My mum taught me how to make this soup. Her Calabar friend in turn taught her. When I relocated to Abuja for work. Providence brought this beautiful Calabar woman across my path, and she further updated my knowledge. She is one of my cooking heroes. She taught me how to prepare Ekpang Kukwo, Egusi the Calabar way, Afang Soup and some other Calabar dishes.. I discovered the Atama leaf through her. Apparently Banga Soup in the Calabar culture is called Atama soup because of the addition of the Atama Leaf. Deltans on the other hand use bitterleaf. My grandma would probably call me a traitor in our language, for developing a personal preference for the Atama leaf over bitterleaf.
According to my Calabar friend, there are lots of wrong ways to make Edikaikong. Using waterleaf and Ugwu doesn’t necessarily mean it is Edikaikong. Here are some of the misconceptions she corrected me on
- Some people say the ratio of Ugwu to waterleaf must be higher in favour of Ugwu (pumpkin leaf). Wrong. It’s actually the other way around. Joy says all those fake Calabar people that annoy her. She’s so good, she can tell by tasting it, if ugwu has a higher ratio.
- Some people fry the waterleaf in palm oil. Also wrong
- Some people use blended pepper – combo of tomatoes, tatashe and rodo. Wrong. Otherwise you are making Efo Riro. Preferably use Yellow Rodo, if you can find. That’s just perfect. Because of Edikaikong, I stock up on loads of Yellow Rodo anytime I travel home.
- Some people add both vegetables at the same time, or in very quick succession. Wrong. Waterleaf comes first, so it can leach out its water content. The Ugwu leaf is now introduced to mop up some of that water.
- Edikaikong is NOT a watery soup. Maybe not as dense as Afang, but if you are left with the vegetables swimming in liquid you’ve done something wrong. Most likely, you have used too much beef stock. Water leaf is basically called that due to its water content. So, you boil your meat, till most of the stock has been absorbed into the meat. The water content of the water leaf, will leach out the flavour of the stock from the meats.
- Some people use too much palm oil. Depending on the volume of vegetables, you just need 2 cooking spoons maximum. If oil starts to float on the surface in the pot (like Yoruba soup – her own words), you’ve missed your way (her words)
- Some people use onions. Noooooooo
Hint Joy taught me – If you season your meat properly, and let it absorb most of the stock, you may not even need to use seasoning cubes. Crayfish and stockfish will do just fine, but if you feel you have too, fine. I’ll say, it took me many many trials on my own to get to the point where I don’t need to add seasoning cubes.
When you add the pumpkin leaves (Ugwu), it must be very dry. If you have a salad spinner, this can help or simply roll the leaves in a dish towel
I know ugwu can be difficult to find, so I’m not going to knock down the people who use spinach as a substitute. I tried it one day out of curiosity, and I didn’t like the result. Personal preference maybe.
Joy, this is for you. I hope I’ve done you proud.
What you will need
3cups of Ugwu (pumpkin leaves)
5cups of Waterleaf
Rodo (preferably Yellow pepper)
100g Pomo – cow skin
100g Stockfish – I use Eja Osan
1 medium size Smoked Fish
1 cup of whole Crayfish
So, here we go
1. Season and boil your meats with stockfish. I use beef, goat meat, saki (cow stomach), and cow leg. Add just enough water to cover the meat, and bring to a boil. Depending on how tough the meats are, this volume of water should be enough. Watch it closely though.
2. Just before the meats are tender, add shredded smoked fish and pomo. This is to soften the fish and infuse some of that smokey flavour into the stock. Adding the pomo too will allow it to soften, making it easier to chew.
Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: When you meats are tender, you should be left with a little stock. About half a cup worth. If you have more than that, decant into a bowl and keep aside. Remember, stock is the worst offender for making Edikai kong.
3. Add a cooking spoon or two of Palm oil into your pot of meat, let it boil till the Palm Oil dissolves into the stock
then add the blended Rodo and let it dissolve too. The Yoruba part of me loves this soup hot, so I tend to add 2 cooking spoons of pepper.
4. Add the periwinkle and waterleaf, and stir. Cover the pot, lower the heat and let this steam for 5 minutes.
Don’t worry if it looks like the waterleaf has taken over the pot. The steam will sweat it down.
5. Add blended crayfish. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: I rinse my crayfish in water to remove the dirt and I blend with about 1- 2 tablespoons of water. Let this cook for another 2 – 3 minutes, then taste the difference in the liquid left in the pot. Crayfish amps up the flavour immensely, you may not need seasoning cubes
6. Add the Ugwu, give it a stir, and let it cook for another 5 minutes. Stir and taste for salt. If you need more add a little. If you are itching to add a seasoning cube, you can, but why don’t you try adding more crayfish instead. Trust me, seasoning cubes have nothing on crayfish. Add a little more crayfish, stir, cover the pot and just wait an extra 2 minutes or so.
……..and that’s it really. It is a very simple soup, yet very very very delicious.
So, there you have it – My version of Edikaikong. To the Calabar people that gave the world this dish. I hail oooooooo.