“No more rice without vegetables if Nigerians desire to live healthy,’’ says Chef Mark Punshak, a member of the Association of Professional Chefs, Nigeria.
Punshak, who is also the President of Chefs Gathering, Nigeria, apparently, made the assertion because rice, a staple eaten majorly on Sundays and feast days in the olden days has become a daily essential on the menu of Nigerians.
“Nigerians love to eat rice and in fact, it is the most popular staple food in the country. “It is almost a mandatory dish at occasions, on Sundays and even daily, and it can be prepared in diverse ways of which include, Jollof, With Stew, Fried, Coconut and many other ways.’’
According to Wikipedia, in everyday usage, vegetables are certain parts of plants that are consumed by humans as food as part of a meal. The term vegetable is somewhat arbitrary, and largely defined through culinary and cultural tradition.
But why is Punshak harping on the need to eat it with vegetables now? Can it be because Nigeria is a rice eating country? According to a BBC report in February this year, “Nigerians appetite for rice means that the country imported nearly 17 million tonnes of it over the past five years.
“Duties for imported rice are currently at 60 per cent and consumers have seen the price of a bag of rice double in the past 12 months. “The country imported nearly 17 million tonnes over the past five years and 2.3 million tonnes in 2016.
“The 2016 demand was 5.2 million tonnes, it spent 5 million dollars (4 million Pounds) a day for rice shipments and rice accounted for 1.26 per cent of the entire budget for 2017,’’ said the BBC report. So, since the food has been established as being commonly eaten, why must it be “No More Rice without Vegetables?
Speaking with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on the sidelines of a recent event organised by Nestle Nigeria Plc, Nigeria, to mark the 2017 International Chefs Day at Abeokuta, Punshak said that rice, especially the common white type consumed in Nigeria, was basically starch or carbohydrate.
According to him, some nutritionists say that White rice is about 90 per cent carbohydrate, eight per cent protein and two per cent fat. From his professional experience as a chef, Punshak, says it is advisable to cook or eat rice, whether white, jollof, fried with mixed vegetable or sauce from locally grown and affordable vegetables for added nutritional benefits.
“We say, ‘No more rice without vegetables’: It is important to have vegetables in every spoon of rice. We are a rice eating country. “To be able to balance our dish, we are talking very strongly about the use of vegetables because vegetables give vitamins and also it gives attraction and colours to the dish.
“It is important for us to add vegetable, whether it is Fluted Pumpkin leaves or `Ugu’ in local Nigeria parlance, carrots, cabbage or any other vegetable to give more nutrients and attraction to the food. “Vegetables give rice appealing look, it gives it more value, also in terms of mouthful, it makes it more enjoyable.’
’ Punshak adds: “When vegetables are in your dishes, they are more enjoyable than when they are just flat. “Then, when you eat more vegetables, you are playing a lot with vitamins, and vitamins do a lot in our system to help fight against diseases and make us healthier.
“That is the reason why we say we must eat our rice with vegetable; there are commonly grown vegetables around us that we can afford to be in our diet.’’ The chef said that people could use common vegetables around their locality to embellish their meals.