Around Nigeria, and around the world, aya mase is well-known as that rich spicy sauce made from a blend of palm oil and green peppers, commonly paired with Ofada rice, a variety of fermented rice grown in southwest Nigeria.

But what is less known is the history behind this stew and the woman who brought about this delicacy.

Mrs. Felicia Adesina, Aya Mase, was born in 1924 in Ikenne, Remo in Ogun state, and without formal education or vocational training, she would go on to create one of the most celebrated items on menus wherever Nigerians congregate.

After marrying and beginning a family with a local farmer in Ikenne, Remo, Mrs. Adesina began to cook and sell food to supplement the family’s income.

According to her children, she started by walking around town to sell her unique stew, aya-mase. After increasing her customer base and popularity, she set up a stall in front of their home to sell from, to cater to the teeming number of people ready to pay for a taste.

With the proceeds of these humble beginnings, Aya Mase was able to send her eight children to school.

About the name ‘aya-mase’, a story told by her children is that her husband earned the nickname ‘Mase’ – translated from Yoruba as “don’t do it” – when he was involved in a “heated exchange.”

Onlookers urged him not to hit his opponent, “mase!” It stuck. His wife became Aya Mase – wife of Mase. The sauce is also known as obe Aya Mase, obe-iresi, designer stew, or obe dudu.

She built a brand she didn’t know she was building,” her granddaughter, Adenrele Adesona, says in this teaser for a documentary-to-come about her life.

Many people recall fond memories of standing in line waiting for this sauce with its unique bleached palm oil flavour, iru (locust beans), and assorted meats and boiled eggs.

Although it’s now known as ofada sauce, aya-mase is the distinct creation of Mrs. Felicia, and is made with green peppers, as opposed to ofada sauce’s red peppers. Some people refer to aya-mase as green ofada stew. Some part in Remo now eat rice and beans with aya-mase sauce.

Mrs. Felicia passed away in 2013, leaving a lineage of food sellers in her stead. Her family insists that it cannot be called aya-mase if it is not prepared by a descendant of hers, a child of Mase, omo Mase.

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From the UK to Nigeria, her children and grandchildren continue to make the special recipe learned from her side.

Whether or not they own a monopoly on the name, of the recipe, the world is grateful for this spicy goodness, and for the hardworking woman who created it.



209 thoughts on “Meet Iya Oniresi, Mama Felicia Ajibabi Adesina, The Developer of Aya Mase Sauce”
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