Native to tropical South America, cassava grows well in similar climates elsewhere, and it is eaten as a staple starch throughout west Africa. In Nigeria, shredded cassava is fermented, dessicated and roasted to produce a coarse-grain flour called gari (or garri). This process has two aims: to produce a starch that is light-weight, flavourful, and can be stored for long periods, and to rid the raw cassava of its toxic cyanogenic glucosides, lest diners risk cyanide poisoning. Dried gari is reconstitued with hot water and worked into a thick smooth sourdough called eba. The eba are presented rolled into balls that can be depressed with the thumb to produce a kind of edible spoon for hot soup or stew. Dried cassava is not itself very strongly flavoured (think of tapioca), but the fermentation and roasting of the gari provides a surprising complexity in the eba that complements the very hot chilies found in Nigerian cooking. During reconstitution the vineagry character of the eba is quite pronounced, as the hot water wakes-up the fermented starch and water vapour carries the odor upwards, but at room temperature this inherent sourness is much more subtle. West-African grocers usually stock gari in small bags along with their other flours.
The recipe could not be simpler. Use eba to accompany a west-African soup.
Nigerian Cassava Dumplings (Eba)
Five minutes; serves four
1 cup gari
2 cups boiling water
In a large bowl stir the boiled water into the gari with a wooden spoon. It will initially be soupy, but within seconds start to thicken significantly. Keep stirring/beating it until it is a smooth opaque dough, the constistency of play-dough. Form into eight golf-sized balls with your hands.