There is a popular song by the late highlife musician, Bright Chimezie, which he chorused that; onye ne jiho ego adi heri ofe owerri (a poor man cannot eat ofe owerri). Ofe owerri (ofe means soup while, Owerri, is the capital of Imo State, is one of the most expensive soups in Nigeria. This king of soup belong to the people of Owerri and to prepare this pot of soup, you would spend between N4, 000 and N10, 000.
Xquisite food’s findings revealed that at any restaurant in Imo or Owerri, ofe Owerri with akpu goes for as high as N2, 000 per plate, compared to oha or ofe onugbu (bitter leaf soup) which goes for five hundred naira, depending on the sophistication of the restaurant.
In Igbo communities, beautiful women are usually likened to Ofe Owerri as it is a special delicacy soup that will leave a deep hole in your wallet.
This kind of soup consists mainly of chunks of stockfish (Okporoko) and Azu Okpo (dried fish). Snails and other assorted meat add to the beauty and richness of the soup.
There is often a bit of debate by the people of Enugu, Abia and Anambra as to the traditional leaf combination for the soup. While some think it should be ukazi and ugu, others are of the opinion that okazi alone is okay and to others, it should be uziza. However, a typical Imo cook would use a combination of the four leaves to make this soup.
If you have heard of this soup or probably enjoy eating it at local Igbo restaurants, here is your chance to cook it for your family, as Xquisite food presents to you, the recipe and directions of how cook ofe Owerri.
Goat meat, large snails, ponmo (cow skin), Okporoko (dried cod) cod, dried fish, Oporo (smoked prawns), grounded dried crayfish, wraps of Ogili (fermented soya beans), fresh pepper, grounded dried pepper, grounded Uziza seeds (Ashanti pepper), cocoyam, palm oil, sliced ugu leafs (pumpkin leaves), sliced oha leafs, slized uziza leaves, stock cubes, achi powder and salt.
Now, tie your apron and get your cooking pots ready!
- Season the meats, snail and stockfish with salt, half cup of crayfish, 1 tablespoon of dried pepper. Pour water to the level of the meats and cook until tender.
How to make the cocoyam paste
- Wash the cocoyam thoroughly and boil with the skin on, in lots of water for ten to fifteen minutes.
- When cooked, peel off the skin and pound into a paste. The cocoyam is usually sticky so add a tablespoonful of palm oil. This does two things: it keeps the cocoyam from sticking to the mortar and also it enhances the colour of the soup.
- Once the meat and stockfish have softened, taste the stock and make any necessary adjustments to the flavour.
- At this stage, add the cocoyam paste in small portions with your cooking spoon or simply mix the ground ‘Achi’ powder with some water in a bowl, stir well and pour into the soup. Reduce the heat and watch the soup thicken. Stir thoroughly to ensure all cocoyam lumps dissolve totally into the soup.
- Add the palm oil and washed chunks of dry fish to the soup. Cover the pot and let the soup cook until the oil combines with the soup and loses that raw taste (this takes about 2-5 minutes)
- Add the ogiri, the remaining crayfish and dry pepper and stir thoroughly.
- Thoroughly wash the vegetables with cold water. Wash twice or thrice to remove any traces of dust or sand. Stir after adding the vegetables and allow to simmer on low heat for an extra five minutes, then turn off the heat.
- Voila, your Ofe Owerri is ready!
Serve hot with akpu, yellow Igbo garri, pounded yam or semovita.