I love soups. I mean you can’t be a true Nigerian and not like soups (our own version of it. I know, we do our things in a special way)
I love it, because as Africans we eat a lot of carbs that can’t be eaten on their own and they need the almighty accompaniment – the dishes we call soups.
Ideally, soups should be light and broth like e.g. tomato soup, French onion soup, chicken noodle soup; while stews are rich, thick and filled with a lot of stuff e.g. the English beef stew, American gumbo etc. What we call soups should really be called stews, but it has become our norm and I won’t advocate changing it but like I said it’s a Nigerian peculiarity because in nearby Ghana, they get the distinction. They call light soup, palm nut soup, groundnut soup soups while okro, red stew are called stews.
How can I not write about our love of soups? I don’t how I will justify me writing about food and different aspects of it without talking about our love for some dishes… soups in Nigeria being a big example.
Soups are a staple of our diet. Even a little child under the age of one is introduced to a meal with our native soups.
Here are some of the few popular ones:
If you really think about it, you will realise that Pepper soup is our own indigenous dish that cuts across the entire country. Every tribe cooks it and it’s proudly Nigerian. It is believed that the origins are south-south, because most of the ingredients are sourced from there. The best pepper-soups I have had, were made by people from the south-south.
My mum’s pepper soup is the best I have ever eaten. She is from Edo state. When she tells me the ingredients, they are names I can’t pronounce and she says if it has to be that authentic, you have to buy it yourself and ground them up yourself. According to her, the powders sold are ‘not complete’ and therefore inferior. She makes a mean beef pepper soup, which is my all time favorite.
Catfish Pepper soup is the most popular type of pepper soup eaten in Nigeria. It is the famous point and kill (ironically, I can’t stand catfish, I know, I know, people will say I am missing something but I don’t like catfish, eeek). It’s a very popular Bar food, a famous love for alcohol drinkers (I also have a very light brain, a bottle of beer and I start to feel sleepy so all around I just don’t fancy it) but they say it is something amazing.
How can I describe Red Stew? It is the most popular staple in most Nigerian households. It’s also known as Buka stew. You have to have red stew. The major accompaniment is rice, and with the way we eat rice, it’s very important to have stew on hand. It is made with peppers, tomatoes, onions, meat or fish, seasoning, and vegetable oil (not palm oil. If you use palm oil, then it’s not the classic red stew).
With education and exposure, there are now many methods of cooking the red stew. Some people parboil the pepper (I always do), some don’t. People use a variety of seasonings or add tomato paste but at the end of the day, you know it’s red stew. The red stew is somewhat similar to the Italian tomato sauce used to eat pasta. In Yoruba households, it’s so important to have red stew because how would you eat ewedu (jute) or okro? They are made plainly so you need to put the red stew on top of the dish.
Efo riro is a Yoruba soup and I believe it’s a winner any day. It’s a gourmet dish in my opinion, like when you eat the proper one o and it’s best served with Pounded Yam. End of discussion.
The best I ever ate was a Buka in Ore, one along the Expressway, which was the business. It was spicy and rich and delicious with the right amount of liquid (some people get the proportion of the liquid wrong).
Efo riro is made with Palm oil, onion, peppers, meat and fish of your choice, locust beans, efo soko or tete or spinach, salt and seasonings. It’s great. In Yoruba parlance, it’s said to be the tool for keeping your husband or snatching another person’s husband (serious *eye roll*, but you would have heard it, I am sure). Efo riro is a good one and a party favorite also.
Egusi is also called melon seed. It cuts across in its own way but every tribe cooks it differently in their own unique way. Some fry, some boil. Egusi is sometimes watery, or thick. As a result, I can’t give a recipe. It’s a popular soup, and goes with a lot of carbs e.g. Pounded yam, Eba, amala, rice etc.
Gbegiri & Ewedu
I talk about gbegiri (the soup made from peeled beans) and Ewedu (jute leaves) because it’s a very popular Yoruba soup, eaten with Amala. When you eat Amala, gbegiri and ewedu ehn, the feeling can’t be described honestly, It gets you and feels that hole deep inside, I have eaten it too many times to count but every time I eat it, it still gets me; I don’t think I have said “I am tired of eating this”.
Ogbono is an Edo dish but because it’s so good. It is very popular in Nigeria. It is made with the ogbono seed ground up, stockfish (very important, if it’s not in it, it’s not authentic),dry pepper, palm oil, pumpkin leaves, meat(beef to be exact), meat stock, (this is usually the base) and seasoning.
Again my mum’s ogbono wins the award for the best I ever ate. I am so confident of her ogbono that I can challenge anyone to an ogbono throw down and I can guarantee my mum’s ogbono will win. I am that sure. I have relatives who have eaten this soup from her as far back as twenty something years ago and yet still rave about it. At my sister’s graduation in Ghana, her Ghanaian friends ate the soup and were blown away by the awesomeness of this soup, and still talk about it till date. So name the time and place, I will be too prepared to meet the challenge.
This is another winner. It is Calabar in origin. It’s made with two or more green vegetables i.e. Made with Pumpkin leaves (Ugwu), Waterleaf or Spinach (if you want), Stock, fish, onions, dry pepper or fresh pepper (depends on your taste),meat, palm oil or palm nut extract. In fact you can put a lot of things in the soup – snails, periwinkle, smoked fish. It is a very forgiving recipe.
I love Okro. It’s one of my best soups and its origins are very confusing because there are okro dishes in southern states in America like Mississippi, Georgia, North Carolina etc and West Africa e.g. Senegal and Ghana. I guess it was passed around somehow, so I can’t say a recipe because everyone has their own methods and recipes.
Banga is made from the extracted juice of Palm nut – a long process but the reward for the hard work is in the taste. Delicious! It doesn’t need much after this extraction; just cook, add the protein, seasoning, vegetables and it’s done.
The most famous accompaniment with banga is Starch, which funny enough I have never had. I will appreciate suggestions on the best place to eat starch in Lagos. Banga also goes great with pounded yam. The best Banga or palm nut soup for me was in Ghana which I had with their Fufu (it’s different from ours). It’s great.
Best Soup in Nigeria?
In my opinion, the undisputed soup champion in Naija are Igbos and South-Southerners, they have the most variety, a vast array of flavors and textures and the most complex recipes that I didn’t mention e.g. afang, oha, ofe nsala, ofe owerri, groundnut soup etc.(they have so so many)
I mean I am a Yoruba girl and I am enough of a realist to know we are not the winners. I hope this doesn’t start a tribal thing but like I said this is my opinion. What do you all think?
Love and chocolates.
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