These Coconut Rice Pancakes (Hausa Masa) are a delicious twist on the Nigerian Hausa Masa with a slightly crusty exterior and a light fluffy interior. Serve with some maple or date syrup for a vegan and gluten free breakfast or snack idea.
On my last trip to Nigeria, I came across these rice pancakes at a street food stall for the first time. The street food hawker was a “mai-suya” (which is the hausa phrase that describes a suya vendor). Suya is one of Nigeria’s most popular street foods and it is essentially grilled spicy meat skewers – think shish kebab. Suya is Nigeria’s answer to Kenya’s Mshikaki. Usually, these rice pancakes, known as Masa or Hausa Masa in Nigeria are sold alongside the suya meat skewers as an accompaniment to the grilled meats.
It was love at first bite. Slightly crusty on the outside. Melt-in-your-mouth texture on the inside. Savoury. With just a hint of tang. Have I piqued your curiosity yet? I later discovered these rice pancakes are also popular in East Africa as a breakfast meal, and are called Vitumbua in Swahili. The first bite brought the realisation that these rice pancakes were no one-hit wonder. I knew I had to have these rice pancakes again. And this is how the adventure began;
At my request, the mai-suya reeled off a simple and straightforward set of instructions on how to achieve the perfect, street-worthy Hausa Masa:
I was to start with tuwo rice. Tuwo rice is a variety of short grain rice that grows predominantly in Nigeria’s middle belt region. Tuwo rice, also called African rice has the botanical name Oryza Glaberrima, and it is the earliest specie of rice cultivated in Africa before the arrival of Europeans. In my alpine kitchen, risotto or sushi rice comes to mind as the perfect substitute.
I was to ferment the rice and blend into a batter. And this stands to reason. Fermentation is integral to African cuisine. Corn, cassava, sorghum and rice are eaten as staples across the continent, and are more often than not, fermented. Plus, I am a sucker for all things fermented given the health benefits of fermented foods including improved digestive health, a stronger immune system (1) and better mental health (2). So let the fermentation begin…
Finally, I was to pan-fry the resulting batter in my Aebelskiver Pan to little golden spheres of deliciousness. Simple? Yes! Did it work out? No!
My first attempt was a failure of epic proportions. I ended up with a batter that was too runny, and subsequently, my rice pancakes were bland, and the stick-to-the-bottom-of-the-pan type. It was time to refine the crude set of instructions I had received, substituting ingredients as necessary. So here we go:
For this recipe, short grain rice is your friend. Think Thai sticky rice, risotto rice or sushi rice.
You’ll need a powerful blender or food processor, a handful of spices and some coconut milk. If you are new to fermenting food, this is the perfect recipe to get you started on your fermentation journey.
Finally, do not forget to activate your yeast. Yeast is used to ferment the rice, which is what imparts the slightly tangy taste to these rice pancakes. If you are using active dry yeast (like I did) for this recipe, you will need to ensure that first, your yeast is activated. To do this, dissolve the yeast in a small bowl of warm water in which a pinch of sugar (to feed the yeast) has already been dissolved. The water temperature is crucial. Too hot and you will kill your yeast. Too cold and you will fail to get your yeast activated.
Cover the bowl and leave to sit for up to 10 minutes in a dark place. Yeast love to work in the dark! After 10 minutes, you should see a bubbly froth on top of the yeast mixture. Success!! All you need to do at this point is add the yeast mixture to your rice batter, cover and leave in a dark place for up to 8 hours to ferment. And you are good to go.
In terms of spices, Nigerian Hausa Masa is usually made with some salt… and sugar. Kenyan Vitumbua takes it a notch up, and is usually spiced with cardamom pods, in addition. Not being one to be outdone, for this recipe, I have added nutmeg, coconut flakes and vanilla extract, and this combination of spices really hits the spot. Serve with a drizzle of maple syrup or date syrup, and a cup of South African rooibos tea!
… thank me later 🙂
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