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Welcome to Nigeria with Maltina

by on August 25, 2011
 

We’re home – back on Nigerian soil. In the heat (and even with my nasal congestion), we’re in our land. It makes me smile…in disbelief almost. I can’t believe its been so long. My son says ‘Mama, we’re brown people, there are brown people here’. He’s only 4 years old so arguments about being ‘black’ are lost, in his favor. The world’s colour palette says brown…and so we are.

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We’re amongst earth-coloured bodies and familiar faces, voices and sounds – pidgin english and fruit trays on street corners. And rain, plenty of warm ‘rainshine’, I almost want to sit outside and let myself get drenched but the fear of being called crazy reins me in.

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I ask them if they want to go back – the kids. I know I shouldn’t but I do anyway. ‘No, we don’t want to go back is the answer I get’. Thankfully. That could have gone either way.

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And me? Hmmm. At first I was ambivalent. Worried, happy, excited, concerned – many emotions, many thoughts and feelings. Most of which have been assuaged though. The aisles of my sister’s American style LG frost-free fridge are lined with all manners of things, Sriracha amongst them. And Thai green curry paste. Her crisper drawer? Its full of golden delicious apples, purchased for a mere euro for 5 apples. Pears and kiwis keep the bouncy apples company as do papayas and pineapples. My younger sister kindly informs me that for a price, fresh peaches and plums are  also available. Half my heart is content. The other half, still aflutter.

The first channel to pop up on the screen of my sister’s Samsung LED 3D TV is ‘Masterchef Australia’, an episode from season 2 which I had not watched, by some miracle. Further discovery leads me to two dedicated food channels – a luxury I had before my move, and one I can rightfully claim back.IMG_4093
But I am still wondering if I can keep my culinary mojo. I had a mishap with my new camera, dropping it a few days before we boarded the airplane – it is being fixed. In the interim, my blackberry has been my recorder, and recently my sister’s point and shoot. Its interesting finding new angles and places to take photos. The best spot on the counter top? Not yet found but we’re getting there.

I visit ‘Park n Shop’ and ‘Chanrai’ to find a wealth of spices, grains and lots more! I’m thrilled – and can proudly say, we’re on track. Shaoshing Rice wine, Pomegranate molasses, Hershey’s chocolate syrup, Indian pawa (rice flakes), UHT cream (better than nothing), and I could go on and on but I won’t. I’ll show you in the coming months.

After 2 days I have a routine. It involves sampling local delicacies which I’ve been deprived off for 4 years. Number 1 on the list is ‘Maltina’, an energizing drink made of malt and hops. Because of this drink I could set myself on a liquid diet. Especially with the bout of ‘welcome home’ illness that has waylaid me since this Sunday past – an upper respiratory tract infection the doctor says which has kept me in bed.

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Anyhow Maltina. I like to think of it as a cross between thick, bitter guiness stout and light, sweet coca cola. Served cold, there is an ultra light fizz with each sip and gulp. Maltina, ladies and gentlemen is not for everyone. Shandy lovers may appreciate its fine talents but hardcore beer lovers ridicule its ‘pansy nature’. I, I laud it. Young beer before beer becomes beer, that it is.

Malta, young beer, or wheat soda is a type of soft drink. It is a carbonated malt beverage, meaning it is brewed from barley, hops, and water much like beer; corn and caramel color may also be added. However, Malta is non-alcoholic, and is consumed in the same way as soda or cola in its original carbonated form, and to some extent, iced tea in non-carbonated form. In other words, Malta is actually a beer that has not been fermented. It is similar in color to stout (dark brown) but is very sweet, generally described as tasting like molasses. Unlike beer, ice is often added to Malta when consumed. A popular way Latin Americans sometimes drink Malta is by mixing it with condensed or evaporated milk. 

Nigerians too adopt the latin america maltina latte common during recuperation from an illness.

Maggie Savarino Dutton on Tablematters.com says about Malta Goya, a brand of the drink ‘What the hell it tastes like: Malta lands somewhere at the intersection of brown ale, molasses, and unsweetened cola. Even though the beverage itself is sweet, your mouth might register it as not sweet. It has thickness, like milk, and its carbonation compares to a Coke that’s been open for a few hours’.

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I believe the Germans were at the front of the invention line with Malta (a brand of the malt drink) which began as Malzbier (“malt beer”), a malty dark beer whose fermentation was interrupted at approximately 2% ABV, leaving quite a lot of residual sugars in the finished beer. Up to the 1950s, Malzbier was considered a fortifying food for nursing mothers, recovering patients, the elderly etc, according to Wikipedia.

Malzbier in its native form was finally superseded during the 1960s by its modern form, formulated from water, glucose syrup, malt extract and hops extract, which had been on the market since the latter half of the 19th century, notably in Denmark. Such formulated drinks are to be called Malztrunk (“malt beverage”) according to German law, since they aren’t fermented. In colloquial use, Malzbier has nevertheless remained, along with other nicknames such as Kinderbier (“children’s beer”). Some native Malzbiere can still be enjoyed in Germany, notably in Cologne, where the taps of breweries Malzmühle and Sion sell it alongside their traditional Kölsch. Many German breweries have a Malta in their range, sometimes produced under licence (for example Vitamalz).

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When I was younger, You could only buy Maltina in bottles but now…..on my return, a glass bottle of maltina is hard to find – cans are rife. In Nigeria, the largest brewery Nigerian Breweries Plc started producing it in 1976, the year of my birth – something that makes kindred spirits of me and the dark handsomeness in a glass! Of the three available varieties – Maltina Classic, Maltina Strawberry, and Maltina with Pineapples, the plain and simple ole classic does it for me.

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I’d been thinking of how to incorporate it into a stew when I happened upon Maggie’s ideas.Everywhere she says ‘Malta’, I’m going to sub ‘Maltina’. 

She says ‘……And all this is why it is the world’s perfect beverage for carnitas tacos, Cuban sandwiches, and barbeque, even though you’re 10 times likelier to find it in a pupuseria. ……Malta is the secret ingredient for my pull-apart pork, because stock comes off too savory, and coke is too sweet for filling the crock pot. When you cook a pork butt down with beer, you risk too bitter a result, but malta and onions produces a caramelized character smack in the middle of all these things.

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Malta makes great liquid to use when sautéing mushrooms or onions and cooks down to something similar to Marsala, but far earthier. Reduce it as you would wine and you end up with something to slather on your steak, and it single handedly changed the way I felt about liver and onions.

Add it when making caramel, chocolate cake, or any other nutty and malty dessert, but you will freak out when you try it with vanilla ice cream, as a float or a milkshake. It’s an instant malted, without that powdery residue getting in the way of all the creamy goodness. Malta is low in sodium and rich in B vitamins, so as you chase your pork tacos with a thick, beery frosty you can think about all that flavor with only a wee guilty conscience’.

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Thanks Maggie is all I can say.

When I get my own kitchen, I’ll try it in a fruity ‘malt’ loaf and perhaps with some pulled beef but till then…..I’ll be having you out of a glass, Maltina – my black (or brown, as my son would say) brewed beer.

Welcome home Nigeria says to me. Welcome home. Lets leave talk about the traffic and the driving for another day :-)!

Have you had a Malt drink before?