Recipes and Food Stories from the African Diaspora
By Yetunde of YetundeRodriguez.com
Chin-Chin is one of the most popular and easily recognizable Nigerian (or West African, for that matter) snacks. It is a snack that is made for special occasions, such as weddings, christenings, funerals or birthday parties. Chin-chin is basically a dough made of the usual suspects: flour, sugar, eggs, butter, nutmeg that is cut into bite sized pieces and deep fried to a hard crunch. It is delicious, though not overly sweet.
The making of Chin-Chin is also inextricably tied to some of my fondest childhood memories of growing up in Nigeria. The general feeling was that if we were making Chin-Chin, good things were happening, or there was about to be a big party, because one doesn’t simply make Chin-Chin for no reason.
Making Chin-Chin was a communal event, as it was usually made in large batches. Everyone was involved, from the Matriarch of the household to the youngest child… each person had a part.
The prep work usually resembles a factory. The adults were in charge of measuring, mixing and kneading the dough until it was just right. The older kids would portion out and flatten the dough. Then would come the cutting of thin strips of dough, at which point the thin strips would be passed on to the younger children to cut into their final bite size pieces. At this point the adults would once again appear to collect the bite sized pieces to get them fried in the sizzling hot oil. The frying usually took place outside in extremely large shallow vats of oil sitting atop a makeshift fire-pit. The adults would take turns stoking the fire, moving the Chin-Chin around with long handled utensils and ultimately harvesting them out of the oil. Sometimes some of us kids would sneak off with a few pieces of dough (or whatever else was being made by the adults). We would make our own little fire pits and pots of oil with discarded tin cans to make our own Chin-Chin in the back It was a glorious time and place to be a child!
These large-scale cooking events fueled my love of cooking. Growing up watching Aunts, Cousins and other extended family execute this well orchestrated choreography of cooking taught me everything I need to know. Although the opportunity to cook like this is practically non-existent in my modern-day life, I hold those memories dear, and I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything.