Nigerian soups are prized for their savoury, spicy and aromatic qualities.
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.
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 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
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".
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.
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.
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).
"Gbure" or "Gure"
Fresh waterleaf leaves.
One of the heroes of the dish is a local spice called "iru" (locust beans). This gives it a rich, traditional flavour.
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.
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.
Okra is a warm-season vegetable. Fresh okra pods are sold whole or grated there in the market to cut down cooking time.
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.
One soup, many names
It is called Okra soup by the Igbos, Obe ila by the Yorubas and Otong soup by the Efik/Ibibio.
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.
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 seeds are sold in the market. They are finely ground to a powder before they can be cooked.
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.
Ogbono soup can be cooked with or without vegetables. Some people like to add ugu (pumpkin leaf) while others add bitter leaf to it.
Ogbono has a wide range of suitors. It can be paired with semovita, pounded yam, eba, wheat swallow and even amala.
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.
Edikainkong is enjoyed with different types of swallows like eba (garri), pounded yam, semovita and wheat.
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.
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:
© The Centenary Project