Banga Soup, also known as Palm Nut Soup or Ofe Akwu, is a delectable Nigerian cuisine with a pleasant, nutty flavor. This delightful soup will leave you licking your fingers!
There are different methods of cooking banga soup, but my version is the delta style banga soup which is what I grew up eating.
Banga soup is made using palm fruit extract or palm fruit concentrate. It is sometimes known as palm nut soup.
Palm nut (also known as palm kernel) is the fruit of the oil palm tree native to West and Central Africa and some Asian countries. It lends a delightfully nutty and ethnic flavor to this soup!
Palm nut soup is a staple dish eaten in various West African countries. In Nigeria, it is known as Banga soup in the Niger Delta region and Ofe Akwu among the Igbos. It is called Mbanga soup in Cameroon, Abenkwan in Ghana, and Moambe in Congo.
The traditional way of making Nigerian Banga soup is quite involved and takes some time to prepare. When I was growing up, I would wait impatiently while my mum made Banga soup because it seemed to take forever.
Thankfully there is an easier and quicker way to make this soup using store-bought concentrate. I will include both methods of making palm nut soup just in case you can’t get the palm nut concentrate where you live.
- Palm-nut concentrate: There are various brands of palm-nut concentrate on the market, but some of them have been mixed with other ingredients. I like to use Trofai Palm Nut concentrate because it’s in its pure form, and the carbs are relatively low.
- Fresh catfish and shrimps: Banga soup is traditionally made with seafood like fresh fish and shrimps. I grew up eating Banga soup with periwinkles, which was always so amazing. I have no idea where to buy periwinkles where I live, but shrimps make an excellent substitute.
- Spices: Bouillon powder (maggi cubes), cayenne pepper, ground crayfish, banga spice, and salt. Banga spice is what gives this soup its unique, finger-licking taste and flavor. It is made from a blend of a few unique traditional spices, like oburunbebe stick, beletete, aidan fruit, and chili pepper. I usually get banga spice from an African store, but you can also get it from Amazon.
Using store-bought palm nut concentrate
For this recipe, I use store-bought palm nut concentrate, which you can get from an African store or from Amazon.
- If your catfish is whole, you will need to cut and clean it yourself, which will take some additional time. It is a lot faster to buy it already cut from the store or market, if possible.
- Pour the palm nut concentrate into a pot. Add in the shrimps and spices and let it boil for 10 minutes.
- Add your catfish and simmer for about 15 minutes.
- When the banga soup is almost ready, the oil from the palm kernel will begin to rise to the surface and give off a lovely aroma.
If you don’t have access to palm nut concentrate, you can make it from scratch. This is a bit more labor-intensive, but with patience and some elbow grease, it can be done. You will need a large mortar and pestle for this.
- Measure out the palm nut seeds and place them in a large bowl. Wash them under running water and drain. Place the palm nut seeds in a pot with enough water to cover them, and boil till tender (roughly 20 minutes).
- Pour the palm kernel seeds into the mortar and use the pestle to gently pound and mash them. Be careful, though, as this can get quite messy.
- When the palm nut seeds look mushy, transfer them to another large bowl. Add some water, squeeze the palm nuts, and drain into a separate bowl. The goal is to wash the seeds (which are all mashed up from pounding) and reserve the water for cooking. You will have to repeat this process a few times. In the beginning, the water will be very thick but will become lighter as you continue.
- Strain the water from washing the palm nut into a pot. It should have a yellow-orange hue. It will take roughly 30 minutes to an hour to boil down into a thick viscous liquid, which forms the concentrate for the soup.
Banga soup stores well in the fridge for up to 5 days, but you can freeze it for 2-3 months. To reheat frozen banga soup, defrost in the refrigerator overnight and reheat as usual the next day.
Banga soup goes well with fufu like pounded yam, eba, starch or even rice. For a low carb dinner, serve with low carb fufu dishes or cauliflower rice.
- Even though palm nut soup is traditionally made with seafood, you can also cook it with meat.
- You can add scent leaves to your soup for an additional dimension of flavor.
- Palm-nut soup produces quite a bit of oil. If this bothers you, you can drain some of it when it’s ready.
- You can add more or less cayenne pepper depending on your preference.
- You can also add spinach or other leafy greens to this Nigerian soup.