I love this soup. It’s one of the easiest and quickest Nigerian soups to make, particularly if you make it with fish (as is traditional in Igbo land). Amongst the Igbos, it is regarded as particularly beneficial to new and nursing mothers and is viewed by the people of my maternal hometown, Onitsha, (South of the River Niger) as ‘their soup’. I have many childhood memories of going to my Mum’s “village” for and eating this soup at traditional ceremonies. Best eaten (in my opinion) with pounded yam.
The Efiks in the South of Nigeria have a slightly different version using uyayak. They call it “Afia Efere” (“White Soup”, so called because of the absence of the ubiquitous palm oil). Since discovering that spice (which I absolutely love), I sometimes ombine Efik and Igbo techniques in making this soup.
Here’s my slightly non-traditional version (omit the spring onions for a more traditional soup).
- 1kg prepared fish, cut into large chunks (*catfish is traditional but any firm fleshed fish such as tilapia, cod or bream will work. A combination of different fish is also very nice)
- 12 king prawns to garnish (optional)
- 300g smoked fish
- 1 - 2 Scotch Bonnet Chillies (8-16g)
- 1.5L of fish stock (you can use water instead, in which case you should ensure you add extra crayfish and smoked fish; I sometimes use stockfish stock for added depth of flavour)
- 4 tablespoons of crayfish, finely ground
- 400g yamor cocoyam, peeled, boiled and mashed to a smooth dough (achi, yam or cocoyam powder may be used as a substitute to thicken the soup)
- 2 ehuru seeds, toasted finely ground
- 1 tiny piece of uda, finely ground
- 1 piece of ogili(ogili okpei which is more pungent than normal ogiri is traditionally used)
- ½ teaspoon of uziza leaves washed and finely sliced (fresh or dried utazi may be substituted)
- 2 spring onions, finely chopped (optional)
- Bring the stock/water to a boil with the chillies, crayfish, uziza, ogiri and ida, smoked fish.
- Keeping the broth on a fast simmer, add the mashed yam or cocoyam a little at a time, stirring to get rid of any lumps. Stop adding the yam when you get your desired thickness - this will take about 10 minutes or so.
- If using a mixture of fish - add the toughest one first, simmer for a few minutes before adding the rest. This prevents the fish from breaking up too much in the broth.
- Check the fish is almost cooked after about 5 minutes or so and then add the prawns if using together with the uziza and ehuru (I always add the latter at the last minute as I find that allows the flavour and aroma to come through).
- Garnish with the spring onions (optional) and serve with pounded yam.
Do not use onions in making your fish stock.
Utazi may be used instead of uda