My heritage is half Delta, half Yoruba, so of course, cooking Banga Soup is in my genes. Is it a complicated dish? Yes and No. Using Dooney’s Kitchen Tips and Cheats I’ll guide you through it. Traditionally Banga soup is made with fresh fish, especially catfish. My father would swear up and down about the origins of Banga Soup, Urhobo to be specific. Whoever lays claim to it, one thing is certain, it came from an area where fresh fish was a staple of the local cuisine. So if you see a recipe using meat, personal preference maybe but I’m a modern cook, who respects tradition. Ofe Akwu on the other hand is mostly cooked with Meats. One of the things I love about Nigerian food, is the fact that some foods cut across cultures. Ofe Akwu is mostly cooked with meat and scent leaves (efinrin/basil). Whichever name you call this soup, one thing is certain. Palm nut extract is the central component.
For my recipes, I don’t just list ingredients, but I slip in why I use them and how to delicately balance the flavours. Nigerian food may be rustic in nature, but the flavour profile stays rich and deep.
If you like to see pictures of the Ingredients click on the Ingredientspaedia page HERE
1. Catfish – I love Catfish, and I’ve noticed that it’s usually not cooked properly. Foodie peeve alert!!! Like most fish/seafood, its flavour is delicate, and with so many bold flavours coming together in our soups, the flavour of catfish is mostly lost. One of the ways I prevent this, is to use use what I call flavour boosters from the same food family.
Below are my flavour boosters:
2. Smoked Eja Osan (locally called). Its my choice, because it usually stays intact, unlike some other dried fish that disintegrate on cooking
3. Smoked prawns or Eja Sawa
5. Ground crayfish (optional – I’ll explain why later)
Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: any dried fish would do, if you can’t find Eja Osan. You may wonder why I didn’t use stockfish? Its flavour is too strong
Uyayak (Aidan fruit)
I listed this for the food purists. Anyone reading this would think, where in the world will I find these spices? Here comes a Dooney’s Kitchen cheat. Besides the difficulty in sourcing, local spices can be quite tricky to combine. So, if you find a trusted seller whether at home or abroad, ask her to blend all the spices for you or buy pre packed Banga Spices from the African food store. Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: I would advise you make a very small batch for starters, to test the potency of the pre packed Banga Spice
Your choice ranges from:
I’ll be using dried Atama as a personal preference. My grandma would insist on bitter leaf though. The addition of the Atama leaf basically means this soup can also be called Abak Atama soup from the Efik culture
Whole Palm nuts or canned Palm nut cream
If you are brave enough, use the nuts and start from scratch. Dooney’s Kitchen Cheat – Use the canned version. Same difference! (one of the very few instances I’ll advise using a canned version over starting from scratch)
Condiments and Seasoning
Seasoning cubes (preferred: Knorr Chicken)
Rodo (scotch bonnet/habanero pepper)
Tatashe (red bell pepper) – optional
Prep Time: 10 – 15 minutes
Cooking Time: a little over 30 minutes
Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: NEVER stir with a cooking spoon. Simply shake the pot in a circular motion. You don’t want to break down any of the components.
So here we go
1. Blend one bell pepper and scotch bonnet(s), boil until it thickens.
2. For this recipe, I am using one medium sized catfish cut into 5 pieces. So, add 1 cup of palm cream and 1 cup of hot water. Let it cook for 5 minutes, then add, the Uyaya, shredded Eja Osan and Smoked prawns (Why now? To soften, and infuse their flavours into the soup)
Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: rinse the smoked prawns, dry it with a clean dish towel, dry roast it for 1minute in a frying pan to intensify the flavour
3. Let the palm nut cream cook for another 5 minutes until oil floats to the surface (add half a cup of hot water if needed). Add 2 tablespoons of ground Banga spices (depending on your taste, you may prefer a little more – let your tastebuds guide you). Which will thicken the soup very quick
4. Add 1 cup of periwinkles followed by 2 seasoning cubes and salt. Let this cook for another 5 – 7 minutes whilst the aroma of the spices wafts into your kitchen
Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: knowing when to add the catfish isn’t necessarily about timing. Keep tasting in short intervals, until you get to the point where you can taste the ingredients in perfect sync i.e. the palm nut cream, eja osan, smoked prawns, the spices, seasoning cube, salt etc. Trust me, you’ll be able to tell
5. Add the catfish. Shake the pot in circular motions till the soup coats the catfish
Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: cover the pot and turn down the heat to low immediately you add the catfish, because intense heat destroys the flavour. You may wish to add half a cup of hot water if the soup is too thick.
6. Let the fish simmer for 10 minutes. Halfway through, crush a handful of the dried leaf of your choice in your palm and add to the pot.
10. Turn off the heat, and simply let it sit for a few more minutes. You would taste the catfish flavour by now. It may be subtle or strong, depending on the concentration of the spices, and the balance of the other ingredients.
Dooney’s Kitchen Tip: well, this is grandma’s tip. She always said leave Banga Soup to sit for at least an hour, and then reheat shortly before serving. Who am I to argue?
You may ask, Dunni, you left out the crayfish? No, I didn’t. Though crayfish is the holy grail of most Nigerian soups, when I cook Banga soup, I leave it out. After many trials, I found that it overpowers the catfish. If you are addicted to the taste of crayfish, and you can’t do without it in your soup. By all means add it. What do you do with any leftover palm nut cream? Freeze it. It can last for months.
Here is your delicious Banga soup. Serve with homemade and stress free 100% Pounded Yam made in a Food processor.
Join the revolution people, many many people have ditched Poundo Flour. If you need convincing, click HERE to see how it is done and read the comments. A particularly amazing feedback from a reader who tried it out can be found HERE. Are you now convinced? Lol