My friend, Linda says I’m an Eastern chic. This means I was born and buttered in South-Eastern Nigeria. Even though I had travelled to different parts of the country at different times, I stuck faithfully to my Igbo friends and our Igbo cuisine. While I had acquaintances from other ethnic groups, Igbo food was all I knew and I wasn’t big on food experimentation. However, everything changed five years ago. I relocated to Port Harcourt. There, I made new friends, most of whom are from other ethnic groups. Rose, my Akwa-Ibom friend, taught me how to make this soup. Abak-Atama Soup is the Efik-Ibibio version of banga soup. Atama leaves, a medicinal
Cow skin (Kpomo)
Uyayak (local spice)
How to Cook
Rinse the meat, kpomo and stock fish to remove sand. Use salt and lukewarm water to rinse the dry fish. Season your meat with onions, stock cubes and salt. Steam on low heat for five minutes. Add stock fish and water to the pot of meat. Cook till it is almost tender. Rinse the shell periwinkle thoroughly with hot water and a pinch of salt to get rid of sand, and set aside for later use.
Slice the atama leaves thinly. Soak in warm water to eliminate the bitter taste. Set aside for later use. Blend the crayfish, pepper and uyayak.
Rinse the palm fruit and boil for about thirty minutes. The process of oil extraction starts the minute the palm fruits are tender. Once this is achieved, replace the pot of palm fruits with a kettle of water. Rinse the pestle and mortar. It is the best kitchen equipment for this task. Strain off the water in the pot of palm fruits and transfer the palm fruits to the mortar for oil extraction. Using a pestle, pound the palm fruits gently until the fibre separates from the nuts. When this is done, keep the pestle aside and check the water you’re boiling. It is pertinent to mention at this point that the final process of oil extraction is done by hand. Thus, even though hot water makes oil extraction easier, the water should not be too hot or you’d burn your hand while extracting the oil. Having said that, pour the hot water into the mortar and squeeze out the oil from the palm fibre. Use a sieve to strain the extract into a pot.
Boil the extract till it thickens and the oil rises to the top. Add the meat and meat stock into the pot of palm kernel pulp. Add the blended ingredients. Also, add stock cubes and salt.
Stir the soup well, cover the lid and allow the soup to cook for about twenty minutes. Stir and taste the soup; if need be, adjust the taste. Remove the atama leaves from water and stir it into your soup. Allow it to simmer for about two minutes.
Turn off the heat and serve hot with eba, semo or pounded yam. Bon appétit.
Featured image source: Knorr Taste Quest