Six Savoury and Sumptuous Soups

The Centenary Project

Nigerian soups are prized for their savoury, spicy and aromatic qualities. 

Nigerian Soup Variations, 2019, From the collection of: The Centenary Project
Rich and spicy, delicious and tasty soups
Nigerian soups are the trademarks of the ethnic groups they originate from. Most Nigerians soups incorporate many vegetables and protein, and are usually finished off with palm oil or a stew/sauce. Today, Nigerians across communities enjoy all types of soups available. Here's a selection of six: Banga soup, Ofe Owerri, Efo riro, Okra soup, Ogbono soup and Edikainkong.
Amala Isu (Yam flour), Wheat dough, Eba (Casava dough), and Pounded Yam, 2019, From the collection of: The Centenary Project

Soups and Swallows

"Swallow", in Nigeria, is a term used to describe starchy foods that are made into a paste and swallowed along with Nigerian soups. There are different types of swallows: amala (yam flour), eba (cassava), pounded yam (yam), semovita (processed corn), wheat (pure wheat grains), fufu (cassava) and so on.

Starch and Banga Soup, 2019, From the collection of: The Centenary Project
#1: Banga Soup
Banga soup is made by extracting the juice from the seeds of raw palm kernel fruit. The seeds are cooked till they are tender and then pounded thoroughly until the juice is extracted and cooked. The Efik/Ibibios call it Abak Atama; the Yorubas call theirs Obe Eyin Ikpogiri.
Liquorice 'Banga stick', 2019, From the collection of: The Centenary Project

Banga stick

Banga stick is used to spice up banga soup. It gives the soup a rich, sweet flavor and taste. It is washed and put into the soup as it cooks. Once the soup is ready, the banga stick is removed.

Starch and Banga Soup, 2019, From the collection of: The Centenary Project

Niger-Delta royalty

Starch and Banga soup must be served at traditional weddings, parties, and events that hold among the Urhobos and the Itsekiris. It is mostly enjoyed with catfish or fresh fish.

Starch and Banga Soup, 2019, From the collection of: The Centenary Project

Starch and Banga Soup

Starch with Banga soup originated from the Niger-Delta region of Nigeria. It is one of the most enjoyed dishes by the Urhobos and Itsekiris. Other tribes also have their own versions of it. For example, the Igbos call starch "Usi" and call Banga "Banga Stew".

Starch and Banga Soup, 2019, From the collection of: The Centenary Project
Woman enjoying starch and banga soup, 2019, From the collection of: The Centenary Project

How to eat starch

Starch is very soft and sticky. As such, there is a technique for eating it. By using your index finger and your thumb to press down on one side of the starch, you can cut the size you want to swallow.

Ofe Owerri Soup, 2019, From the collection of: The Centenary Project
#2: Ofe Owerri
Ofe Owerri is one of the richest and most enjoyed soups from the south-east region of Nigeria where the Igbos originate from.
Fufu and Ofe Owerri Soup, 2019, From the collection of: The Centenary Project

Fufu and Ofe Owerri

Ofe Owerri is usually served with any swallow of choice (eba, semovita, fufu, pounded yam). It is served here with fufu. Fufu is made from cassava and is also called "akpu", "Loi-loi" or "Mr White" by the Igbos. The name "fufu" belongs to the Yoruba.

Fufu and Ofe Owerri Soup, 2019, From the collection of: The Centenary Project
Fufu and Ofe Owerri Soup, 2019, From the collection of: The Centenary Project

Break the bank!

Ofe Owerri is one of the most expensive Igbo soups; it is made with assorted meat (different parts of cow meat), snails, dried fish, and stockfish.

It is thickened with ede (cocoyam) or with achi or ofo. The soup is finished off with two vegetables: uziza (piper guineense) and ugu (pumpkin leaf).

Efo Riro Soup, 2019, From the collection of: The Centenary Project
#3: Efo Riro
Efo Riro soup originates from the south-western part of Nigeria where the Yoruba come from. It forms a big part of Yoruba culture.
Waterleaf, 2019, From the collection of: The Centenary Project

"Gbure" or "Gure"

Fresh waterleaf leaves.

Efo Riro Soup, 2019, From the collection of: The Centenary Project

Spicy Hero

One of the heroes of the dish is a local spice called "iru" (locust beans). This gives it a rich, traditional flavour.

Woman holding a plate of Efo Riro soup, 2019, From the collection of: The Centenary Project

Health is wealth!

Efo Riro is a rich vegetable soup made with two leaves: efo shoko (Lagos spinach) or efo tete (African spinach). It is a highly nutritious dish that contains vitamins A, C, and K. It is also high in dietary fibre.

Woman holding a plate of Efo Riro soup, 2019, From the collection of: The Centenary Project

A rich array

The leaves are cooked with bleached palm oil, red bell pepper also known as "tatashe", scotch bonnet and assorted meats or fish. Efo Riro can be enjoyed with different types of swallows such as semovita, eba and fufu.

Pounded Yam and Efo Riro, 2019, From the collection of: The Centenary Project
Pounded Yam and Okra Soup, 2019, From the collection of: The Centenary Project
#4: Okra Soup
Okra is one of the most common soups in Nigeria. It cuts across various tribes, particularly the Igbos and the Yoruba.
Okra, 2019, From the collection of: The Centenary Project

Okra

Okra is a warm-season vegetable. Fresh okra pods are sold whole or grated there in the market to cut down cooking time.

Pounded Yam and Okra Soup, 2019, From the collection of: The Centenary Project

Rich in vitamins

Okra is a green vegetable that is rich in protein, riboflavin, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, zinc and copper. It is also a good source of dietary fibre, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, thiamin, vitamin B6, folate, calcium, magnesium and manganese.

Pounded Yam and Okra Soup, 2019, From the collection of: The Centenary Project

One soup, many names

It is called Okra soup by the Igbos, Obe ila by the Yorubas and Otong soup by the Efik/Ibibio.

Young girl enjoying pounded yam and okra soup, 2019, From the collection of: The Centenary Project

Known and loved by many

It is a versatile dish that can be enjoyed with all kinds of swallow (eba, semovita, wheat, pounded yam and even eko, which is a type of corn meal). That is probably why it is very popular among old and young alike.

Pounded Yam and Okra Soup, 2019, From the collection of: The Centenary Project

Different tribes, different methods

The Yorubas cook it plain, garnish it with different meats and serve it with tomatoes and pepper stew. The Igbos cook it with assorted meats and finish it off with palm oil, which gives it that brownish color. The Efik/Ibibio cook it in a similar way but add vegetables like ugu (pumpkin leaf) to theirs.

Ogbono Soup, 2019, From the collection of: The Centenary Project
#5: Ogbono Soup
Ogbono soup originates from the south-eastern part of Nigeria where the Igbos come from. It is prepared with ground ogbono seeds, which grow on trees in the south-eastern part of Nigeria.
Dried melon seeds, 2019, From the collection of: The Centenary Project

Ogbono seeds

Ogbono seeds are sold in the market. They are finely ground to a powder before they can be cooked.

Semovita and Ogbono Soup, 2019, From the collection of: The Centenary Project

A slippery journey to the stomach

Ogbono soup has a similar slippery feel as okra, but it gets its brownish color from being cooked with palm oil. It is cooked with a variety of assorted meats, dry fish and stockfish. Ground crayfish is also an important part of the dish.

Semovita and Ogbono Soup, 2019, From the collection of: The Centenary Project

Making Ogbono

Ogbono soup can be cooked with or without vegetables. Some people like to add ugu (pumpkin leaf) while others add bitter leaf to it.

Woman enjoying Semovita and Ogbono Soup, 2019, From the collection of: The Centenary Project

Enjoyed with...

Ogbono has a wide range of suitors. It can be paired with semovita, pounded yam, eba, wheat swallow and even amala.

Edikainkong Soup, 2019, From the collection of: The Centenary Project
#6: Edikainkong Soup
Edikainkong soup is a rich vegetable soup that originates from the south-south region in Nigeria, essentially the Efik/Ibibio tribe in Akwa-Ibom and Cross River states.
Edikainkong Soup, 2019, From the collection of: The Centenary Project

Steamed dish

It is cooked with two vegetables: ugu, which the Efik/Ibibios call "ikong ubong", and waterleaf, which they call "mong mong ikong". It is prepared by steaming the vegetables and finishing off the dish by adding palm oil. Assorted seafood and peppers are also added to the dish.

Man enjoying Eba Edikainkong Soup, 2019, From the collection of: The Centenary Project

Enjoyed with...

Edikainkong is enjoyed with different types of swallows like eba (garri), pounded yam, semovita and wheat.

Edikainkong Soup, 2019, From the collection of: The Centenary Project

Garnished with seafood

It is cooked with assorted fish (stockfish, dry fish, fresh fish, prawns and crayfish) as the Efik/Ibibio people love and enjoy seafood. Periwinkle is one of the most important additions to the dish.

Credits: Story

Curator: Patrick Enaholo
Research: Omotunde Omojola / Emem Akpabio
Photography Supervisor: Omotunde Omojola
Photographer: Ibukun Akinjobi
Text: Emem Akpabio
Text editor: Munachim Amah

Special thanks to:
Mary Ihama

© The Centenary Project

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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