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The African Banga Soup

A palm fruit-based soup that is most commonly associated with the Delta region, and particularly the Urhobo ethnic group. There are variations across the country – and indeed west Africa and beyond – but they all include regional spices and all elevate fresh ingredients (fish and seafood, assorted meats, the palm fruit itself) above all things.

It tastes like no other Nigerian soup. The palm fruit, shellfish and meat create delicious textures and an explosion of taste, and while it goes with anything, I strongly urge you to have it with “starch” or eba.

Ingredients for Banga Soup

  • 1 kg Palm Fruits or 800g tinned Palm Fruit Concentrate
  • Beef
  • Dry Fish
  • Vegetable: Scent Leaves for Ofe Akwu or dried and crushed bitterleaves for Delta-style Banga Soup
  • 2 medium onions
  • 2 tablespoons ground crayfish
  • Salt and Chilli Pepper (to taste)
  • Ogiri Okpei (Iru)
  • 1-2 big stock cubes

Before you cook the Nigerian Banga Soup

  1. Extract the palm fruit concentrate from the palm fruits. If using the tinned palm fruit concentrate, open the tin and set aside.
  2. Cook the beef and the dry fish with 1 bulb of diced onion and the stock cubes till done.
  3. Wash and cut the scent leaves into tiny pieces. The scent leaves give the Banga Stew (Ofe Akwu) its unique aroma and taste. If you are outside Nigeria, this may be hard to find, so you can use pumpkin leaves or any other vegetable in place of scent leaves. If cooking Delta-style Banga Soup for starch, you should either cook this soup without vegetables or use dried and crushed bitter leaves.
  4. Cut the remaining bulb of onion. Pound the crayfish, ogiri okpei and pepper in a mortar and set aside. You can also grind them with a dry mill.

Cooking Directions

  1. Set the pot of palm fruit extract on the stove and start cooking at high heat. Leave to boil till you notice come red oil at the surface of the Banga Stew. If you think that the Banga Soup is watery, cook till the soup has thickened to the consistency you like for your stews.
  2. Now, add the beef, dry fish and stock, the onions, crayfish and pepper and leave to boil very well.
  3. Add the scent leaves or other vegetable and salt to taste. Leave to simmer for about 2 mins. The Banga Soup is done. Serve with White Rice or use the Delta-style Banga Soup to eat Starch, Garri, Semolina, Amala or Pounded Yam.

Cooking Directions for those using tinned palm fruit concentrate

  1. When the beef and fish are well done, add the palm fruit concentrate and add water to get the consistency you like for your stews. Leave to boil very well.
  2. Add the onions, crayfish, pepper and ogiri blend and let it boil very well.
  3. Add the scent leaves or other vegetable and salt to taste. Leave to simmer for about 2 mins. The Banga Soup is done.

If you used bitter leaves to prepare it, serve with Nigerian fufu meals especially Starch. If you used scent leaves to prepare it, serve with boiled white rice.

 

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