Ora soup (oha, uha) is a staple of the Igbo people of Nigeria. It is one soup that has so many dos and don’ts or old wives’ tales woven around it. It is claimed that if you break any of the rules, the soup will either go bitter or the leaves will toughen up…don’t add water after adding the leaves, don’t cut leaves with a knife, don’t use the tiny closed leaves at the tips, pick the leaves without the stalk, don’t cut the leaves and keep for long before adding to the soup…I could go on and on,but honestly, hardly any of this is true. Even if they were true, Ora soup is so delicious that a lot of cooks will be ready to do much more just to produce a pot of wholesome and delectable Ora soup.
Ora leaves are so soft and delicate that raw silk clothes were once nicknamed oha. As the leaves age, they get tough, harder and dryer, do not use them in the soup, no amount of cooking will soften them and will take away from the pleasure of eating Ora soup. To test, see below.
Cocoyam paste is used as a thickener in this recipe but cocoyam flour, achi, ofor or egusi can also be used. I normally boil and process a large quantity of cocoyam and store it in the freezer. Sometimes egusi dumplings (egusi akpurakpu) or okazi leaves are added but this one is a basic recipe.
Ogili isi is kind of an optional ingredient, though it adds a punch of umami flavour to the soup, if you can get it please use it.
To prepare Ora soup:
150g Ora leaves 25g uziza leaves Meat Stockfish Dry fish 1/2 cup ground crayfish 4 scotch bonnet (fresh pepper) 1 1/4 cups cocoyam paste 15g ogili isi 1/2 cup palm oil 3-4 seasoning cubes salt
Pick Ora leaves, set aside. Pick, wash and shred, uziza leaves.
Wash and season meat and stockfish with salt and seasoning cubes. Cook till tender.
Place dry fish in boiling hot water for 2 minutes, drain and rinse well in cold water.
Add dry fish and pepper to boiling meat. Cook for 5 minutes.
Add cocoyam paste in large lumps, cook till soup thickens and the soup has a uniform orange colour.
Add ogili isi, crayfish, palm oil and seasoning cubes.
Stir and taste, add salt. Cook for 5 minutes and add shredded uziza leaf.
If the soup has thickened enough and there is still undissolved cocoyam, scoop it out.
Wash and cut ora leaves with a knife or break into pieces with your hand, it doesn’t matter, but cut into large pieces. Add to the soup.
Stir, reduce heat and cook for 3-5 minutes, depending on the type of ora. Some types of ora are more delicate than others. Bite a piece of the cooked leaf to know if it is ready.
Take off the heat.
Serve with swallow of your choice.
- Ora leaves are delicate and shouldn’t be cooked for too long.
- To know if ora leaf is too tough for cooking, tear the leaf into two, if you hear the sound of the leaf tearing, or experience any resistance, it is too tough.
- Do not use tough ora leaves in your soup, no amount of cooking will soften them and will take away from the pleasure of eating Ora soup.
- Some ora leaves are extra delicate, when you add this particular type to the soup, stir and take off the heat. The residual heat is all it needs to cook.
Tell us in the comments below how much you enjoyed your ora soup, or if you have any suggestions.
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