Moin moin, or moi moi, is a steamed Nigerian dish made of puréed seasoned black-eyed peas. If you’ve had crunchy, fried akara, moin moin is its soft and tender steamed sibling; both rely on a base of skinned peas. Moin moin is steamed in a variety of vessels including special aluminum cups with flat saucers for lids, ramekins, repurposed evaporated milk tins, and in moin moin leaves, the sturdy leaves of the Thaumatococcus daniellii plant (ewe eran in Yoruba and uma leaves in Igbo), which impart a sweet flavor and a light vegetal aroma.
The peas are prepared in an identical manner to akara. They are first soaked to soften the skins and help separate them from the rest of the bean. Then, they’re briefly pulsed in a blender to roughly break up the peas, which makes the final removal of the skins even easier. At this point, the peas are soaked a second time to soften them further and then fully blended with onions, peppers, water or stock, and sometimes oil to form a bean purée.
Moin moin is typically formed into its signature pyramid shape by wrapping the filling in moin moin leaves. This can be a tricky assembly process to learn at first, as the uncooked purée is loose. My instructions in the recipe show how to properly form the moi moi using leaves, but I also include an easier method of simply steaming the moi moi in ramekins, which can then be served in the cups or unmolded onto a plate. If you do use the leaf wrappers, you can serve them in the leaves on a plate. While most of the filling stays in the center, some of it inevitably escapes and becomes trapped in between the folds of the leaves; those trapped bits are the most delicious bites.
Served at a range of temperatures from hot to room temperature, moin moin is great on its own, plain or with add-ins like boiled eggs, canned fish like tuna or sardines, corned beef, and vegetables like carrots and bell peppers. It makes for a popular breakfast, served with sweet milky pap (fermented cornstarch), sweet custard, or oatmeal. Additionally, it’s often paired with rice; some of the best celebrations and parties will serve up plates of jollof rice, moin moin, salad, and dodo.
In a medium bowl, cover black-eyed peas with 2 inches water. Let soak at room temperature for at least 15 minutes and up to 1 hour (this short soaking time helps loosen the skins without overly softening the peas).
Drain peas then transfer to a countertop blender or food processor along with 1 quart (945ml) water. Pulse to slightly break up peas, about ten 1-second pulses. Pour into a medium bowl and let stand at room temperature for up to 30 minutes (skins will float to top as they separate from the peas).
Set a colander over a large bowl. Slowly pour soaking water into the colander while using a free hand to keep the peas in the soaking bowl; the goal is to pour off as much of the floating skins as possible while leaving the peas behind. Pick out any peas that landed in the colander and return them to the bowl, then discard skins and soaking water. Cover peas with water, and repeat process until peas are nearly free of skins (you may need to gently massage the peas with your hands to separate any stubborn skins).
Transfer skinned peas to the bowl. Add 2 cups (475ml) water and let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes (this will further soften the peas for blending).
Drain peas then transfer to a countertop blender or food processor. Add onion, bell pepper, stock, salt, and habanero or Scotch bonnet pepper (if using). Blend, scraping down sides occasionally with a flexible spatula, until a smooth purée has formed, about 3 to 4 minutes (if you rub the purée between your fingers, you shouldn’t see any recognizable pea chunks). Transfer purée to a large bowl, add oil, and whisk until well combined.
To Make Moin Moin in Leaves: Using a sharp knife, trim stalks from bottom of moin moin leaves. Arrange stalks in an even layer at the bottom of a large pot. Alternatively, skip the stalks and place a steaming rack instead. Cover with 2 leaves, to form a bed for steaming. Fill pot with 1/2 inch of hot water, or just to the top of the rack and set aside.
In one hand, hold a moin moin leaf vertically with the shiny side up. Set a second leaf on top of the first so that the base of their midribs meet and the second leaf is angled a little less than 45 degrees from the first leaf (it should look like the leaves are the hands of a clock, joined at their base with the first leaf pointing to 12 o’clock and the second leaf pointing to just past 1 o’clock).
Using both hands and starting from the first leaf, roll the leaves to form a cone with the base of the midribs at the bottom point and open at the top. Fold the bottom 2 inches of the cone back and up to seal the base.
Holding the cone with its open top facing up (and securing the folded bottom with one hand), spoon 1/2 cup (115g) moin moin purée into cone. Set an egg quarter in the center of the purée, then cover with 1/4 cup (58g) purée.
To close the cone, use your fingers to push a section at the top of the leaf cone in so it lays flat against the surface of the purée, then fold a second adjacent leaf section in over the first one. Fold the remaining excess leaf back and down so it meets the folded-up point at the base (they may not touch, or they may overlap, depending on the size of the leaves). Set the sealed leaf cone down on the bed of stems in the pot with the tucked-in ends on the underside to hold them in place (you may need to stack the cones on top of one another). Repeat with remaining leaves and purée; you should have 7 filled moin moin.
Place 2 or 3 additional moin moin leaves on top of the cones, cover the pot, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and steam until the leaves go from bright to dull green and moin moin is aromatic, about 40 minutes. Alternatively, a cake tester or skewer inserted into the thickest part of the moin moin should come out dry. Be sure to check water level every 10 to 15 minutes, topping up with more boiling water from the sides as needed to keep the pot from going dry. Transfer cooked moin moin to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes to allow the moin moin to firm up.
To Make Moin Moin in Ramekins: Lightly grease the interiors of 7 4-ounce ramekins with oil. Spoon purée into prepared ramekins until each is half full. Place an egg quarter, cut-side up, in the center of each ramekin, then cover with remaining purée until ramekins are about three-quarters full (the purée will rise as it cooks).
Fill a large pot with 4-inches water. Place steamer rack inside, position filled ramekins on top of rack, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and cook until moin moin form domes on top, are firm to the touch, and spring back when pressed, about 30 minutes. Be sure to check water level occasionally, topping up with more boiling water from the sides as needed to keep the pot from going dry. Transfer ramekins to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes to allow the moin moin to firm up.
Serve in leaves or in ramekins; if you prefer to unmold the moin moin from ramekins, run a butter knife around the edges to loosen, set a serving plate on top, then flip right side up. Serve on its own, with salad, soaked garri, or sweetened oatmeal, or alongside jollof rice or Nigerian fried rice.
Countertop blender or food processor, seven 4-ounce ramekins (optional), steaming rack (optional)
If you like, you can mix 1 cup total (by volume) of drained canned tuna, canned corned beef, cooked diced vegetables like carrots, green beans, bell pepper, and corn, or raw prawns into the batter.
Moin moin leaves are available fresh and frozen at African markets and online. You can substitute with banana or plantain leaves, cut into 8-inch by 12-inch rectangles. Be sure to heat the leaves first to prevent them from splitting across the ribs.
Make-Ahead and Storage
Stored in an airtight container, moin moin kept in leaves or ramekins can be refrigerated for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 1 month.
To reheat moin moin, refer to Step 6 for moin moin in leaves or Step 13 for moin moin in ramekins for steaming instructions. Arrange moin moin in pot, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low heat and cook until completely warmed through, about 10 minutes if refrigerated or 18 minutes if frozen.