OUT OF AFRICA: Fura Da Nono is Nigeria’s sustenance in a bottle

June 7, 2013
“NIGERIAN corn flakes”. That’s how Munir describes the drink he buys in a bottle that looks like milk with brown flecks in it.

He says he buys it “to quench my hunger”. Munir has just bought several bottles from his regular supplier in Wuse Market in Nigeria’s capital. She knows he doesn’t like it too sweet, so adds only a tiny amount of sugar.

Others like it super sweet and ask for lots of sugar to be added.

Businessman Munir is not alone in his love for the meal-drink. It originates from northern Nigeria, a specialty of the Fulani people, but loved and drunk all over the region.

Traditionally it is sold in a round calabash bowl and eaten with a ladle or spoon. But these days, more and more, especially in the cities, it is common to see the Fulani women selling it in plastic water bottles.

Some customers drink it straight from the bottle, leaving thick milky marks around their mouths. Others ladle it from a calabash or plastic bowl, like soup.

Called Fura Da Nono or Fura for short, Munir says it tastes very much like porridge oats.

I’m not sure I agree with that description but it’s not bad. The bottles I buy from Aisha in the market taste very much like plain and tart yoghurt.

I don’t detect oats in it – but then everyone has different tastes. Aisha lives on the outskirts of Abuja and brings her wares to the market each day to sell.

Fura is actually yoghurt mixed with ground millet and spices and some sugar for those who prefer to take the edge off the tart taste.

The milk often comes from the family’s own cows, which they milk in the early hours of the day.

Aisha says she has more than 100 cows, of which she milks about 50 a day to get the base for the milky substance she sells.

The Fulani people, found across West Africa and in Nigeria’s north, are traditional herdsmen and they are often seen droving their long-horned cows around the countryside.

Aisha is one of dozens of women who sell Fura Da Nono from an uncovered area of the crazy-busy Wuse Market in Abuja.

The women sit on wooden stools in the sun, which can be unbearably hot. There are occasional small hand umbrellas, tied to posts, to give some shade from the heat of the day.

In front and around them are big plastic buckets with lids full of the milk/yoghurt. In other buckets are round brown balls of the ground millet, mixed with spices like pepper, ginger and cloves.

They ladle the milk substance into a round bowl, squash a millet ball into it and then stir and mix with ladles until the millet is mixed through thoroughly.

As they sit and stir, you can often see the rich cream rising to the surface. This is often skimmed off to make butter, which is also sold separately or mixed into the Fura to give it a rich taste.

The women sell it for between 100 Naira and 250 Naira – about 66c to $1.65 a bottle.

Some buy it to drink there and then. Others take it home and others prefer to have it in a bowl like soup.

In other more rural areas, on the outskirts of town, it is more common to see it mixed in a calabash.

Women also carry all the ingredients around in buckets on top of their heads, stopping in villages to sell to hungry customers by the side of the road.

Munir says it is like a meal that he finishes off and washes down with water.

“Whenever I go to the market my kids always ask for it. If I am buying things in the market I always stop and buy it,” he says of his whole family’s love for Fura.

“Some people take it like custard.”

Another buyer, Lukman, says some people can drink more than one bottle of Fura at a time, they love it so much. Think, eating a one litre pot of plain yoghurt in one sitting.

My friend Abigail says she drinks it because it is healthy and good for the body.

“It is nourishing,” she says.



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