Eja Osan Imo'oyo & Okro Soup - One Pot


Out here in Lagos, I live just about 20 minutes drive from one of the biggest fresh fish markets in Lagos State, I mean really fresh, caught straight from the Atlantic ocean and surrounding waters....!

The prospect of getting fresh, wild caught fish  for lunch is too exciting for words.....anytime I go the market, called Oja Chief (pronounced shief), I behave like a child in a candy store. Everything is calling my name....."ffffuuuunnnnkkkkeeee...! so I answer them....and I take them home.

One Pot Eja Osan Imoyo & Okro Soup
The different types of fish you get in this market bring back lots of memories of my childhood. My mother was a keen cook herself back in the days and she would tantalise us with all manner of delicacies, sea food was her specialty. From eja oje (ribbon fish), panla osan, owere, wesafu, osan, kutta (barracuda), apo, snapper, shiny nose etc etc. including all manner of shell fish like crabs lobsters, prawns and so on.....we thankfully enjoyed the dishes she made with them.

One Pot Eja Osan Imoyo & Okro Soup

I remember well that my dad's preference for fresh fish was to make it Imo'oyo Style.... Omo'oyo (ore-omo'oyo, my dad used to (actually, still does call it) pronounced do mi do do). This soup is common with the Isale Eko people of Lagos state and that is where my mum learnt to make it.

Imo'oyo / Omo'oyo is basically similar to the regular Nigerian Red pepper sauce because they are both made with the same starting ingredients; tomatoes, peppers, chill, shombo pepper and onions. Then rather than palm oil, the finest vegetable oil was used to make imoyo. The way things were back then, all ingredients were fresh and organic and they contributed exceptional tastes and flavours to the soup. Nothing other than salt was added...

Imoyo Vs Regular Red pepper sauce
The main differences in both soups is that Imo'oyo is quite a thin / loose soup unlike the regular soup which has a thicker texture and consistency. Also Imo'oyo is typically cooked with fresh fish only,,,unlike the regular soup which can contain meat or fish or a combination of both. Because of its thin consistency, Imoyo is only ever eaten in combination with another vegetable soup like okro or ewedu to balance out its consistency. And it is, preferably, served on a rainy day with amala .

So the other day at the fish market, I bought fresh Eja Osan with a couple of other types of fish and I hurried home to cook them. I new straightaway that I wanted to make Imoyo with the fish, served with okro and amala.... so I did .....but with a twist.....I cooked all in one pot.!

One Pot Eja Osan Imo'oyo & Okro
What you need
  • Fresh fish (I used Eja osan in this recipe)
  • Tomatoes
  • Onions
  • Shombo peppers (fresh cayenne peppers)
  • Okro
  • Salt to taste (trust me you wont need any additional seasoning)
  • Some good quality stock
  • Coconut oil (you can use any oil that you prefer )
  • Locust beans (whole beans, washed)
What to do
  1. Wash the fish, and cut into chunky slices/steaks. Place them in a bowl of salted water. Do this at least 30 minutes before you cook them. This enables the fish to soak up the salt. 
  2. Wash and blend the tomatoes, peppers and onions using this ratio, 1 part cayenne peppers, 11/2-2 parts tomatoes and half onion. The shombo pepper has some heat of their own so you can reduce or increase quantity as preferred. You really need to blend the peppers into a very smooth slurry. No bits or seed must be seen. Add water as required to aid blending. 
  3. Then transfer blend into a large pot big enough to fit the soup and the fish pieces in. Add some oil about 2-3 serving spoons then begin to boil. Allow to boil for about 15 minutes and taste. Add the stock and some salt to taste. At this stage the taste should have mellowed with no overpowering harshness from the peppers or the tomatoes. Continue to cook to reduce the sauce and thicken a little.
  4. Then add the fish and reduce heat. Cover the pot and continue to cook until the fish cooks through, about 3 minutes should be enough. Be careful while stirring so that you do not break the fish into pieces. Then briefly remove the fish steak and set aside.
  5. Finally add the locust beans and freshly sliced okro stirring carefully and allow to cook for about 2-3 minutes.....The amount of okro should be considerably more in this recipe. Add a little at a time until you have added enough. 
  6. Re introduce the half cooked fish, cover the pot and allow to cook through, another 2-3 minutes.
  7. Serve with amala.
One Pot Eja Osan Imo'oyo & Okro Soup


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