Yam pepper soup (ji mmiri oku)
Yam pepper soup (Ji mmiri oku) is pepper soup with yam added to it. Among the Igbos of eastern Nigeria, this is the first dish given to a woman immediately after childbirth and is mostly prepared by her mother who comes to take care of her for the first month (Omugwo) after childbirth. The combination of spices and the heat of the soup is believed to help flush her womb of lochia and get her milk coming in. It is so woven into the Igbo culture such that if you see a man whose wife you know has been pregnant, to ask if she has given birth, you simply ask if they have started drinking mmiri oku or hot water.
Yam pepper soup is also good if you feel under the weather, especially from the common cold or flu. The spices will quickly clear the sinuses. It is also lovely for a relaxing, leisurely Saturday breakfast or on a chilly and rainy day.
What makes good yam pepper soup is getting the pepper soup to infuse the yam without the yam thickening the soup. The yam and pepper soup need to be cooked together for this to happen. If they are cooked separately, it is just pepper soup with a side of boiled yam.
It is called ji mmiri oku, literally yam-in-hot-water for a reason, because the resulting dish has to be watery. The yam needs to be so soft, you can literally crush it against your palate without chewing. It is best eaten hot because if left to cool, the sauce will start thickening.
If you are not serving Ji mmiri oku immediately after cooking, separate the yam from the soup, then combine and warm briefly before eating. Oil is not needed, though sometimes, I add 1/2-1 teaspoon of palm oil, just to make it look more appetising. Once you get the combination of spices right, your yam pepper soup (ji mmiri oku) will be off the hook.
Dry fish and fresh fish are mostly used, but you can use chicken, goat meat or whatever protein combination you like. I used a combination of goat meat and dry fish.
To cook yam pepper soup:
1/2 medium onions,(1/4 cup chopped) 225g goat meat dry fish 250g yam 3 cups stock + water 2 tablespoons ground crayfish 1/2 teaspoon ground uziza seed 2 sticks whole uda 1/2 teaspoon ehuru (calabash nutmeg) 2-3g ogili okpei (optional) 1 scotch bonnet 2 seasoning cubes 1 teaspoon palm oil (optional) salt 3-4 Utazi leaves (bitters)
Wash meat, soak dry fish in boiling hot water for 2 minutes, drain and rinse well in cold water.
Place both in a pot and season with salt, scotch bonnet, one seasoning cube and few chopped onions.
Cook till meat is tender.
Meanwhile, peel and cut yam into 2-inch cubes, wash and set aside.
When meat is tender, add the rest of the onions, uziza, uda, ehuru, okpei, one more seasoning cube, palm oil and water.
Bring to a boil, taste and add salt.
Cook till yam is almost done, add shredded utazi leaves.
Cook for 3 minutes.
Take off the heat and serve hot.
- If it begins to thicken too much while cooking, add a little water.
- Irish potatoes can successfully be used to prepare Ji mmiri oku, though you might have to call it Potato mmiri oku…!?
We will like to know how much you enjoyed your Yam Pepper soup (Ji mmiri oku). Do you have a contribution or suggestion? Leave a comment below.
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