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BN Cuisine: How to Make the Best “Cameroonian-Nigerian” Vegetable Soup with Precious Nkeih

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Precious Nkeih_Precious Meshi Nkeih_bellanaija

9 years ago, I visited Nigeria for the very first time. When I got into the bordering Cross River town, Ikom I was shocked to hear a Nigerian speak my mothers’ native language. And no, he wasn’t Cameroonian like me. He was a full-fledged Nigerian who happened to come from one of the villages sharing borders with Cameroon.

I learned fast that we are basically the same people, separated by territorial boundaries. From traditional regalia to names and accent, I noticed a lot of sameness between the Cross Riverians in Nigeria and the Bayangi people of the South West Region of Cameroon. But the overall thing that struck me most was the similarity in the meals of both countries.

I quickly related to Akara that was sold on the streets. While that in Cameroon is called Accra, that in Nigeria is referred to as Akara. But it is basically the same thing: peeled and ground black eyed peas deep fried in oil. I was enthralled by the abundance of white yams in the Nigerian markets. I painfully separated from the yams, which I love so much and went back home to Cameroon to await my admission into the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN).

It was in school that I met Joy, my sweet friend from Benue state. Joy would take me to her room and scoop out some of the food she cooked into a single plate for both of us to eat. We would eat and laugh together like we had known each other from Adam. Then one day she came into my room so we could cook together. The ingredients were Waterleaf, Ugu leaves, (known in Cameroon as Okongobong) and Ukazi (known in Cameroon as Eru).

Precious Nkeih_EruAfang Soup_bellanaija

In Cameroon, we use Waterleaf and Eru to prepare a widely loved “dry soup” called Eru. Eru is a meeting point between the Nigerian Afang Soup and Edikaikong. On seeing those ingredients, I quickly wanted to diss the Okongobong and prepare Eru. But Joy wanted the Ugu in there. We joined everything together and prepared a phenomenal soup that smelled like Eru but wasn’t quite Eru, tasted like Afang Soup but wasn’t quite Afang.

Years later, I have decided to dub it Cameroonian-Nigerian Soup or “Camer-Naija Soup” for swag’s sake. This is more than a vegetable soup to me. It is a symbol of our oneness, a symbol of friendship that goes beyond borders. A proof that no matter where we come from, we are the same.

The taste of this soup is hard to forget. It is a vegetable party in the mouth. It is fresh, meaty and rich. My Head of the Tasting Committee kept licking his fingers after he tried it. I’m sure you would too. Joy, this is for you, boo.

Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 40 minutes
Total: 1 hour
Serves: 6

Ingredients

  • 4 bundles or bags of waterleaf (or spinach) – about 1 kg
  • 1/2 kg Eru/Ukazi
  • 1/4 kg Okongobong/Ugu
  • 2 kg assorted meat and fish (I used canda (beef skin), goatmeat, beef and smoked fish)
  • 1 1/2 cup palm oil
  • 1 1/2 cup crayfish
  • 4 seasoning cubes (Maggi)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 hot pepper (optional)

Here are the vegetables I used:

Precious Nkeih_Vegetables needed_bellanaija Precious Nkeih_Closer view of vegetables_bellanaija

I used dried Ugu/Okongobong but you can use the fresh one if you have access to that.

Precious Nkeih_View of Ugu_bellanaija

Please note that crayfish is a must in this recipe. It is what gives it that authentic ethnic flavour that is to die for.

Precious Nkeih_Crayfish_bellanaija

Now let’s make some Camer-Naija soup, people!

  1. Boil the meat seasoned with salt until tender. As the meat boils, go ahead and chop the waterleaf or spinach. When the meat is done, there should be very little stock in the pot.
    Precious Nkeih_Step 1_bellanaija
  2. Now add in your chopped waterleaf or spinach and let that cook on high heat for about 5 minutes. After that, the veggies must have gotten softer and reduced in size. Stir well together with the meat. Now rinse your chopped Okongobong/Ugu and add in closely followed by the rinsed Eru/Ukazi.
    Precious Nkeih_Step 2_bellanaija
  3. Let everything simmer together for about 1o minutes, while you stir with a wooden spoon every now and then.
    Precious Nkeih_Step 3_bellanaija
  4. Add in the palm oil, smoked fish, seasoning cubes and roughly blended crayfish. Add in pepper at this point if using. I added whole pepper to later press in my plate of food because my kids will travel to Jerusalem if there’s pepper in the food.
    Precious Nkeih_Step 4_bellanaija
  5. Mix everything together and let that simmer until the raw taste of the oil is gone. Goodness!
    Precious Nkeih_Step 5_bellanaija

And that my friends, is how you make the soup of your dreams! Could you suggest a fitting name for it?

Serve warm with any Fufu of your choice. I had mine with some yellow garri/Eba, which was purely divine. You could have yours with Pounded Yam, Akpu or even oat fufu if you like.

Precious Nkeih_Eru and Afang soup_bellanaija

I hope you enjoy this soup as much as I do! Sending hugs to all my Nigerian friends.

For more exciting recipes, check out the kitchen section of my blog, Precious Kitchen.

Bon appetit!

My name is Precious... literally! I change diapers, cook food and write stuff. I spend a great part of my days calculating how to deal with the mountains of laundry that await me. Sometimes, I ignore the dishes in the sink and just sit and eat pop corn in the living room because body nobi fayawood. I share all things precious at www.preciouscore.com. Please pay a visit and let me know what you think. Love

27 Comments

  1. UNCLE GWE GWE GWE

    September 3, 2016 at 12:30 pm

    Delicious.

  2. praizeblog.com

    September 3, 2016 at 1:01 pm

    bella u don taste am b4

  3. l'Afrique.

    September 3, 2016 at 1:33 pm

    Wonderful! These are the kinds of posts I long and love to see. Unity in diversity. Brotherhood. One Love. One Africa. Sisterhood. African traditional values e.g. hospitality, feeling of community/oneness/brotherhood.
    No fighting over “”whose jollof rice””.
    No hate and fighting over the Bakassi Peninsula (leave the governments to settle that).
    A tale of positivity, unity, love and deliciousness,

    I’d like to know though whether Joy agrees with you that it’s Camer-Naija soup rather than Naija-Camer soup! (see? Gotta be a lil’ something to argue over!)

    Thank you for your post and for loving Nigeria and Nigerians and speaking positive of us.

    “”Okongobong””? What a name! And, it really does sound like it’s from Cross River/Akwa Ibom!

    • Precious Nkeih

      September 3, 2016 at 6:58 pm

      Your comment made me smile. Haha! It can either be Naija-Camer or Camer-Naija. I should go ask Joy, though. Yes, “Okongobong” really sounds “Cross-Riverian”. We are one people only separated by territorial boundaries. Thanks for your lovely comment!

  4. Dee

    September 3, 2016 at 1:58 pm

    I love this, very detailed and informative. Can’t wait to try the recipe, I love green vegetable soups. Thumbs up to our Cameroonian sister.

    • Precious Nkeih

      September 3, 2016 at 6:59 pm

      Thanks Dee! Please let me know how the recipe turns out for you.

  5. Lala

    September 3, 2016 at 2:55 pm

    Thanks Precious. There’s more that unites us. I like the way your eba was presented.

    • Precious Nkeih

      September 3, 2016 at 7:00 pm

      Thanks Lala! United we stand.

  6. Tai omo yoruba nimi

    September 3, 2016 at 3:28 pm

    Bless you Nkeih,don’t mean for my comment to be tribalistic or anything but we are all one ,same skin colour ,same blood .we are Africans ,don’t know why some countries just deliberately hate Nigerians for no reason ..big example that kenyavsnigeria brouhaha going on just nitori zucker ..smh,why the competition ? He is not even Jesus Christ so what’s the fuss? Shioor

    • Precious Nkeih

      September 3, 2016 at 7:02 pm

      You have said it. We are one. These fights are not necessary.

  7. Damilola

    September 3, 2016 at 3:29 pm

    Cameroonian eru soup is the best. Some of their dishes tastes delicious.

    • Precious Nkeih

      September 3, 2016 at 7:03 pm

      You know this, Dami. Eru is delicious!

  8. Tosin

    September 3, 2016 at 5:52 pm

    Please I need to taste not to be reading recipe :-/

    • Precious Nkeih

      September 3, 2016 at 7:04 pm

      Hi Tosin, you should go make some for yourself then you will not only taste but “chop belleful”.

  9. Pink

    September 3, 2016 at 6:01 pm

    The Ejagam language spoken in Northern Cross River is also spoken in Cameroon. The boundary is almost negligible for those living in the border villages. The Efiks call ugu leaf ‘ikongubong’ which sumply translates to leaves from pumpkin, so you see your ‘okongobong’ is very similar.

    • Precious Nkeih

      September 3, 2016 at 7:06 pm

      So true, Pink! Some of those people live as though they are in the same country. The boundary is almost not there.

  10. Precious Nkeih

    September 3, 2016 at 6:53 pm

    Thanks Uncle!

  11. Anon

    September 3, 2016 at 7:54 pm

    Lovely article. The first two paragraphs should have delved more into history to find out why there are so many similarities.

    There was British Cameroons which comprised present day Nigeria and Cameroon. After WW1, the mandate of the League of Nations gave the French – Cameroun and the British territory was divvied up into 2 – Northern and Southern Cameroons.

    In 1960, French Cameroun became independent and before we got our independence in October, there were talks of what to do with the British territory. The Northern side with a Moslem majority voted to join Nigeria and the Southern side voted to join Cameroon. Northern Cameroon became a part of Nigeria in 1961…

    There was a political party called NCNC – National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons under the great Zik. and the great Macaulay. Later on, it changed its name to National Council of Nigerian Citizens.

    • Precious Nkeih

      September 6, 2016 at 5:38 pm

      Thanks for the information, Anon!

  12. Cc

    September 3, 2016 at 8:56 pm

    Precious you know we live in the same state oh! Oya mail me my share

    • Precious Nkeih

      September 6, 2016 at 5:39 pm

      Hahaha Cc e don finish. Next time sha.

  13. Choices

    September 3, 2016 at 10:14 pm

    Nice twist to eru sis..thank you for sharing. I grew up eating okongobong. My mother will cook it with Egusi and we ate it with boiled ripe plantains, yams or cocoyams. But, I had no idea that okongobong was the same thing as pumpkin leaves, neither did I know that it was ugu which I had seen the dry ones at African markets plenty of times. I’ll buy it and try cooking it one of these days.

    • @choices

      September 4, 2016 at 10:40 am

      Okongobong is not really the pumpkin (egusi) leaves. we also eat those in Camer too. okongobong is fluted pumpkin leaves…na an advance name dat…I grew up calling it okongobong.

      the pumpkin leaves wei e di give egusi when u cook e soft plenty.

      but a combo of eru, waterleaves, okongobong (aka fluted pumpkin) with all the obstructions aka dry meat and fish and kanda go give u life!

      Thanks Precious for the recipe and Anon for the history lesson. ( a reminder to me I might add, cos im a prof of international relations)

    • Precious Nkeih

      September 6, 2016 at 5:45 pm

      “Fluted pumpkin leaves” sounds good. Now I know what to ask for when I get to the farmer’s market. I was somehow doubtful about calling okongobong pumpkin leaves too because what we call pumpkin leaves is quite different like you said. The okongobong, eru and waterleaf combo plus fleshy things (AKA meat) is totally life-giving! You should try it and come back to testify! Thanks for teaching me something new @choices.

  14. Lois

    September 4, 2016 at 4:34 pm

    Next soup on the agenda

    • Precious Nkeih

      September 6, 2016 at 5:46 pm

      High five, Lois!

  15. Emerald

    December 9, 2016 at 4:54 pm

    Hi, thanks a lot for this recipe. I made vegetable soup just now but noticed that it’s too watery and tasteless. Please what might have caused it?

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