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Nigerian restauranteur attracts customers with unique soup recipe

posted 14 Dec 2012, 08:09 by Mpelembe   [ updated 14 Dec 2012, 08:10 ]

Nigeria's Edikang-Ikong soup made from traditional vegetables and meat originates from the Efiks in Akwa Ibom and Cross River states of Nigeria. Prepared with a generous quantity of pumpkin leaves and water leaves, this delicacy is a favourite for many in the country though few know how to prepare it. One restaurant in Lagos is using its version to win customers.

LAGOSNIGERIA  (REUTERS)  - Ufuoma Keremu is busy preparing lunchtime meals at the Mama Onome restaurant, in Lagos.

The family business is located in a busy part of the city and specialises in a variety of traditional dishes.

Karemu has been working at her mother's food stall, since she was a teenager. Today she is making Edikaikong soup, a vegetable and meat dish originally made by the Calabar community, who live in the Niger Delta region.

Edikaikong soup is prepared using a generous amount of pumpkin and water leaves which are widely grown in Nigeria.

"This is ugwu (pumpkin leaves) it is used in preparing variety of soup, but what I'm about to prepare now is edikaikong soup, this is my ugwu and this is my water leaves known as gbure in Nigeria, we have to wash our vegetables, you wash your water leaves," said Karemu.

The cooking process is seen to be tedious by many, a number of ingredients are required to get the taste just right, but Karemu says that blending a variety of ingredients is what makes the dish tasty.

"This is the meat that we are going to use in cooking the soup, we have cow meat, that's beef and then we have stock fish," said Karemu.

"It's very very tasty because of all the things used in cooking it like your meat, you have stock fish in it most of the time, we add periwinkles, snails and you know it's very very tasty, so even the Yorubas eat it, the Hausas, they eat it because it helps a lot in the body and then vegetable is good," added Karemu, as she prepared the soup.

The meal is slow cooked for hours until tender, after which other ingredients like palm oil, cray-fish and pepper can be added.

Although Edikaikong can be accompanied with starches like rice, most Nigerians prefer to have it with pounded yam or yam fufu.

"This is yam and it's used in eating edikaikong soup, after you cut, then you wash," Karemu explained.

Traditionally, pounded yam is made by boiling yams in a pot. Once cooked, the yams are placed in a mortar and pounded with a pestle to form a smooth textured paste.

Yam powder sold in supermarkets can also be used to make yam fufu.

Mama Onome's restaurant was started 1984 and has grown to serve over 1,000 customers a week, and makes about 4,000 US dollars a month.

During lunch hour, the busiest time at the restaurant, clients start streaming, and edikaikong soup is one of the most popular meals on demand in today's menu.

"I can't do without eating it, anytime I go to any restaurant, that is what I always ask for, edikaikong or pounded yam, if they say they don't have, then I can go for another option," said Godwin Yusuf, a regular customer.

"Edikaikong is popular because it's a special African Nigerian soup and it has a lot of recipes and good ingredients in it and the taste is very perfect," adds Victor Ekpa, another customer.

The restaurant has employed 16 workers to help out. Ufuoma says the family is planning to grow their business further and open other outlets in parts of Lagos as well as set up a catering school to educate people on how to prepare traditional Nigerian meals.