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BN Cuisine with Dooney’s Kitchen: Native Soup and Onunu

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I am journeying down to Rivers State, bringing you two distinctive delicacies from that part of Nigeria. I think the local lingua name for this soup is Odu Folu or Buru Folu (corrections are welcome). I had eaten this soup before at a restaurant in Abuja, but couldn’t remember the name. Last year, I was discussing with the members of SYTYCC (shout out to the group owner Bola Coker) on Facebook, if I could make soup using cocoyam as a thickener without adding any vegetables, as I seem to really enjoy the taste of cocoyam paste in soup.  The comments I got back were varied, I even thought this could be something new that could be introduced in Nigerian food, until someone left a comment and said ‘oh Dunni, that already exists’.

It is called Native soup eaten by the people of Rivers Statue using fish and seafood. Off to do some research, and on seeing pictures, I realised I had eaten it before. My good friend Chiby Iroegbu is from Rivers State, Ikwerre to be precise, making her the easiest person to go to for an authentic recipe. I said to her, ‘Chiby, give me the recipe, tell me how your mum made it‘ and she gladly obliged. Sadly Chiby’s mum is no longer with us and I hope I did her memory justice. This post is dedicated to the late Mrs Onuegbu.

Rivers state being a coastal region, I can understand why this soup is made with so much fish and seafood. A bountiful plate I must say. In my research, I came across some recipes using meat, which Chiby easily discounted as un-authentic. She gave me a possible list of fish and seafood to use. On the list were a fleshy fish like Tilapia or Croaker. If you live abroad, I guess Sea bass, Red bream or even Grouper will work. For seafood she advised to use mussels, clams (ngolo), periwinkles (isam), prawns, shrimps and possibly crabs, but her mum didn’t use crabs. Nevertheless, in the spirit of experimentation, I intend to make this soup using an assortment of meats, just because I loved it so much. I can decide to call it Dunni’s Meaty Cocoyam soup or something.

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Onunu is another interesting delicacy from Rivers State. Interesting because of the way it is prepared. I mean, we all know pounded yam, but this is yam pounded with boiled plantains and then finished off with Palm oil. Onunu is served with a spicy fish pepper soup. I decided to prepare it for this post, to showcase another delicacy from Rivers State, and surprise, surprise, it went down very well with native soup. In my household, Onunu will no longer be served with only fish pepper soup, it can be served along side any local soup of your choice. Here’s how

You will need

Tilapia (or any type of fish you have)
Mussels
Ngolo (clams)
Prawns
Large Shrimps
Periwinkles
Crayfish
3 pieces of Cocoyam – to be used as a thickener
Yam
Ripe plantain
Palm Oil
Fresh pepper – ata rodo or chilli
Chopped red onion – 1/4 of an onion
Salt
Seasoning cubes
Scent Leaf – basil or efinrin

I left out Stockfish deliberately. Stockfish is a powerhouse of smoky fish flavour that is quite pungent and it will overpower the delicate fresh fish and seafood flavour.

How To

Prep your ingredients i.e. put the cocoyam to boil (leave the skin on) till it can be pierced through easily with a fork. Cut the fish into 3 or 4 pieces, clean the seafood and set aside. Chop the red onion and roughly blend 2 – 3 pieces of fresh ata rodo (scotch bonnet/habanero pepper). Roughly blend the crayfish.

Heat up the palm oil and sauté the chopped onion. Lower the heat, then you add the fish and let it fry slightly. After which you add fresh pepper, and sprinkle in seasoning cubes.

In a few minutes roughly 2 – 3, you will notice liquid in the pan from the fish. Add a little more water, just about enough to cook the fish, cover the pan and let it cook. Remember to still keep the heat on low, to preserve the delicate flavour of the fish and seafood.

To keep the fish intact, carefully take it out and then add the medley of seafood. Leave to cook until the prawns and shrimp turn a lovely shade of pink, and the mussels and clams have opened. This is a sign that they have cooked. Again, like the fish take it out to prevent over cooking. Nothing is more terrible than overcooked seafood. A culinary injustice.

Now you are left with this rich fish stock, that smells amazing. The cocoyams should have completely cooked by now, peel the skin off and pound to a smooth paste.

Add it to the fish stock in lumps, which will dissolve completely into the stock to thicken it. Then add the crayfish, stir and taste for salt and seasoning. Re-adjust if necessary, I doubt you will need to. When it has sufficiently thickened, it would have turned a light shade of orange, then re-introduce the cooked fish and seafood, shake the pot in a circular motion a few times to redistribute.

Finish off by adding freshly chopped scent leaf. Chiby said you can also use a bitter leaf, Utazi or Uziza. Any choice of leaves you use should only serve as an accent to the soup, just a hint of it, so don’t go overboard. Sprinkle it in and shake the pot. Leave to cook for another 2 minutes or so, and you are done.

A closer shot of the pot, and you will see that it is a light and fluid soup (not watery like stew though) so go easy on the cocoyam paste so you don’t end up with a thick glob.

Serve and enjoy with your choice of starchy solids. My choice the day I made this was Onunu.

Now to Onunu.
Put the yam to boil, when it has cooked right about half way, add the ripe plantains. I have found that I enjoy it with a 60 – 40 percent ratio of yams to plantain. Start to pound the yams first because of its pulp and stretchy nature, once almost smooth, add the plantain. I was feeling traditional the day I made this, hence the mortar and pestle, save yourself the trouble and do this in a food processor with the dough hook/blade attached, or you can use a hand or stand mixer with the paddle attachment first to pound the yams to a pulp, then finish off with the dough tool. It only takes 1 minute.

Once you have gotten both ingredients to a smooth consistency, add a little palm oil. The mash is still hot, which will take away the curdling taste of palm oil. Finish off the pounding, until the palm oil till properly combines, changing the colour to yellow and you finally have Onunu. It is quite sweet, the way the plantain combines beautifully with the yam.

Ladies and gentlemen here is my bowl of Native Soup with Onunu served in muffin cups.
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Dunni Obata is an IT Project Manager by day and a cook the rest of the time. She loves entertainment and one of her bad habits is feeding people. When she’s not cooking, she’s watching the Food Network. Dunni is very passionate about Nigerian food and believes it has a lot to offer globally. Visit her blog – www.dooneyskitchen.com

I'm an IT Project Manager by day and a cook the rest of the time. I love entertaining, and one of my bad habits is feeding people, so guests beware. When I'm not cooking, I'm watching Food Network, American TV series and National Geographic in that order. When I want peace and quiet, I curl up on the sofa and read a good book I'm very passionate about Nigerian food. I believe our food has a lot to offer globally, and with the right exposure, it can stand proud alongside food from other cultures. I'm hoping to get us all fired up and talking about Nigerian cooking irrespective of whatever part of the world you live in. Welcome to Dooney's Kitchen

52 Comments

  1. Mz Socially Awkward....

    January 24, 2014 at 3:02 pm

    Dooney! How you waka go Rivers State go find out about this soup? 🙂 🙂

    Using seafood for Native Soup is popular but that your plan to cook it with meat is also another recognized form of Native Soup. I’m not an indigene of Rivers State but I lived there for decades and it was usual to see Native Soup cooked with goatmeat but still including your “mede-mede” of clams, periwinkles, mussels, etc (I’ve never seen it cooked with poultry meat, though).

    And, come oh, where you take get your fresh “ngolo”? Don’t tell me that I’ve been surrounded by potential sources of ngolo and I never knew it. Currently have a VERY precious stash of dried isam & ngolo which I fortunately managed to stop UKBA from discovering at the customs border and the way I dey use count them whenever I decide to cook them, e no get part two…

    Plus, I noticed there was no achi in your recipe? It’s a yellow-tinged powder which adds thickness and a certain taste, you need to try cooking with it next time, e make sense tire. Of which, I dey find achi badly, abeg does anyone know where I can buy it in London?

    1
    • Temmy

      January 24, 2014 at 3:54 pm

      You can get clams from any fishmonger..fresh clams..frozen clams or the fish market in Billingate for the freshest of all…thats what is called Ngolo, isn’t it..?

      1
    • Mz Socially Awkward....

      January 24, 2014 at 4:28 pm

      Sisteh, e dey like na “him”… 🙂 Thanks for clarifying, I just never actually made the switch in my brain to realizing ngolo came out of clam shells. Na periwinkle now wey I go dey pray for the fishermen to catch next…

      1
    • Dunni Obata

      January 24, 2014 at 11:36 pm

      My dear, I found my leg to Rivers state o and I was very glad I did. Thanks to Chiby’s mum’s recipe, here is another one for the books. I found periwinkles at BIMS in Peckham. It may not mean anything to you living so far way. I have been told periwinkles can also be found in Asian stores. As for achi, my experience with the ones sold here have been less than pleasant. I stick to cocoyam because I am sure of what I will get. Thanks for the tips. I am definitely going to be making this again with a mixture of assorted meat. Not sure if the people from Rivers won’t have my head if I still call it Native soup. Hehehehehe

      1
  2. tish

    January 24, 2014 at 3:04 pm

    Woo hoo! Kalabari Soup! Its actually Odu Fulo….The sweetest soup ever!! Nice one!

    1
  3. Aryn

    January 24, 2014 at 3:24 pm

    Well done. Looks so good and tasty. I have saved and copied this recipe and will give it a trial this weekend. Tnx for the inspiration.

    1
    • Dunni Obata

      January 25, 2014 at 12:55 pm

      Aryn, please do and let me know

      1
  4. meeeeee

    January 24, 2014 at 3:26 pm

    whaaoooo

    1
  5. http://www.anemistyle.com

    January 24, 2014 at 3:28 pm

    Omg I love this…this brings back so much memories. The pounded yam and plantain is teme- Buru and the soup is Odu Fulo. They also have it with fresh fish pepper soup. So hungry!!

    1
    • Dunni Obata

      January 25, 2014 at 12:55 pm

      teme-buru, I learnt something new. Thanks

      1
  6. N'josh

    January 24, 2014 at 3:39 pm

    HMMMMMMMMM…. lovely meal

    1
    • Dunni Obata

      January 25, 2014 at 12:57 pm

      Thank you N’josh

      1
  7. kiki

    January 24, 2014 at 3:40 pm

    sweety, its fulo and not folu.. @Mz Socially Awkward, the main native soup form rivers and bayelsa i unique because only things gotten from water is found inside and the native thickner is even garri sprinkled inside. however, dooney u try yeah. im from Bayelsa and this isnt even my best thing to prepare. as for onunu, hmmmm d pounding ehn.. u make it look so easy

    1
    • Ibinabo

      January 24, 2014 at 3:54 pm

      seriously, she made the pounding look soooo easy..lol

      1
    • Dunni Obata

      January 25, 2014 at 12:58 pm

      Loooooool.

      1
    • Mz Socially Awkward....

      January 24, 2014 at 4:49 pm

      Ah, understood. But I thought the one you’ve described which is cooked with seafood and garri used as thickener was what they call “Fisherman’s Soup”? I’ve probably been calling it the wrong thing all this while, although I have to say Native Soup cooked with goatmeat AND fresh fish is the absolute bizness!! 🙂

      1
    • Jane Public

      January 24, 2014 at 4:57 pm

      I thought fishermans soup is the calabar dish that is cooked just like stew with seafood but no thickeners at all and urhobo ogwo soup is the one cooked with meats and thickened with garri. Confused.com. The food from south south is so intertwined

      1
    • Jane Public

      January 24, 2014 at 4:57 pm

      I thought fishermans soup is the calabar dish that is cooked just like stew with seafood but no thickeners at all and urhobo ogwo soup is the one cooked with meats and thickened with garri. Confused.com. The food from south south is so intertwined

      1
    • Dunni Obata

      January 25, 2014 at 1:00 pm

      Fisherman’s soup is cooked similarly but without thickeners. It is an Efik dish

      1
    • Dunni Obata

      January 25, 2014 at 12:58 pm

      Pounding is not easy o. Back to my food processor with immediate effect

      1
  8. Ibinabo

    January 24, 2014 at 3:49 pm

    well-done!

    1
  9. Nat

    January 24, 2014 at 3:50 pm

    I remember my friend from Rivers state made onunu for me ages ago. Have never forgotten because I enjoyed it so much. I May just have to go scout for ingredients to make this at some point.

    1
    • Dunni Obata

      January 25, 2014 at 1:19 pm

      Please do. It is worth the scouting for

      1
  10. Jane Public

    January 24, 2014 at 3:59 pm

    Now this is my kind of food. Serving solid food in muffin cups. That is so cute and sweet but wait oh Dunni. Only two? Is that for children or full grown adults? I can already imagine some men thinking huh! LMAO. What is SYTCC

    1
    • Mz Socially Awkward....

      January 24, 2014 at 4:30 pm

      So You Think You Can Cook. Where all the Facebook foodies commune…

      1
    • Jane Public

      January 24, 2014 at 4:41 pm

      Oh Thanks. I am hardly on Facebook these days. Let me go check. I love food. I was actually going to respond to your comment about checking at fishmongers but someone beat me to it. As for periwinkles, I know I can never find in my corner of the world. Too many oyinbo people dey here. I envy all those Londoners and people who live in the UK in general. They are so lucky.

      1
    • Dunni Obata

      January 25, 2014 at 1:18 pm

      Errrrr, it is for food styling. I can eat just those two muffin cups.

      1
    • Dunni Obata

      January 25, 2014 at 1:19 pm

      Join the Facebook Group please, you won’t regret it

      2
    • Promise Hanson

      April 10, 2015 at 12:42 pm

      @Jane Public: Onunu is a very heavy food. You may think its small, but i doubt it if you can finish that small thing. It fills you fast and be ready to sleep for a Long time, because Onunu is a sleep inducer and makes you weak.

      1
  11. kokie

    January 24, 2014 at 4:17 pm

    Looks delish

    1
  12. Kalabari Babe

    January 24, 2014 at 4:18 pm

    Dooney, your soup looks delicious as usual! Well done.

    I’ve made Odu Fulo several times and my friends love it! They keep coming back for more. If the statement ‘the way to a man’s heart was through his stomach’ actually worked, I think na this soup I go use!lol! My recipe is slightly different from yours though.

    Hmmmm, the way it’s going I just might end up making some this weekend o 🙂

    1
    • Kalabari Babe

      January 24, 2014 at 4:56 pm

      Abeg does anyone know of any place in the UK one can buy Periwinkles? I don’t mean the dried up, overpriced ones they sell at the Asian and African stores o. I’m tired of having to try and sneak some through each time I return from Naija.
      I am hoping maybe one of the ASDAS or Sainsburys has the frozen ones and I just haven’t discovered them. TA

      1
    • Dunni Obata

      January 25, 2014 at 1:15 pm

      I bought mine at BIMS in Peckham. Please share how you do yours

    • Dunni Obata

      January 25, 2014 at 1:16 pm

      Looool

  13. dami

    January 24, 2014 at 4:24 pm

    Dooney. U just officially made me a foodie, see me salivating inside stagecoach

    • Dunni Obata

      January 25, 2014 at 1:14 pm

      Loooooool. I hope you have gotten off the coach now and straight to the fishmongers

  14. Mrs Diamond

    January 24, 2014 at 4:50 pm

    This looks yummy..am not from cross river but since I love cooking I will sure try this out..thanks

    • Dunni Obata

      January 25, 2014 at 1:12 pm

      Please do and let me know

  15. i no send

    January 24, 2014 at 5:37 pm

    shout out to all the niger delta sisters here..aibee,socially awkward kalabari babe etc i love onunu and native soup cos I’m from rivers state . lol @ the cup cake containers

    • Dunni Obata

      January 25, 2014 at 1:11 pm

      shout out to you guys too and me too. I am half Delta

  16. Blessing

    January 24, 2014 at 7:39 pm

    this dooney will not kill us. Haba. You can pound yam manually too. I be think say it is only the ajebo food processor own you fit do. Your bride price will be through the roof. Don’t worry my family is capable. I have two single brothers in the UK. One Accountant the other Pharmacist. Take your pick. At least when I come to the UK they will stop taking me to yeye Nigerian restaurants. Another winner from you again. I am not from Rivers and I want to eat my screen

    • Dunni Obata

      January 25, 2014 at 1:09 pm

      My father doesn’t collect bride price o so you are in luck. Give me the Accountant. Hehehehe

  17. NNENNE

    January 25, 2014 at 3:45 am

    My father’s favorite dish.

    • Dunni Obata

      January 25, 2014 at 1:08 pm

      I can imagine. It is truly a delicious dish

  18. FFO

    January 25, 2014 at 6:12 am

    Dooney can you please give me directions to your house from
    Coventry UK, God bless you as you do this..

    • Dunni Obata

      January 25, 2014 at 1:07 pm

      take the train, enter bus, fly, and then take the tram. Hehehehehehe

  19. Couture By Makioba

    January 25, 2014 at 9:24 pm

    Ohhh my sweet kalabari…. Married to Yoruba and my husband can’t get enough of my kalabari native soup…. My mother in-law just told me today that she has heard so much about our soup and she wants it… 🙂

  20. aijay

    March 18, 2014 at 12:30 am

    Please you guys are mixing this up. Ngolo is not clams plss.. Ngolo is a sea snail that looks like periwinkle but bigger. Mgbe is oyster, ofingo is clam which is usually shelled before it’s used in the soup.. Let’s not get it twisted pls..

    • SuShi

      April 5, 2014 at 6:17 pm

      Nwa idi ok , thnx 4 clarifying.

  21. Promise Hanson

    April 11, 2015 at 1:38 pm

    @Dunni: Na so i waka com jam ya blog on Native Soup and Onunu, my eye com dey shine like tif-man-toch. Ya recipe na confam, full bar. But e get smaaaall tinini K-Leg we go straight. I be Potacot Boy.

    On Onunu: You did not tell your readers how to eat it, and that’s a big mistake.
    Onunu is eaten just like moinmoi or yam. You don’t swallow it like pounded-yam/garri/fufu. You chew Onunu, with Pepper-soup, and not with Soup as you have done. But of course experiments are allowed.

    WARNING: Onunu is heavy food, it weakens the body thereby inducing sleep. So eat it if you are not going out. And for the height/weight watchers, Onunu is one of the main dishes given to women in “Fattening-Room”.

    On the Native Soup.
    We don’t cook with the shells. We remove all mollusc from their shell before cooking with it

    1
  22. Tonia

    May 29, 2016 at 3:08 pm

    onunu is delicious, my mum is from rivers so she prepared it nd served it with chicken stew which was soooo delicious, I’m gonna try the soup out, looks appetizin

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