Everybody knows that Akara ( Bean cake or Fritters) is simply delicious. Since their main ingredient is beans, they provide little to no fat and are cholesterol-free. In fact, beans actually lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels instead of potentially causing them to increase.
Here in Igbo land, Akara is normally eaten with bread and akamu - a gruel made out of corn - and in the morning. However, it also lends itself we to accompany other stand alones like fried yam, plantains, fish, and even rice and beans.
Akara and akamu remain an Igbo breakfast staple
Akara was taken to Brazil by the slaves from the West African coast where it is named Acarajé. It is however called "akara" by the Yoruba and by the citizens of Sierra Leone, "kosai" by the Hausa, "koose" in Ghana and is a popular breakfast dish, eaten with millet or corn pudding.
Regardless of where they are eaten, these bean cakes are also entwined with tradition.
Hausa Akara seller in Kastina
Akara plays a significant role in the Yoruba culture, as it was specially prepared when a person who has come of Age (70 and Above) dies. It was usually fried in large quantity and distributed across every household close to the deceased. Akara also used to be prepared in large as a sign of victory, when warriors came back victorious from war. The women, especially the wives of the Warriors were to fry Akara and distribute it to the villagers.
In Sierra Leone, Akara is composed of rice flour, mashed banana, baking powder, and sugar. After mixed together, it is dropped in oil by hand and fried, similar to Puff Puff. It then forms into a ball. It is usually prepared for events like Pulnado (event held due to the birth of a child), a wedding, funeral, or party. No matter how big the occasion, this item is a classic in the Sierra Leonean community.
Sierra Leonean Banana Akara
Acarajé sold on the street in Brazil are variously made with fried beef, mutton, dried shrimp, pigweed, fufu osun sauce, and coconut. Today in Bahia, Brazil, most street vendors who serve acarajé are women, easily recognizable by their all-white cotton dresses and headscarves and caps. They first appeared in Bahia selling acarajé in the 19th century. The city now has more than 500 acarajé vendors. The image of these women, often simply called baianas, frequently appears in artwork from the region of Bahia. Acarajé, however, is available outside of the state of Bahia as well, including the streets of its neighbor state Sergipe, and the markets of Rio de Janeiro.
Brazilan Akara or Acarajé seller
Here are some health benefits of eating Akara that may surprise you.
1. They are heart-helpers
Beans contain an abundance of soluble fibre, which can lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Ditch canned ground beans, to avoid the sodium used to preserve it.
2. Low in fat
Most beans are about 2 to 3 percent fat and contain no cholesterol unless they’re processed or prepared with other ingredients.
3. They balance blood sugar
Beans contain a beautiful blend of complex carbohydrates and protein. Because of this, beans are digested slowly, which helps keep blood glucose stable and may curtail fatigue and irritability.
4. Cuts cancer risk
Due to their abundance of fibre and antioxidants, 3 cups of beans per week can promote health and reduce the risk of chronic diseases, like cancer.
5. They are nutrient-rich
Aside from protein, complex carbs and fibre, beans contain a powerhouse of nutrients including antioxidants, and vitamins and minerals, such as copper, folate, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, potassium and zinc. These are often reffered to as “shortfall nutrients,” meaning most of us aren’t getting enough of them. Beans can help you step up to a complete plate.
As pointed out earlier there are tons of ways to eat Akara. Also becoming very popular, especially among the health conscious trying to cut down on red meat, is the new Akara burger which can be made big or as a finger food below. (below)