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Okoho Soup: All You Need to Know About Cissus Populnea

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Okoho soup is a traditional dish popular among the Idoma people of Benue State, Nigeria. It is made from the stems of Okoho, which belongs to the grape family. The soup is slimy, nutritious, and delicious. It is usually eaten with Onah Oyila or Ikwirukwu (cassava flour), pounded yam, semolina, eba, or other types of swallow. 

The soup is the main traditional food of the Idoma people, one of the ethnic groups in Benue State, Nigeria. The Idoma people are known for their rich culture, language, music, dance, and food. Okoho soup is one of their most cherished dishes. It is often served at important occasions such as weddings, funerals, festivals, and birthdays. It is also a symbol of hospitality and respect for guests.

In this article, you will learn more about Okoho soup, its history, its health benefits, its ingredients, how to cook it, and how to enjoy it. So, if you’re ready to learn about something new, particularly about the Idoma food, continue reading!

Okoho Soup: All You Need to Know About Cissus populnea

What is Okoho Soup?

Okoho is a soup made from the okoho plant, also known as Cissus populnea. The okoho plant is a woody vine that grows up to three metres tall. It has green leaves and small white flowers. The stems of the plant are used to make the soup. They are peeled, pounded, soaked in hot water, and squeezed to extract the slimy liquid that gives the soup its signature look, texture, and taste.

The soup is not only tasty but also healthy. The okoho stems contain phytochemicals such as tannins, flavonoids, anthraquinones, carotenoids, and vitamins with various medicinal properties. They can help treat respiratory problems, ulcers, mouth sores, throat sores, sore breasts, inflammation, infections, and sickle cell disease. They can also aid digestion and prevent constipation.

History and Origin of Okoho Soup

Okoho Soup: All You Need to Know About Cissus populnea

The origins of okoho soup trace back centuries to the folklore of Nigeria’s Idoma people. Although there is no verified account of how the soup was found or how it originated, the soup has since become the signature food in Idomaland, Benue State.

Okoho became a symbol of Idoma culture because of its unique taste and nutritional value. It also became a way of expressing love and appreciation for one’s family and community. The preparation of Okoho requires skill and patience. It involves peeling, pounding, soaking, squeezing, boiling, seasoning, and garnishing the okoho stems. It also requires teamwork and cooperation among family members or friends who help each other.

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Okoho soup spread to other parts of Nigeria and beyond through migration, trade, intermarriage, and cultural exchange. Okoho has many names across Nigeria’s cultural groups. The Igalas and Igbos call it Okoho, while Hausas use Dafara or Latutuwa. For the Yorubas, it is Ajara or Orogbolo.

Many people from other ethnic groups and regions have tasted and enjoyed okoho Soup and adopted it as part of their cuisine. Some have also modified the recipe by adding or substituting some ingredients to suit their preferences. 

Health Benefits of Okoho Soup

Okoho has many health benefits, making it a valuable addition to your diet. Some of the health benefits of the soup are:

  • Okoho Soup Aids Digestion and Prevents Constipation: The soup aids digestion and prevents constipation because of its high fibre content. Fibre is a type of carbohydrate that is not digested by the body. It also helps regulate the gastrointestinal tract’s acidity and prevent ulcers.
  • Okoho Soup Boosts Immunity and Fights Infections: It helps boost immunity and fight infections because of its rich antioxidants and phytochemicals. Antioxidants protect the body from free radicals and unstable molecules that can damage the cells and cause diseases. Phytochemicals are plant compounds with various biological activities, such as anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, and antiparasitic effects. 
  • Okoho Soup Improves Eye Health and Skin Care: Okoho helps improve eye health and skin care because of its high vitamin A content. Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin essential for vision, growth, development, reproduction, and immunity. It helps maintain the health of the retina, the eye’s light-sensitive layer that converts light into nerve signals. It also helps to prevent night blindness, dry eyes, cataracts, and macular degeneration. Vitamin A also helps maintain the skin’s health, mucous membranes, hair, nails, and bones. It helps to prevent dry skin, acne, wrinkles, infections, and wounds.

Okoho Soup Ingredients

The main ingredient is okoho stems (Cissus populnea), which give the soup its slimy texture and pleasant aroma. The other ingredients are meat, fish, spices, and condiments. Here is a list of the common okoho soup ingredients:

  • Okoho stems (Cissus populnea): The stems are peeled, pounded, soaked in hot water, and squeezed to extract the slimy liquid.
  • Meat: The meat can be bush meat (grasscutter or alligator) or smoked meat (such as goat or cow). The beef is parboiled with some onion slices, ground pepper, seasoning cubes, and salt to taste.
  • Fish: The fish can be dried fish (such as catfish or tilapia) or fresh fish (such as mackerel or croaker). The fish is cleaned and washed with salt water.
  • Spices: The spices include dried pepper (such as cayenne or habanero), onion bulb (for flavouring), and Okpehe (locust beans) for aroma and taste.
  • Other condiments such as red oil (palm oil), salt (to taste), seasoning cubes (such as Maggi or Knorr), crayfish (for flavouring)
  • Water – This is very important as other ingredients won’t mix well with each other without it.
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How to Cook Okoho Soup

Cooking okoho is easy but requires some time and effort. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to cook the soup:

Step 1: Peel off the bark from the okoho stems by scratching them gently with a knife.

Step 2: Place the peeled okoho stems on a mortar’s side and gently hit them with a pestle to loosen them.

Step 3: Remove the stems in rope form and discard them. Wrap the remaining fibres into a bunch like a sponge and put them in a bowl.

Step 4: Add some hot water to the bowl and leave it for 10 minutes 

Step 5: Check if the water is lukewarm enough to put your hand into it. If not too hot, then put your hand in and begin to press and squeeze with your right hand inside the bowl while your left hand is holding it.

Step 6: Continue to squeeze until the water becomes thick and slippery. Set it aside.

Step 7: Parboil your meat with some onion slices, ground pepper, seasoning cubes, and salt to taste. Allow it to boil for about 15 minutes

Step 8: Add your fish to the meat and allow it to cook for another 10 minutes, or until the fish is done.

Step 9: Add your red oil, locust beans, okpehe, crayfish, and more seasoning cubes and salt to taste. Stir well and let it boil for 5 minutes.

Step 10: Add your okoho and stir gently. Reduce the heat and let it cook for another 10 minutes until the soup is thick and smooth.

Step 11: Turn off the heat and serve your okoho soup hot with onihi (pounded yam), oniola (cassava flour), or any other swallow you choose.

How to Enjoy/Eat Okoho Soup

Okoho soup is a versatile dish that can be enjoyed in different ways. Here are some of the swallows you can enjoy or eat with Okoho:

Okoho soup goes well with various types of swallows. Some of the best swallows to eat with okoho soup are:

  • Pounded yam (Onihi)
  • Cassava flour (Onoila)
  • Semolina
  • Eba
  • Amala

The Best Occasions to Serve Okoho Soup

Okoho soup can be served on any occasion, whether formal or informal, big or small, festive or ordinary. Some of the best events to serve okoho soup are:

  • Weddings: Okoho soup is a perfect wedding dish because it symbolises love, unity, and prosperity. It can be served as part of the traditional marriage rites or as part of the reception menu.
  • Funerals: Okoho soup is also suitable for funerals because it symbolises comfort, consolation, and hope. It can be served as part of the burial ceremonies or as part of the condolence visits. 
  • Festivals: Okoho soup is a festive festival dish because it symbolises celebration, joy, and gratitude. It can be served as part of cultural events or as part of communal feasts. 
  • Birthdays: Okoho soup is also a delightful birthday dish because it symbolises life, growth, and happiness. It can be part of a birthday party or a surprise treat. It can also be given to the birthday celebrant or their friends.
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Okoho Soup and Pregnant Women

Okoho soup is good for a pregnant woman because it contains vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals that can help the mother and the baby. It can also help prevent constipation, infections, anemia, and night blindness. However, pregnant women should eat okoho soup in moderation and consult your doctor if they have allergic reactions after eating the soup.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Okoho in English? 

Okoho is the local name for a plant that belongs to the grape family. The scientific name for okoho is Cissus populnea. It is also known as bush, wild, or African grape.

What is Okoho Soup Made of? 

Okoho soup is made of okoho stems (Cissus populnea), which are peeled, pounded, soaked, and squeezed to extract the slimy liquid. The liquid is then cooked with meat, fish, spices, and condiments to make the soup.

How Do You Peel Okoho Stems? 

You peel okoho stems by scratching them gently with a knife. You then remove the stems in rope form and discard them. You wrap the remaining fibres into a bunch like a sponge and put them in a bowl.

Is Okoho Soup Nutritious?

Yes, okoho soup is highly nutritious due to the health benefits of okoho leaves. The leaves contain fibre, iron, calcium, zinc, magnesium, and powerful antioxidants. These provide nutritional value to the soup.

Does Okoho Soup Have Any Side Effects?

Okoho soup is generally safe for consumption with minimal side effects. However, some people may experience stomach upset, diarrhoea, or abdominal discomfort if the Okoho is not cooked correctly or too much is consumed.

Conclusion

Okoho soup is a delicious and nutritious dish made from okoho stems (Cissus populnea), meat, fish, spices, and condiments. It is a traditional delicacy of the Idoma people of Benue State, Nigeria. This is one of the Famous Foods in Nigeria among the Idoma people of Benue State (Middle Belt)

It has a long history and a rich culture. It has many health benefits and can be enjoyed with various types of swallows. It can be served on any occasion. Okoho soup is a dish you should try and savour at least once in your lifetime, and you’ll enjoy it.