In our world today, it is believed that the best way to understand the cultures, norms, values and traditions of other people is to eat their food. Cultural foods helps to show the extent of the people’s rich agricultural products. It is also believed that the Niger-Delta region in Nigeria is the home of a lot of mouth watering delicacies. This fact has been proven a lot of times as their meals are usually endowed with fresh catfish, shrimps, periwinkles as well as prawns all of which makes it very clear that they are from the riverine area and so, all these nutritional edibles can be easily gotten.
In this article however, we’ll be discussing the Nigerian Niger-Delta delicacy, Banga Soup. Banga Soup is a tasty delicacy which has its origin traced from the Urhobo ethnic group in Delta State. The Soup is otherwise known to the inhabitants of the Delta region, specifically the Urhobos as Oghwoamiedi and Izuwoiniedi for the Isokos.
Basically, Banga Soup is a palm fruit soup with Banga being the chief ingredient for the soup. It is prepared by a type of palm fruit that is mostly found in the Niger Delta areas and also in Igbo land. Banga Soup also gets its delicious taste and unique aroma from the native species used in preparing it. These native species include: stick, fruit, ataiko and many others. These ingredients can be easily gotten from local markets in Nigeria. Another important yet distinct ingredient used in preparing this delicious delicacy is the Banga spice leaf which is otherwise known as “beletientien”. Although it is an important ingredient for preparing the delicacy, the Banga spice leaf can be substituted with thinly sliced scent leaves or bitter leaves if it is not readily available.
A well prepared pot of Nigerian Banga Soup is richly endowed with a lot of nutritional values that are very beneficial to your health as the soup contains variety of stuffs like fresh fish, dry fish, crayfish, kpomo, shrimps, fresh prawn as well as periwinkles which makes the dish not only appealing to the eye but also to the taste bud. With how full the dish usually is, each morsel of swallow dipped in a plate usually materializes with a delectable piece of protein for your enjoyment.
In Urhobo as well as other parts the Niger-Delta region, Banga Soup is traditionally served with Usi. Usi is a thick, yellow starchy paste which is usually made from casssava. Consuming Usi with Banga Soup however has been mastered by people from the Niger-Delta region while those who are not inhabitants of the region are yet to masyer this special skill and so they enjoy their Banga Soup with eba, pounded yam, semolina, wheat or fufu.
Finally, we can say that Banga Soup which is common in the Niger-Delta region of Nigeria is very similar to ofe which is almost as popular in among the Igbo ethnic group of South-Eastern Nigeria. This is said because the manner of preparation is very similar to Banga Soup but the spices are quite different as while the Niger-Delta inhabitants serve their Banga Soup with Usi which is otherwise known as starch, the Igbos inhabiting the South-Eastern part of Nigeria enjoy their ofe akwu with yam or boiled white rice.
Nigerian Banga Soup Recipe
Before we proceed, it is very important to note that the palm fruit oil extract which is used in preparing Banga Soup is quite different from the normal red palm oil which is used in other Nigerian food recipes. The palm used in preparing other Nigerian food recipes is pure oil which is usually extracted from the palm fruit pulp usually at a very high temperature while the palm fruit oil extract which is usually used for preparing Banga Soup is extracted at a very low temperature and is usually a mixture of water and oil. It is also necessary to note that the palm fruit oil extracted for Banga Soup preparation contains very little saturated fat compared to normal palm oils.
Banga Soup Ingredients
The following are the ingredients necessary for preparing Banga Soup:
1. 1 kg Palm fruits or 800g tinned palm fruit concentrate
3. Dry Fish
4. Vegetable: Scent leaves for ofe akwu or dried and crushed bitterleaves for Delta-style Banga Soup
5. 2 medium sized onions
6. 2 tablespoons ground crayfish
7. Salt to taste
8. Chilli pepper
9. Ogiri Okpei (locust beans/ iru)
10. 1 or 2 big stock cubes
Before starting to prepare your Nigerian Banga soup, the following procedures are needed to be carried out:
1. Be sure to fully eract the palm fruit concentrate from the palm fruits itself. Note that if you will be using the tinned palm fruit concentrate, carefully open the tin and set aside.
2. Cook the beef and the dry fish together with 1 bulb of diced onion and the stock cubes till it is fully prepared.
3. Wash the scent leaves properly and cut them into tiny pieces. Note that the scent leaves are responsible for giving the Banga soup its wonderful aroma and mouth watering taste. If you are not in Nigeria, it might be difficult to get scent leaves but do not worry as you are allowed to use pumpkin leaves or any other vegetable as an alternative to scent leaves. If you wish to cook the Delta-style Banga Soup which is usually served with starch, you should either cook this soup without vegetables or preferrably use dried and crushed bitter leaves.
4. Slice the remaining bulb of onion. Also, pound the crayfish, pepper as well as the ogiri okpei in a mortar and set aside. You are free to grind them with a dry mill instead.
Follow the instructions as written carefully:
1. Carefully place the pot of palm fruit extract on the stove or gas and start cooking at high heat. Leave it to boil until you begin to notice some red oil at the surface of the Banga Soup. Note that if you feel that the Banga Soup is too watery, you are free to cook till the soup has thickened to the consistency you like for your soup.
2. Once you are satisfied, you can now add your beef, stock, dry fish as well as the onions, crayfish and pepper and allow it to boil very well.
3. Once that is done, add your scent leaves or other vegetable as you prefer together with some salt to taste. Be careful not to put too much or too little salt as this might ruin the taste. Once this is done, leave it to simmer for nothing less than 2 minutes. With this, the Banga Soup is done. Be sure to serve with white rice or preferably, you can use the Delta-style Banga Soup to eat your already prepared starch, semolina, pounded yam, garri or Amala.
For those using tinned palm fruit concentrate, here’s the cooking directions:
1. When the beef as well as the fish are fully done, add your palm fruit concentrate and some water so as to get the consistency you prefer for your soup then allow it to boil very well.
2. Once that is done, add your onions, pepper, crayfish as well as your ogiri blend and allow it to boil very well.
3. Once that has been done, add your scent leaves or other vegetable you prefer together with somesalt to taste. Also make sure you do not add too much or too little salt so as not to ruin the taste. Once you have done that, leave it to simmer for nothing less than 2 minutes. Your Banga soup is ready to be served.
Note that if your choice of vegetable is bitter leave, it is much more preferable to serve with starch or Nigerian fufu, and if your choice of vegetable is scent leave, you can serve with boiled white rice.
Health benefits of Banga soup
1. One health benefit of Banga soup is that the palm oil which is one of the major ingredient in the dish is richly endowed with vitamin K an essential nutrient that plays an important role in the formation of blood clot. Not only that, vitamin K also plays an essential role in building strong bones and prevention of heart disease. As an essential nutrient, the vitamin K also contains some powerful antioxidants which are in the palm kernel juice. This antioxidants aids the prevention of cancer. And yet another interesting fact to note about vitamin K present in banga soup is that it contains some properties which helps to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. This is to say that vitamin K improves insulin sensitivity.
2. Another important health benefit of Banga soup is that the dish is rich in quality amount of Magnesium which is present in the palm kernel juice. This mineral plays a very important role in over 300 enzymatic reactions with the body including the metabolism of food as well as the synthesis of fatty acids and proteins. Not only that, the presence of magnesium in the palm karnel juice is involved in neuromuscular transmission and the activity of muscle relaxation. No wonder after an individual consumes a plate of banga soup there is general feeling of body relaxation.
3. According to research, it has been discovered that in elderly people, intake of banga soup which is made with palm kernel juice helps to prevent the prevalent of insulin resistance (that is diabetes), coronary heart disease( that is heart failure or abnormal heart rhythm) as well as metabolic syndrome and osteoporosis. Not only that, study has also shown that consumption of palm kernel juice which is present in soup such as banga contains magnesium with the combination of viatamin B6 which appears to be efficacious to reduce the effect of premenstrual syndrome which includes symptoms such as bloating, insomnia, weight gain, breast tenderness as well as leg swelling.
4. Another important health benefit of Banga soup is that the palm kernel juice is also richly endowed with Vitamin A. Vitamin A is very essential for healthy vision and can also help to slow down retinal function in people with retinitis pigmentosa. Not only that, vitamin A also has the ability to ensure healthy growth of the bone as well as the state of health of the reproduction and immune systems. Vitamin A also helps the skin to become fresh, it prevents skin disease such as sunburn. it also helps the mucous membranes repel bacteria and viruses more effectively.
5. Another important health benefit of Banga soup is that it also contains vitamin E. Vitamin E is a powerful natural antioxidant that help in the protection against cancer and guarantees so as to give your skin a fresher look. It also helps to lower your cholesterol level, thus reducing the risk of getting heart diseases. Not only that, the presence of vitamin E in Banga soup also helps in the prevention of cataracts, Alzheimer’s disease as well as diabetes. Vitamin E also contains some antioxidant properties which are good for brain health. It protects the brain health and also slows down the effect of dementia.
Nutritional value of palm oil used for Banga soup
The palm oil which is gotten from Banga cream or palm fruit pulp contains the following:
1. 50% saturated fatty acids that is 40% mono saturated fatty acid and 10% poly saturated fatty acid.
2. One tablespoon of this palm oil provides roughly about 11% of the required daily intake of vitamin E as well as 7 grams of saturated fat, 5 grams of mono saturated fat and 1.5 grams of poly unsaturated fat.
Note that the bright red color shows the presence of beta carotene which is later converted to Vitamin A.
Where to purchase Banga soup ingredients
Banga soup ingredients can be gotten from any local markets around you. They are very affordable depending on the amount you need. It can be gotten at any time of the year.