Cucina Povera, Nigerian Style
The Story of Iru

Updated May 27, 2020

Yesterday I heard about a traditional seasoning once used in the African country of Nigeria. I immediately ordered some Iru from Burlap and Barrel, my current favorite purveyor of spices from around the world. It was good that my reaction to hearing of Iru was knee-jerk. The day after the story broke they were sold out.

Iru is made of fermented Parkia biglobosa seeds, also known as the African locust bean. Iru is also known as dadawa / dawadawa, ogiri, ogirisi, ugba, netetou, kainda and soumbala, according to Burlap and Barrel, who collaborate with FK.N.STL to procure this delicacy.

If you are as curious as I am, no doubt you will find the paragraph above an invitation to fall into the internet rabbit hole.

Does the name FK.N.STL titilate your grey matter just a bit? Say it. You might melodically thread together a meaning that takes you to a cosmic rip in the hole. Fuck Nestle might have escaped your lips. Just a little so the kids don’t hear. Then you read of the traditional cooking of Nigeria being revised.

“For centuries Nigerians have used indigenously fermented seasonings and condiments to imbue their foods with rich complex flavor. Different ethnic groups developed myriad techniques to turn seeds and stems into pungent and powerful pastes and pellets, transforming innocuous ingredients into delicious meals. In 1969, Nestle entered the Nigerian market, and the ensuing period has seen artisanal fermented condiments, like Iru, replaced with factory produced soy-based bouillon cubes.

Nestle, of course, is the unrepentant stealer of valuable water from California, and authors other atrocities for profit. Fuck Nestle.

FK.N.STL is the brainchild of author and cook Tunde Wey. You haven’t heard of him, but…

my name is Tunde Wey. i am nigerian born-and-raised, new Orleans-based artist, cook and writer who uses nigerian food and dining spaces to interrogate systems of power. i have been featured in The New York Times, NPR, GQ, The Washington Post, VOGUE, Black Enterprise, Food and Wine, and my writing has appeared in the Oxford American, Boston Globe, and San Francisco Chronicle (light stunt). after almost a decade of undocumented living, i recently received U.S. permanent resident status and now, just like the honey badger i don’t really give a shit :) .
and i’m working on a book to be published by MCD Books.

Of course, upon reading this scintillating short bio I like him immediately. His website is

FROM LAGOS. why the name? LAGOS is a port city, the most populous in nigeria and one of the fastest-growing cities in the world. it’s where i was a child, learning and living all the things that my adult heart now remembers as nostalgia. FROM LAGOS is my attempt to remember, through food, where I came from and use this memory as a lens to interrogate systems of power— underlain is the assumption that power is almost always exploitative.

Isn’t it interesting that corporations “exploit” opportunities, which we consider a good thing, while “exploitation” is a very bad thing, no matter what you attach the word to?

We seem to have reached the bottom of the rabbit hole now.


To find out about the authentic life and cuisine of Nigeria, Mr. Wey recommends Longthroat Memoirs: Soups, Sex and Nigerian Taste Buds by Yemisi Aribisala.