Owerri, the capital of Imo state is located in the heart of Igboland. It is the state’s largest city and the unofficial statue headquarters of Nigeria. People of Owerri are lovers of good music; the town has an active night life that is unrivaled in all of South-Eastern Nigeria.
The interesting thing about the soup we’re discussing today is that you can tell the origin of the soup from the name. Ofe Owerri is the royal delicacy of the Owerri people of Imo State. This soup is a culinary symbol of affluence. It is the type of soup my Aguleri people call Ove ndi agri, supu nyachi which means a highly enriched soup specially prepared for a loved one. When an Owerri man prepares this delicacy for his guests, it is an unmistakable symbol of honour and prestige. In his evergreen album titled, “Ofe Owere,” Dr. Sir Warrior, the late high life musician, stamped Ofe Owerri as the food of the rich when he asked the question, onye na adi ego oji aga eri Ofe Owerri? which means can a poor man eat Ofe Owerri?
However, while there seems to be a unanimous agreement on the generous budget allocation for this soup, the appropriate vegetables for preparing this delicacy have remained in contention. While some believe that it is okazi and ugu, others insist that it is uziza and ora leaves. Even though I’m not interested in joining the controversy, I’ll add my two cents to the discussion. Food is an important part of culture. There are culinary traditions associated with every culture. They are often passed down from one generation to the next and they operate as an expression of cultural identity. However, variety is a product of adventure. A lot has to be said for culture contact and the attendant changes resulting from such cross-cultural interactions. One of the implications of cross-cultural interactions is that our local cuisine can be reinvented to suit an acquired taste. Bearing in mind that alterations to original dishes can create new flavors while retaining the cultural significance of the dish, we should endeavor to be open-minded when we encounter recipes that differ from what we have. That said, I use okazi and ugu to prepare Ofe Owerri.
Ofe Owerri is fairly easy to prepare. The major ingredients for this soup are assorted meat, stock fish, dry fish, the vegetables, (ugu and okazi), cocoyam and locust beans. Anyone who can cook ofe onugbu or ofe ora can prepare this soup with ease.
 Freely Magazine, “What Food Tell us about Culture”
Featured image: Sodic Garden