Edikang Ikong…the king of Efik soups…
In my honest opinion, Edikang Ikong is a man and Afang a woman. The robustness and bold flavors of this soup makes it everything it is. Every single morsel of this soup feels like an orgasm. The way the habaneros synched with the dry pepper powder left me with notes of flavors that I just couldn’t explain…And this is a very good thing.
I have made Afang a few times, but for some reason, every time I wanted to make Edikang Ikong, I’d get mentally weak because of the precision it took to make it. I finally decided to get it done once and for all, but one thing prevented me from being great and that thing was having the right recipe. So, I reached out to Eketi of ketimae.wordpress.com and she was super duper helpful…
Before I share Eketi’s story and the recipe, I want to share a little about my pot of Edikang Ikong. While sourcing for the ingredients, I ran into some “almost” hinderances. I couldn’t find water leaves, Ugwu(pumpkin leaves) or periwinkles. I almost gave up on the idea until I decided to improvise. For the Ugwu, I substituted with Kale; as it has that same crunch. For the water leaves, I chose to substitute it with Spinach as they had the same soft nature. For the periwinkles, I couldn’t find the ones used in Nigerian cooking, so I used the breed I could find at the fish market. To use them, I had to thoroughly wash them and cook them in some salty water before using a sterilized pin to pull them out of the shell. Cooking them first makes it easier to deal with. And with these three key ingredients successfully substituted, my pot of Edikang Ikong was AMAZING! Apart from it being totally amazing, the sleep afterwards was too real :)…That’s a good thing 🙂
Now to Eketi’s story before the recipe…
I have two distinct and unpleasant memories about this soup. Let me share the first and funnier of the two.
One day, back when I was about twelve or thirteen years old, my parents travelled to Uyo. Before leaving, my mother asked me to prepare Edikang ikong soup, so she and my father would eat when they returned.
As soon as they were out the door, I commandeered my siblings to prepare all the ingredients, cover them up and leave them on the kitchen table.
In those days, my nickname was Ekpe Mbre. Loose translation – Mistress of Play Play. If playing was part of the Olympics, I would’ve won gold for Nigeria, back to back.
Anyway, with my parents away and no adult supervision, my siblings and I did the only wise thing to do. We played our hearts out.
Climbed trees. Hunted grasshoppers. Played football. Watched TV. Scattered the house.
Now, there was a certain knowing we possessed. Without seeing it, somehow, we were always able to tell when my father’s car was coming down the street.
And it came to pass, that the hour of parental return drew nigh and the children of Ette were still at play and the soup was yet uncooked.
Then my sister, I think, ran into the room while I was lying in front of the mirror, in the middle of delivering my fake baby, the fruit of my fake and unusually gigantic bedsheet pregnancy.
“Daddy and mummy are coming!” she screamed.
See enh, magic wands have got nothing on a bunch of Nigerian children with soon-to-be-home Nigerian parents, who have scattered the house and are putting it back in order.
The house was set straight in seconds. Nanoseconds sef.
My eyes widened with horror as I remembered the single most important thing I’d been asked to do.
At the thought of what my mother would do when she walked in and there was no soup, I felt a little pee leak in my panties.
I dashed into the kitchen, yelling for my brother. He ran in and like headless chickens, we gathered the ingredients, put water for garri on one cooker burner and the soup pot on the other.
By now, I could hear the car engine idling outside, in the parking slot. We always go to the door to welcome my parents when they get home, to this day. Anyone absent from the welcome committee, often gets a query.
I sent my siblings to go welcome my parents, and inform them that I couldn’t come to the door because I was cooking.
From the kitchen, I heard my mother’s loud complaint.
“Ideghe afere anke bogo anye abok tungho isua, k’enye atutungho idagha m?
Literal translation: “Isn’t that the soup I asked her to cook since, that she’s cooking now?”
Life translation: “I’m going to kill her.”
My brothers and sisters, there are special demons that wait around for when a soul is desperate.
One of such demons was on its way to Balogun market, when it heard my mother screaming. It sensed that someone may be in trouble. So it made a detour and landed on my left shoulder.
“Is it not just soup?” it said, stroking my head with its scrawny talons.
“It doesn’t matter what time the ingredients go in. Just pour everything inside the pot at once, turn it and voilà!”
As my mother’s voice and footsteps neared the kitchen, I was beyond desperate. I could actually see the hooded figure of Death, standing near the fridge, giggling.
So I took the demon’s advice. Quick as a flash, I poured everything; pumpkin leaves, crayfish, fish, meat, waterleaves, periwinkles etc into the pot and stirred.
My mum stepped into the kitchen a second later.
“Ah, Mummy welcome o,” I said, adding salt and pepper to the mixture.
“Sorry about the food. I was actually timing your arrival, so the soup will still be hot when you return. Don’t worry, by the time you’ve finished undressing, food will be ready.”
All this, I said without pausing for a breath, in that fast, glib manner of lying children who have sucked the devil’s left breast.
She gave me a long, suspicious look and walked out of the kitchen.
Fifteen minutes later, food was ready and served.
That soup tasted like exactly what it was: an abomination!
My parents had this stunned, inquiring look, like “Are we bad parents? If no, why is she trying to kill us?”
Because the soup —oil was one way, the water, another. The meat and dry fish were barely cooked and tough as sun-dried kilishi. As for the vegetables….ah!
I could almost hear the spirits of my female progenitors groaning in their tombs.
Every good cook knows that each ingredient has a different cooking time and so, they shouldn’t be added to the pot all at once. If that is done, one would ruin the taste of the food.
But do you blame me? The fear of my mother was the beginning of wisdom.
Nigerian mother that she is, she chose not to beat sense into me that day. No. Instead, she filed away the incident in her Folder of Blackmail Material, Weapons and Miscellaneous.
After that day, every little infraction and I was reminded of how I tried to kill her and her precious husband with Edikang-poison.
Thank you Eketi…
Below is my interpretation of Eketi’s recipe.
- 2lbs assorted meats
- 10oz chopped spinach or water leaves
- 16½ oz chopped Kale or Ugwu (fluted pumpkin leaves)
- 1½ lb raw shrimp(de shelled and deveined)
- 1lb unshelled or shelled periwinkles(mfi/isam)
- 2 habanero peppers(crushed)
- 3tbsps crayfish
- 2 large dry fish
- 1 stock fish
- 2tsps dry pepper powder
- 1 cup palm oil(roughly)
- salt to taste
- Season the meats and stock fish with some salt, bouillon if using, 1 tbsp. of the crayfish and 1tsp of the dry pepper. Pour water to the level of the meats and cook until tender and until the stock is almost totally dry. Add the spinach/water leaves, half of the dried fish, the crushed habaneros and the remaining crayfish. Shake the pot to combine. Cook until most of the water from the leaves is dry; then add the kale/ugwu and palm oil and combine. Stir in the shrimp, remaining dry fish and periwinkles. Leave to cook for another six minutes. finally, add the remaining dry pepper and if the soup is too thick, add some more oil to loosen it up(do not add any form of water). Enjoy with any swallow