Nigeria has some of the tastiest foods available on the planet. Yet on a global scale, Nigerian foods could not take their rightful place on the table among other international cuisines. Part of the problem was that Nigerian foods were labor-intensive, time-consuming to prepare and traveled poorly. All that has changed due to the brilliant and innovative efforts of Dr. Beulah Iroegbu, a Registered-Nurse-turned-Chef, who has created Nigerian instant food mix. Sinachi’s Instant Nigerian Food is an assortment of mouthwatering Nigerian dishes that are fast changing the narrative when it comes to taste and easy availability of Nigerian foods. Dr. Ejike Eze & Mr. Hamilton Odunze of the Nigerian Parents Magazine sat down with Dr. Iroegbu to understand more about her amazing product that is receiving such rave reviews as it brings culinary joy to Nigerians and friends of Nigeria around the world.
NPM: Dr. Iroegbu, thank you for coming to speak with us at the Nigerian Parents Magazine.
IROEGBU: Thank you for having me. I appreciate the opportunity.
NPM: First things first. We want our audience to get to know the person behind this exciting venture that we are going to talk about. Please tell our audience a little about yourself
IROEGBU: My name is Beulah, Nkemsinachi Iroegbu. My maiden name is Ndudim. I am from Umuahia. I am married to a wonderful man from Uzuakoli. His name is Emenike Iroegbu. We are blessed with three wonderful sons.
Professionally, I am a registered nurse. I attended Holy Rosary Secondary School Umuahia, went to nursing school at the School of Nursing, UNTH, Enugu, and completed my bachelors degree at the University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus, before coming to the United States. I now hold a doctorate degree in Nursing Practice and work for Kaiser Foundation Hospitals, one of the best healthcare organizations in California.
I also organize many medical missions in Nigeria and have recently started a new business venture that takes traditional Nigerian cuisine and simplifies it in such a way that allows all of our authentic food to be prepared in the microwave, making cooking easy while retaining amazing taste.
NPM: Before we ask you about this new exciting venture, let’s talk about family. You are the mother of three young boys who are representing Nigeria in international basketball tournaments, which makes you the ideal Nigerian parent. Tell us a little about that. How did this come about?
IROEGBU: Well, you know, as parents, you try to engage your kids in extracurricular activities, be it sports, music, dance or wherever they happen to be interested in. For us this interest was sports. All three boys were active in both Soccer and basketball. But as time went on, splitting time between both sports became very difficult. With my husband and I both working full-time, we asked each one of our boys separately to select one sport. They each individually chose basketball. We finished that season of playing both sports and then shifted our focus solely to basketball after that.
The three of them were extremely competitive from the start. They got the opportunity to play with other very talented players in California and the surrounding areas. The many years of hard work paid off in a big way for our boys. All 3 of them went on to play Division 1 basketball on full-ride scholarships. Two of our sons now play professionally and are very active with the Nigerian National team. It is an honor that we as a family do not take for granted. They were both invited to the Olympics training camp this June and we are extremely excited about that.
NPM: One of the reasons we asked you to come speak with us today is that you are providing a service that no one has provided before now. You are making Nigerian food easily accessible to everyone – Nigerians and non-Nigerians alike. Tell us about this venture.
IROEGBU: It has been my desire for a very long time to make Nigerian food easy to prepare by anyone. I mean anyone! An 8 year old child that can safely operate a microwave can make most of our dishes themselves. Another motivator in creating this business is that we know many people love and enjoy Nigerian cuisine. However, teaching someone to make Nigerian food is not an easy thing to do. Take egusi soup for instance, there is a craze among young people to try egusi soup and fufu. However, aside from knowing someone who understands all of the many ingredients that egusi soup requires, the avenues for enjoying egusi soup are extremely limited. Even within your household, most men can cook noodles in the microwave and yet cannot make traditional jollof rice, let alone cook egusi soup. Solving this issue has been a passion of mine for over 12 years. But it was my sons who pushed me to actualize the dream. We have been working as a family with all hands on deck to make this a reality.
NPM: You are a full-time worker, full-time wife and full-time mom. It seems like you have three full-time jobs already. How did you find the time to start Sinachi Instant Nigerian food? What inspired this?
IROEGBU: As I noted before, the desire has been there for many years. Initially, my husband and I did not think we had the market for it. Our children opened our eyes to how much our product is truly needed, and helped us bring this dream to reality. There is that Igbo adage that says “when you are able to place any load on your head, it’s never too heavy”. This project is a joy and I see it as an opportunity to make a difference and to leave a mark. It gives me hope that our food culture will survive us. Someday, our children will find jollof rice at Walmart on the same shelf as Top Ramen. They can stay in their dorm and make egusi soup and fufu in their microwave, and be proud to share the food experience with people of other ethnic backgrounds.
I envision one day, the world desiring Nigerian food just as we desire Chinese and Mexican foods. The only difference between these food groups is that we as Nigerians have not figured out a way to make them INSTANT. Today’s generation requires all things to be instant . As I was working on the MIX and recipes, my children were right behind me demanding it has to be instant. “Five minutes is what you have, mom”, they would say. It has to be five minutes.
NPM: Tell us a little about the different menu offerings.
IROEGBU: We actually trademarked 10 items but the guys here insisted I can only start with 4. Right now, we have jollof rice, egusi soup, ogbono soup and pepper soup.
NPM: What are you hearing so far from those who have tasted Sinachi’s Instant Food?
IROEGBU: The reviews are really great. People are expressing how easy, quick and tasteful our products are. It is really amazing. What I tell people is, buy one of our products, follow the directions and watch the magic happen within five minutes. It will amaze you how your egusi soup or ogbono is ready before you can finish making your fufu. There are still a lot of skeptics out there that cannot imagine that everything about egusi soup or ogbono soups can be in one bag. Our mission is to make products that only require you to just add water.
NPM: Of the current items on the menu, which do you think would appeal to the following demographics of the Nigerian population – teenagers and young adults, middle-aged Nigerian, older generation?
IROEGBU: For the teenagers, it’s the jollof rice. We are trying to penetrate college students. They can take the bags of jollof rice to school. Heat it up in the microwave and skip the line of Chinese food and Mexican food. We are also providing discounts for our college students.
There is also a craze out there for egusi soup among the youth. We just want the world to discover our rich food culture. Our pepper soup mix has been extremely well received and acclaimed. I am getting text messages almost on a daily basis about the pepper soup mix. Again, everything in one packet. Most other products out there require you to add something else while you are cooking. Our mix is all you need. A good bowl of pepper soup is good in all seasons.
NPM: Where can one find Sinachi Instant Nigerian food?
IROEGBU: Presently, our sales are online. We have our online store at
http://sinachis-instant-nigerian-foods.myshopify.com. People can also find our products on Amazon.
NPM: Ok, most of us have already ordered our food. Tell us what we need to do once the food arrives.
IROEGBU: The first thing to do is read the direction on the back of the package. For egusi and ogbono soup, we ask you to add your previously cooked meat, 2½ cups of water (You can use 16oz bottled water) and the mix. Mix together in the stove or microwave and watch the magic of soup happen in 3 to 5 minutes. The rice is the same thing – Read the instructions. Place the contents of the bag and 2 cups of water. In 10 minutes, boom! You have an amazing jollof rice before you.
NPM: Do you have plans to add anything else to the menu? If so, what?
IROEGBU: Most definitely. Our desire is to have most of the popular Nigerian foods available in an instant form. We will first be launching a vegan-friendly version of what we currently have in the next few weeks. We have finalized the mix for moi-moi and akara, and plan to have them available by fall. So far, our testing on the akara is 10 minutes from prep to the table. It is really an exciting experience to be creating these mixes.
NPM: You are currently shipping in the United States; what are the plans for international shipping?
IROEGBU: We are shipping to the world. We have shipped many orders to Europe. We can ship anywhere.
NPM: What else would you like to tell us about yourself or about Sinachi instant food that we have not asked you about?
IROEGBU: My family considers it an honor to be part of this innovation. We are committed to seeing it grow and advance our culture. We want Nigerian food to be an everyday eating experience to the world. Somewhere in the world, at any time, some non-Nigerians are enjoying Nigerian food, same as we all enjoy Chinese, Mexican and Korean foods. It’s a journey and we invite you all to help clear the path.
NPM: Thank you for joining us, Dr. Iroegbu. We will speak again when Sinachi Instant Nigerian Food hits its first billion dollars in sales.
IROEGBU: It would be my pleasure to be back. Thank you for having me today.