Banga Soup (aka Palm Nut Soup)

Funke Koleosho's Palm Nut (Banga) Soup

I have put off writing this post several times, but I eventually got round to cooking banga soup.... I have posted in the past of how Nigeria may possibly be the world record holder for the nation with the highest number of different types of soups...!

In Nigeria, soups can be made from a wide variety of vegetables (combined with meat or fish) and then named after the main or prominent ingredient......most fascinating. Soups are even cooked for specific people and conditions. For instance new mothers are cooked a special type of soup to aid healing and lactation. Some soups are also cooked to aid conception! Also soups are common to certain regions or localities, obviously dictated by the types of vegetations that grow in those area. One of such soups is the banga (also known as Palm nutsoup.

My first encounter of banga soup was with mama Felix, many many years ago. She was a friend's mum and one day I visited them, I was invited to try some. It was served with boiled yam. I have to say that at the time, it felt totally different to the other types of soups I had eaten, being a Yoruba girl. I next ate another banga soup dish many years later, made by my immediate younger sister who went to school in the South Eastern part of Nigeria, where she had learnt to cook the soup. She has put her own twist on the soup and made it more palatable for us (ie being Yoruba). She served the soup with some boiled rice, and it went down a treat....only problem was she never cooked the soup again because of the tedious process involved in making it.... My subsequent encounters with banga soup was my occasional visits to speciality Nigerian restaurants whenever I had a craving for some.

Banga (Chicken, Dried fish) Soup
From my very vast research into foods of Nigerian origins, I discovered further health benefits of red palm oil, the core ingredient in making banga soup. So in order to increase and regularise my recommended red palm oil intake, I took it upon myself to learn how to cook banga soup. So I sought the help of a family friend (an Urobo lady)....and the rest is history as they say.

Living in the UK proved a little of a challenge concerning sourcing the ingredients/condiments required to follow the traditional recipe.... It was a relief to find out that other West African countries also eat this soup, though each locality use different condiments/seasoning. It was also a lot of relief to find out that the base for making the soup, an extract of boiled and pounded palm nut fruits, can be purchased in a can...!

So with all seeming problems solved.....I explored the use of these alternative ingredients and also checked out recipes from other West African recipes, I arrive at my very own recipe, which was perfect for mine and my family's taste. Check it out below, and let me add, do explore and adjust to get your own perfect taste...

Banga Soup served with eba
What you need
  • A can of palm nut soup base sauce
  • Scotch bonnet chilli pepper
  • Crayfish
  • A whole chicken (not the broiler type. Get the the proper local fowl if you can get it or the boiling chicken)
  • 2 medium very ripe tomatoes (using tomatoes is a variation used by Ghanians. Not used in Nigeria but I love the depth of flavours they add to the soup. Use really ripe and sweet ones to avoid the tangyness of some tomatoes which isn't a desirable characteristic in this soup)
  • Smoked dried cat fish
  • Dried sole fish (eja abo)
  • 1 small onion (dice)
  • 1 clove garlic (chop finely)
  • 10g of ginger
  • 2 shelled ehuru seeds (African nutmeg) ground into powder
  • Some shaving of aridan (shave using a cheese grater)
  • Fresh basil or scent leaves (wash well and shred)
  • Salt to taste

What to do
  1. Cut chicken at the joints into its parts, such as wings, thighs, legs, breast, back etc. Trim off all unwanted parts and rinse in some clean water with a dash of lemon juice. 
  2. Place clean chicken pieces into a stock pot and add the diced onion, diced tomatoes, salt, garlic. Add some water and boil until chicken is tender and soft. Not too soft as cooking will continue in stage two. 
  3. Meanwhile, wash and soak the dried fish in hot salted water. Set aside. 
  4. Stage 2: Empty the content of 1 can of palm nut base sauce into a pot and place on a low heat stove. 
  5. Blend the chilli peppers, crayfish and ginger, add some water to aid blending. Blend until smooth. Add blend to the palm nut base sauce. Stir and allow to cook. Then add the ground ehuru seeds and the shaved aridan. Stir all together and continue to cook for another 6 minutes or so. You will begin to notice some oil floating on the soup. 
  6. This is the time to add the other ingredients. So add the chicken stock from the boiled chicken, and add the boiled chicken pieces. Stir well. Cover the pot and allow all to cook for about 5 minutes under high heat. Then add the dried fish and turn the heat down. Press the fish down to immerse them under the soup. Simmer. Taste for salt. You may add some additional stock cube to enhance taste to your preference. 
  7. Finally add generous amount of shredded fresh basil/scent leaves. 
  8. Serve with eba, pounded yam, starch etc. 
  9. Also excellent served with rice or boiled yam.

Banga (Palm Nut) Soup

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