Pepper soup is an indigenous Nigerian dish, which is particularly common across the Southeastern and Southwestern parts of the country. In this article, we explore the Nigerian spices used in Delta State to make this local appetizer.
In most parts of Nigeria, pepper soup is one side dish you just cannot walk away from. It is usually the first course offered at parties, and is a regular feature on local menus in restaurants.
Growing up with my grandparents in Sapele, Delta State, weekends were for yam and pepper soup, especially on rainy and cold Saturdays. And it was and still is a dish well relished. Nothing flows better with boiled yam and palm oil like pepper soup.
Pepper soup as we fondly call it, is not so much known for its hotness (pepper) but for the spices used to prepare this delicacy. I was barely 10 years old, when I had to learn to make pepper soup. With this on my taste buds, I grew up to be a pepper soup snob.
My paternal grandmother would identify the spices for me, give me the quantity she wanted to use and put me to work.
I would use my teeth to break the nuts that had shells, place them over the fireplace to roast. This helped to intensify their aroma. The whole idea was to burn them a little, then use a grinding stone to grind the ones that could be ground, and take out the seeds from the grains of selim (egidije), before using them to cook. We could add crayfish along with steamed fish, meat, or chicken.
A lot of people assume all pepper soup spices are the same, but different parts of Nigeria come up with their own spices which they use to prepare pepper soup.
For example, here is a pepper soup recipe from a food blogger from the Eastern part of Nigeria.
Ingredients Used To Prepare Pepper Soup
Ehu seeds, ginger, garlic, crayfish, onions, Uziza seeds, and Utazi leaves.
Preparation of Delta State Pepper Soup
Clean the ginger and garlic, pound or blend together.
The seed of Ehu is one of the most relevant ingredients. Just go ahead and break away the outer shell, then blend/pound together with the Uziza seeds and half cup of crayfish.
Slice the onions and Utazi leaves and set aside on a plate.
This same ingredient (ehu) is used for making several other Nigerian foods, like the African salad and Nkwobi.
If you are preparing pepper soup with assorted meat you want to wash the meat properly with hot water.
If you haven’t tasted the Deltan spices used for pepper soup, then you are in for a treat. A combination of the various Southern Nigeria pepper soup spices gives you a tangy, slightly bitter taste. Interestingly, all of these spices are highly medicinal.
For connoisseurs of food, if you do not mind going through the hassle of selecting your pepper soup spices from scratch, here is a list of spices. For easy reference, I have tried to include what the spices are called in other dialects.
Nigerian Spices In Delta State Pepper Soup
Calabash Nutmeg ( Iwo, Itsekiri), ( Ehuru, Igbo), (Gugiya, Hausa),( Ariwo, Yoruba)
Grains of Selim (Egidije, Itsekiri), (Uda, Igbo), (Kimba, Hausa), ( Eruu Alamo, Yoruba)
Coco plum ( Omilo, Itsekiri), (Umilo)
Rough skinned plum ( Gbafilo), (Peru,Yoruba)
Tetrapleura Tetraptera (Yaghan yaghan, Itsekiri), (Aridan,Yoruba), (Usho Usho, Igbo)
Dried vegetable leaf (Beletietie)
Over the years, there have been people who have gone through the stress of picking these spices and processing them. If you are lucky to know any natives of Delta State, you can appeal to them to help you get the processed spices from Warri to save you the stress of looking for these spices yourself.
With the majority of the spices needed to cook this Deltan pepper soup listed above, you could walk into any open market to buy them, or look out for Hausa vendors who are also major dealers of these spices.
But if you would rather have the blended spices, or a ready-to-use mix, then Warri is your sure plug. So when next you are traveling down south, be sure to stop by Warri and get your processed pepper soup spices.