You must have noticed that there is a Delta vibe going on on the blog at the moment. Well I promised you a bumper season of fantastic Nigerian recipes this March, and what better way to be inspired, than dishes from Delta. Today, I am bringing you Owgho soup. I hope I spelt it correctly. It is pronounced Oh-W-Oh soup, a culinary delight of the Urhobo people. As with some other languages, in Urhobo, although the ‘g’ is spelled, some times, it is not pronounced. This is a truly simple dish. In fact, if despite looking at many of my recipes, you have not been pushed to go out of your comfort zone i.e. to try dishes from another culture, I hope this finally gives you the kick that you need because it is not complicated at all. Besides, the ingredients are so readily available, you don’t need to trouble yourself to make some at all. You probably have all the ingredients at home as you read this. So, I hope I have challenged you and I will be reading great feedback from you guys very soon.
The Urhobo’s are very proud of this dish. So proud, in fact it is considered one of their celebratory dishes. What prompted me to make this dish was a semi recent discovery that Oh-W-Oh soup is not only native to the people of Bini Kingdom. My paternal great-grandmother was from Benin, and by virtue of that, my grandmother knew how to prepare a wicked pot of Owo soup. The only downside associated with Owo soup was the fact that she served it with boiled green plantains which I positively hate. Still do. Hate is not a word I like using with food, but please allow me the largesse to use it with green plantains. I kept seeing pictures of Owgho soup on Facebook and just assumed it was the Benin version, but I was especially intrigued by the dark brown colour, which was different from what my grandma made, which was yellowish in colour. When I looked through the recipes the women shared I thought huh? This is so not the Owo soup I grew up eating, especially the part that read, thicken the soup with starch or garri or use both. Then one day, I read the words Urhobo Wadoo, and I knew instantly, this was a Delta dish.
I love, love, love it when I find that a dish I know so well, can also be found in another culture. This is one of the best things about Nigerian food, the fact that for some dishes, not one group of people can solely lay claim to it. I have been having such happy discoveries with Efik and Cameroon food. I know how to prepare the Bini Owo soup, but being half Delta, for sure, I had to try this out. I mean, why not? I am still considering writing to Governor Udaghan’s because of my plate of Banga Rice. Who knows, after seeing this, he could just agree to use my work for the tourism brochure of Delta State. Don’t laugh at humble beginnings. Hahahahahahahahaha.
Anyway, if you are from Benin, or if like me, you only know about the Bini Owo soup, well, welcome on my journey to learning something else. The similarities are numerous, so are the differences, mainly the choice of pepper, and the use of thickeners, and also what it is eaten with. I would have you know too that the Bini Owo soup also has its twin in the Urhobo Culture. It is called Owgho’ ottorh or something along those lines (please feel free to correct me) It is also served with yam or plantain. This post is saying thank you to the numerous Urhobo ladies who provided the recipe for Owgho soup on So You Think You Can Cook. You have expanded the cooking repertoire of your fellow Deltan.
You will need
Potash or native salt (ugwheru)
Dry Pepper – cayenne pepper
Stockfish – optional
Smoked red prawns
Palm Oil or native palm oil (iwre urhobo)
Starch or garri – you can choose to use both
1. Boil your assorted meats with stockfish. Once cooked, with enough stock, add dry pepper and crayfish.
2. Add a little extra water, so you have this bubbly crayfish and pepper stock. Once the stock has started boiling, add palm oil and allow it to dissolve.
3. Pound potash to a powdery form and mix with water. A special type of Potash/native salt called ugwerue is used traditionally, but if you can’t source that, your friendly old potash will serve. You only need a small quantity of potash. I did not use all the potash you can see in the picture below. I only took about half a teaspoon.
4. Slowly add the potash solution to the stock.
After adding the potash solution to the water, you will notice the contents of the pot foaming up. Allow this to foam up and for the heat to also cook the potash. Be careful not to add too much of the potash solution, otherwise the soup will have a nasty metallic taste. At no point should you cover the pot, otherwise it will boil over.
Whilst the potash is cooking in the stock, soak garri in water. You need to soak garri in water, to allow it soften to a thick paste, otherwise, the owgho soup will have a grainy feel to it. You don’t want that. With Owgho soup, you have 2 choices of thickeners. Starch or Garri. You can also use both. I tried to use both, using Farina which I used to make Starch for Banga soup (recipe HERE). I ended up with this glob of soup, which just had a yucky look and texture to it. I was pissed to say the least. I could have added hot water to make the soup more fluid, and it would have been okay, but I couldn’t get the image of the glob out of my mind, so I binned it. If I was using the local edible starch, I know I wouldn’t have had any problems. I binned that pot, tried again and this time using only garri. It turned out perrrrrrfect.
5. Add the soaked garri to the pot and stir vigorously, to prevent it from forming lumps. In a few minutes, the soup will thicken as it should. Let it continue cooking.
6. I decided to finish off with a little extra water, to make it more fluid, shredded smoked fish, and I readjusted for salt. You will know the soup is ready, when patches of palm oil begins to float to the surface. At this point too, the garri had dissolved completely, leaving a creamy soup.
you may wish to leave it on low heat to thicken a little longer.
Dish you Ogwo soup. It is better enjoyed very hot.
Serve with Starch or Yellow Garri
anyone with the contacts of the Delta State Governor? Hahahahahahaha