wheat flour is not appropriate for making Asida. The high content of gluten in wheat flour makes the Asida too sticky.
Tips for making Asida
Asida appears to be simple, but getting this meal perfect requires years of practice. As any lady growing up in South Sudan can attest, girls start cooking it at age 12, and not after 3-4 years do their parents trust them to cook it for guests. The various problems are: the Asida can become too lumpy, too watery, too hard, undercooked, or burnt. My tips for a perfect Asida are: 1) First make a porridge, and after it has boiled add flour while mixing rapidly. 2) Use a stainless steel or a cast iron pot. Aluminum pots are thin and lead to burning at the bottom. 3) You need a constant amount of high heat. The easiest flour to make Asida is white corn meal, as pictured below. I present a recipe, easy for beginners, to make Asida.
- 2 and ½ cups White corn meal. Do not use the corn meal for corn bread, that one is too coarse. An alternative is corn Masa for making tortillas.
- Stainless steel pot or cast iron. I used a 3 quart size.
- Water, 5 cups
- Lofrega, or a wooden ladle with flat edge.
- Mix 5 cups of water and ½ cup of corn meal in a stainless steel pot and stir well.
- Boil on high heat for 12 minutes, stirring intermittently.
- Now add the remaining corn meal (2cups) in divided doses (total amount 2 cups). Stir constantly from the bottom and the sides of the pot. As the Asida thickens, continue stirring, now as though kneading bread, but using the Lofrega or wooden ladle. After 10 minutes close the lid of the pot and let it simmer for 3 minutes.
- Check whether it is fully cooked by taste, and when the Asida starts separating from the sides of the pot, sticking it itself, and steam comes out.
- Place a flat plate over the pot and turn the entire pot over onto the counter, the Asida should land on the plate in an oval shape. I liken this motion to flipping a baked cake from the baking pan.
- Alternatively you may scoop it off the pot onto the plate using a wooden ladle in small portions.