Cameroon in Turkey: Istanbul’s Migrant Kitchen Serves Aphrodiasiac Pudding

By on November 14, 2012


by Simran Sethi

Istanbul’s Migrant Kitchen Presents Cameroon in Turkey lunch with Egusi Pudding

“You never know why people end up in Istanbul.” This is what Ansel Mullins said to me when I asked him about the Istanbul Migrant Kitchen: Taste of Cameroon event co-sponsored by the culinary website Istanbul Eats and the International Organization for Migration. The lunch is the first in a series, part of IOM’s broader effort on migration and intercultural exchange in Istanbul.

Ansel is the co-founder of Istanbul Eats and, himself, an immigrant. But the treatment he receives—as a white man originally from Chicago—is radically different from that of African migrants. Studies by anthropologist Mahir Şaul, a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, indicate Africans in Turkey experience discrimination in housing, work, and social settings.

And that’s what makes the Istanbul Migrant Kitchen project so important. Food is the catalyst for connection. Kepsin Misodi, a French and English translator for Doctors Without Borders, told me many Turks thought Africans were uneducated and uncivilized. Cooking, he said, was a way to educate people about his culture. “We have to understand where we come from in order to learn about each other. [This] puts a taste to it.”


Visitors to the Cezayir gallery were treated to an art exhibition and mini-feast of Cameroonian food. Eru*, koki*, and, my new favorite, egusi* pudding. Frida Ayukndang, an English teacher and one of the cooks for the event, explained the pudding was a high-protein, low-cost, extremely popular dish made of plump egusi seeds (from certain melons or gourds), crayfish, and eggs. The pudding typically sets in banana leaves, but in Turkey Frida has to improvise and uses aluminum foil. The best part, she said, is that is an aphrodisiac. “It will make someone love you.”

With a rich, smoky taste like that? Indeed.

Frida Kayukndang Cooks Egusi Pudding in Istanbul

Frida’s recipe reflects the way we cook in developing countries (with less precision that the West—a handful of this, a cupful of that). If you need more structure, try this recipe from the MaCocote African food blog.

  • Eru: a wild vine used in cooking as well as for medicinal purposes in Cameroon
  • Koki: a form of tortilla made from whole wheat flour and spices
  • Egusi: seeds from a particular kind of watermelon.  Available where ever African groceries are sold .
egusi seeds (melon seeds) are available where ever African food supplies are sold.

Frida’s Egusi Pudding 

If you’ve ever made tamales, you basically get the process for making Egusi pudding.  This flavorful, aphrodiasic dish is loaded with protein, is as portable as a sandwich, and is easy to make.  I steamed them in a large steamer with the packets stood vertically in the steamer pan then placed over simmering water.  Soon the house took on an aroma that was totally engaging and lovely.

I shop at an ethnic grocery which stocks everything from African yams to Polish preserves.  It was easy to find the dried seeds and shrimps, but I did have to substitute large shrimps for the crayfish.  If I’d been shopping in Louisiana,  the crayfish would have been easy to find. 

 This recipe represents the African diaspora, where ever it lands. LWE

Egusi Pudding proves once more that you can’t judge a recipe’s flavor by its beauty shot. Yum!

Serves 4-6 people.

 ¼ cup dried crayfish (or shrimp)

1 cup ground egusi seeds

2 yellow onions, peeled and minced

5 large eggs

2 fresh crayfish (or large shrimp)

3 cubes of chicken boullion

Peanut oil, garlic, sea salt, and pepper to taste

Hydrate the dried fish in ½ cup water. Grind dried seeds in a blender or using a mortar and pestle. Mix the ground egusi with ½ cup hot water until it is smooth and thick. Add the eggs and continue to mix. Steam the fresh fish with boullion, salt, pepper, garlic, and onion. Remove from the shell.

Add the wet fish mixture to the egusi paste. Fold in the dried crayfish. Add in enough peanut oil to keep the mixture moist and sticky.

Put the egusi pudding in plantain leaves or double-wrap in aluminum foil, about 2-3 tablespoons per leaf. Steam the pudding packets on high heat for 30-45 minutes. Then put in the oven for 15 minutes.

Serve with Irish potatoes, rice, bobolo or plantains.





About Simran Sethi