Fufu is a starch staple food pounded with a big mortar and pestle and made from large tubers called ignams . While serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Northern Togo in 2010, producer Carla Seidl talked with Madame Helim, a pâte and fufu seller, about the process of making fufu.
In the small West African nation of Togo, a typical meal consists of one of two staple foods: pâte (pronounced like “pot”), made from corn flour and water, or fufu, made from pounded yams. For those in the North of the country, where yams are too expensive to be eaten year-round, fufu season comes as a welcome change.
“When I first tried fufu , I was less than impressed. While the flavor was mild and harmless, the texture was so gluey and unfamiliar that I found it difficult to swallow. Now, though, after over a year in Togo, I’ve grown fond of the food, and will go out of my way to order it if I’m out and about. It goes especially well with what is known as wagash , a cheese made from the milk that the local herding Pulaar people sell.
Locals eat fufu , like pâte and other foods, with their right hand, taking a piece of the fufu and using it to scoop up some sauce before putting it in their mouths. The yams used to make fufu are huge tubers with a skin that flakes off like thick paper. During yam season, you can often see a mound of seven or eight of them stacked and tied onto the back of a bicycle, the rider straining at the slightest incline, despite his physical fitness – that pile of yams must weigh a hundred pounds!”