I know I know, I am supposed to feature a “Meet A Friend.” I promise I will, sooon! I’ve decided on the person and it seems like the more I pray for her, the harder it is to make my words come together. In the meantime, I had a new Nigerian dish today! Egusi Soup.
I didn’t prepare it, so I’m confident it’s much better than my first try would have been, lol. The ladies in the dining hall on our compound cooked it and were willing to let me watch. Egusi soup seems to be the children’s favorite and honestly, may be mine, too.
The History: Initially, I wanted to know from which West African tribe did Egusi soup originate. As I read, it became quite a challenge. Some people said Igbo, some said Hausa, and others said Yoruba so I decided that I’d leave it up to my readers to tell me! What I did learn, is that egusi soup’s main ingredient is the seed of the egusi melon. These melon seeds are ground up, and used in many West African dishes, specifically soups. They look much like watermelon, but the inside is actually a soft yellow and the seeds are off-white.
The Process: I love watching the ladies use the pestle and mortar, so that obviously was my favorite part. They ground the seeds up to a pretty fine consistency. The base of the soup is red palm oil. This is the same oil based they used the first time I watched them make stew. The seeds are mixed in, and they gradually add dried fish, beef tips, and stock from those proteins. It honestly looks more like a chowder, but I’m not Nigerian, so my opinion doesn’t matter LOL. The ladies also added chopped spinach, which, if you know me, made my entire day. They cooked it down and BOOM. Now, this process sounds super short when condensed into a paragraph on my website, but it was SO. MUCH. WORK. De-boning the dried fish, DRYING the fish, cooking the beef, making the broth, preparing the base, chopping the vegetables, and doing whatever else they knew needed to be done. One of my favorite aspects of Nigerian culture is the food. This isn’t simply because I’m greedy, but because of the time and care that goes into creating each meal.
Swallows: Swallows are a pretty common Nigerian side dish. Each of them differ in flavor, but the texture seems fairly similar. They are what seem to be the “starch” of the meal. They are cooked down, pounded, mashed, or mixed, and molded into a ball shape to be eaten with various soups. With the egusi soup, the ladies prepared Tuwo Shinkafa Rice. I’m going to be honest and say that I missed watching them prepare the rice, but went to the website I’ve been using for trying different recipes at home, and found this quick video.
When I first saw the soup, I was nervous. It’s not the easiest on the eyes if it’s something you aren’t used to seeing. The texture tasted much different than it looked. I couldn’t stop eating it, y’all. It was sooooooo good. It’s like the fish and beef flavor did the gwara gwara in my mouth. It was legit.
Now, finally, the eating! Grab a spoon and go crazy, right?! WRONG. I’m intentional about asking the ladies how to eat certain foods. I’m fairly shameless in my lack of knowledge and am always eager to learn. It is to be eaten by “collecting a small amount of the rice, and using it to scoop the soup out of the bowl…” They wanted me to use a spoon, I said “NEVERRRRRR!!!” and everybody smiled and laughed. I know it may seem small, but that showed them immediately that I respected and was intrigued by the culture. They called me their sister, and I’m loving how our relationship is beginning to blossom. Here’s a SHORT clip of me eating the soup and swallow. I had to stop recording because baby I went to TOWN on this food.
I hope those of you following my website are enjoying the small pieces of Nigeria I’m able to share as I serve here in Jos. I promise to keep it up. My greatest desire has been to show my students from the states that they are, too, capable of experiencing a life outside of what society deems their standard. I hope this does just that.
Thank you for reading.
I love you.