Abak Atama Soup: All You Need to Know About Bush Apple Soup

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Atama soup, also known as Abak Atama, is a mouthwatering and nutritious dish that originates from the Efik and Ibibio people of southern Nigeria. It is a type of palm nut soup that is flavoured with Atama leaves, also known as bush apple leaves. Atama leaves are green and aromatic leaves that have a slightly bitter taste and a unique fragrance. They are rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other phytochemicals that have various health benefits.

Abak atama is a simple but delicious soup that can be prepared with different kinds of meat, fish, and spices. It is usually served with any swallow food, such as eba, fufu, or pounded yam. It is a delicious and satisfying meal that anyone can enjoy.

In this post, you will learn everything you need to know about abak Atama soup, including its history, ingredients, recipe, health benefits, and more. You will also discover some tips and tricks on how to make the best abak Atama ever. So, sit back and relax as you learn about Bush Apple Soup.

Abak Atama Soup: All You Need to Know About Bush Apple Soup

History and Origin of Atama Soup

Atama soup is a traditional soup that the Efik and Urhobo people have enjoyed for centuries. It is believed that the soup was invented by the Efik women who lived along the banks of the Cross River, where palm trees and Atama leaves were abundant. The women would extract the palm fruit juice from the palm nuts and use it as a base for their soup, adding various meats, fish, spices, and herbs to enhance the flavour. 

One of the most important herbs they used was the atama leaf, which gave the soup its distinctive aroma and taste. The atama leaf, also known as bush apple or Heinsia crinita, is a green leafy vegetable that grows wild in the tropical forests of West Africa. It has a slightly bitter taste that balances well with the richness of the palm fruit juice.

The Efik people are known for their hospitality and generosity, and they often share their soup with their neighbours, friends, and visitors. The soup soon became popular among other ethnic groups in the region, especially the Urhobo people of Delta State, who adopted it as their version of banga soup. 

Banga Soup is the general name for any palm fruit-based soup in Nigeria, but each ethnic group has its unique recipe and style. The Urhobo people call their soup amme-edi or banga (pidgin English), and they use different spices and herbs than the Efik people. For instance, they use oburunbebe sticks (a dark brown aromatic bark) instead of uyayak (a flat brown, aromatic pod) to add flavour to their soup.

Nutritional Value of Atama (Bush Apple) Soup

Bush apple soup is not only tasty but also healthy. It is full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fibre, protein, and healthy fats that can benefit your body in various ways. Here are some of the essential nutrients found in Atama:

  • Moisture: 26.4%
  • Ash: 4.2%
  • Lipid: 15.1%
  • Fibre: 15.4%
  • Carbohydrate: 20.3%
  • Protein: 18.6%

This means that Abak Atama is a good source of protein, fibre, and carbohydrates. It is also a good source of energy, as it contains a significant amount of fat. It is important to note that the exact nutrient content of the soup will depend on the specific ingredients used and the method of preparation. Therefore, it is advisable to use fresh and natural ingredients whenever possible and avoid adding too much salt or oil to your soup.

Health Benefits of Atama Soup

Abak Atama is not only delicious but also beneficial for your health. Here are some of the health benefits you can enjoy from eating this soup regularly:

  • Abak Atama boosts red blood cell production due to high iron content, preventing anaemia fatigue and improving oxygen circulation.
  • It promotes skin health and wound healing thanks to vitamins A and C, which act as antioxidants and stimulate collagen production.
  • The soup helps improve digestion and relieve constipation owing to its high fibre content, which bulks stool and feeds gut bacteria.
  • The Bush app soup (Atama) helps regulate blood sugar and cholesterol as its low-carb, high-fibre, and healthy fats improve insulin sensitivity and cholesterol levels.
  • Last but certainly not least, it enhances fertility and pregnancy outcomes through nutrients like folic acid, iron, calcium, and potassium that support reproductive health and foetal development.
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Those are some of the health benefits that you can enjoy from eating this delicious dish. However, it is important to note that the soup is not a miracle cure or a substitute for medical advice. If you have any health concerns or conditions, you should consult your doctor before adding Atama to your diet.

What is Atama Soup Made Of?

Atama soup is made of various ingredients that give it its unique flavor and texture. The main ingredients are:

  • Palm fruit juice / palm nut juice
  • Atama leaves
  • Meat (beef, goat, chicken etc.)
  • Fish (stockfish, smoked fish, crayfish etc.)
  • Seasoning Cubes
  • Aromatic pods – uyayak, oburunbebe, ogiri, etc. (Optional)

These are the main ingredients of atama soup, but you can also add other ingredients to your liking or according to your recipe. For instance, you can add vegetables such as  ugu (pumpkin leaves), waterleaf, spinach, or bitter leaf to your soup to make it more colourful and nutritious. You can also add other condiments, such as palm oil or crayfish powder, to your soup to make it more flavorful and appealing.

How to Cook/Prepare Atama Soup

Atama is easy to cook and prepare once you have all the ingredients ready. Here are the step-by-step instructions on how to cook Abak Atama:

Abak Atama Soup: All You Need to Know About Bush Apple Soup

Step 1: Wash and chop the atama leaves into small pieces. You can use a knife or a blender to do this. Set aside.

Step 2: Wash and boil the palm nuts in a large pot of water for about 20 minutes or until soft. Drain the water and pound the palm nuts in a mortar with a pestle until the pulp separates from the nuts. Alternatively, you can use a blender to do this. Add some warm water to the pulp and squeeze out the juice through a sieve into a bowl. Discard the nuts and set aside the juice.

Step 3: Wash and season the meat and fish with salt, pepper, onion, and seasoning cubes. Cook them in a pot of water until tender. Reserve some of the stock for use later.

Step 4: In another pot, boil the palm fruit juice on medium-high heat. Add the uyayak pod (if using) and let it simmer for about 15 minutes or until slightly thickened.

Step 5: Add the cooked meat and fish to the pot, along with some of the stock. Stir well and let it cook for another 10 minutes, or until well combined.

Step 6: Add the chopped atama leaves to the pot and stir well. Reduce the heat and let it simmer for about 5 minutes, or until the leaves are soft.

Step 7: Adjust the seasoning to your taste with salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, or crayfish powder. You can also add some palm oil or ogiri (if using) to increase the flavour and colour of the soup.

Step 8: Turn off the heat and serve your soup hot with your preferred swallow. Enjoy!

How to Enjoy/Eat Atama Soup

Atama soup is a dish that can be enjoyed with various accompaniments, depending on your preference and tradition. Some of the common ones are:

  • Fufu
  • Eba
  • Pounded yam
  • Semolina
  • Starch

You can enjoy some common foods with your soup, but you can also experiment with other accompaniments that suit your taste and appetite.

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Side Effects of Atama Soup

Atama soup is generally safe and healthy, but it may have some side effects for some people, especially if consumed in excess or without moderation. Some of the possible side effects are:

  • Allergic reactions: Some people may be allergic to some ingredients in atama soup, such as palm fruit juice, atama leaves, meat, fish, spices, herbs, or aromatic pods or barks. Allergic reactions can cause symptoms such as itching, swelling, rash, hives, difficulty breathing, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, or anaphylaxis (a severe and life-threatening reaction). If you have known allergies or experience these symptoms after eating atama soup, seek medical attention immediately.
  • Weight gain: Atama soup is high in calories, fat, and carbohydrates, which can contribute to weight gain if consumed in large quantities or frequently. Weight gain can increase your risk of developing obesity, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and other health problems. If you are trying to lose or maintain a healthy weight, limit your intake of atama soup or choose low-fat and low-carb accompaniments such as vegetables or whole grains.
  • High blood pressure: Atama soup is high in sodium, raising your blood pressure if consumed excessively or regularly. High blood pressure can increase your risk of developing hypertension, heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease. If you have high blood pressure or are prone to it, you should reduce your intake of atama soup or choose low-sodium ingredients and accompaniments such as fresh or dried fish, unsalted meat, and vegetables.
  • Stomach upset: Atama soup is spicy and acidic, which can cause stomach upset for some people, especially if they have sensitive stomachs or digestive disorders such as gastritis, ulcers, or acid reflux. Stomach upset can cause symptoms such as heartburn, indigestion, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhoea. If you have any of these conditions or experience symptoms after eating atama soup, avoid it or eat it in moderation. You can also neutralise the acidity of the soup by adding milk, yoghurt, or baking soda.

These are some side effects of atama soup that you may encounter, but they are not very common or serious. Most people can enjoy atama soup without problems if they eat it in moderation and with caution. However, you should consult your doctor before adding atama soup to your diet if you have any health concerns or conditions.

How to Get the Bitterness out of Atama Soup

Atama leaf is known for its slightly bitter taste, which comes from the atama leaves. Some people like this taste, as it adds a unique flavor and balance to the soup. However, some people may find it too bitter or unpleasant, and may want to reduce or remove it. Here are some methods to get the bitterness out of atama soup:

  • Boil the leaves: Cook the atama leaves briefly in boiling water and then rinsing them in cold water. This can help to remove some of the bitterness and soften the leaves. Squeeze out the excess water and allow it to cool off
  • Add lemon juice or vinegar: This is a method of adding some acidity to the soup to balance the bitterness. Lemon juice or vinegar can also brighten up the flavour and color of the soup. To do this, add some lemon juice or vinegar to taste to the pot of atama soup while it is simmering. Stir well and adjust the seasoning as needed.

Atama Soup Tribe

Below are the different tribes in Nigeria that eat Abak Atama soup. Some groups use the palm fruit (Banga), while others combine Banga and Atama leaves.

  • Ibibio, Annang, and Efik of Akwa Ibom and Cross River States: Use editan leaves and palm fruit juice as the main ingredients.
  • Urhobo of Delta State (Banga): They make it with just Banga and oburunbebe bark and serve the soup with fufu.
  • Isoko of Delta State (called Banga): They use oburunbebe to spice up the Banga soup and serve it with starch, eba, or rice.
  • Itsekiri of Delta State (Banga): Mada with Banga and Atama leaves.

Though preparation varies slightly, atama/banga soup remains a cherished dish across these Nigerian ethnic groups. The palm fruit juice and leafy greens create a common backbone of flavour.

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Atama Soup and Pregnant Woman

Atama soup has several health benefits for pregnant women when consumed in moderation:

  • Provides iron, folic acid, and other nutrients to prevent anaemia and birth defects.
  • Helps regulate blood sugar levels to avoid gestational diabetes.
  • Acts as a natural laxative to relieve constipation.
  • Aids wound healing through antioxidant content.
  • May support fertility and libido.

However, there are also some risks pregnant women should be aware of:

  • Allergic reactions to ingredients like palm nut extract or spices
  • Weight gain if consumed in excess due to high calorie content.
  • Stomach upset or diarrhoea due to spicy, acidic nature
  • Food poisoning from improper storage or preparation.

To enjoy atama soup safely during pregnancy, consume in moderation, watch for allergic reactions, and ensure proper storage and hygienic preparation. Discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider.

Atama Soup Shelf Life

Atama soup is a fresh soup that should be consumed within a few days of preparation. It can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. However, it is advisable to consume it as soon as possible to enjoy its optimal taste and quality.

To store atama soup in the refrigerator, you should follow these steps:

  • Allow the soup to cool completely before transferring it to an airtight container.
  • Label the container with the date of preparation and use within 3 days.
  • Reheat the soup on the stove or in the microwave before serving.

To store atama soup in the freezer, you should follow these steps:

  • Allow the soup to cool completely before transferring it to a freezer-safe container or ziplock bag.
  • Label the container or bag with the date of preparation and use within 3 months.
  • Thaw the soup in the refrigerator overnight or in cold water before reheating on the stove or in the microwave.

The Function of Atama Leaf

Abak Atama Soup: All You Need to Know About Bush Apple Soup

Atama leaf has several functions that benefit human health and well-being. Some of the functions of the atama leaf are:

  • It provides vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that boost immunity, prevent diseases, and promote overall wellness.
  • It contains iron and folic acid, which help treat anaemia and prevent congenital disabilities in babies.
  • It contains fibre that helps to improve digestion, relieve constipation, lower cholesterol, and regulate blood sugar levels.
  • It has anti-inflammatory properties that help to reduce pain, swelling, and inflammation.
  • It has antibacterial and antifungal properties that help to prevent and treat infections.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What Is Atama Soup Made Of?

Abak Atama is made of palm fruit extract, meat, fish, periwinkles, crayfish, pepper, and atama leaves. It is a palm nut soup that is native to the Efik and Ibibio people of southern Nigeria.

What is Atama Soup in English?

Abak Atama  does not have a direct translation in English. It is a Nigerian dish that is named after its main ingredient, atama leaves. However, it can be described as a palm-nut soup with atama leaves.

What is the English Name for Atama Leaf?

The English name for Atama Leaf is Bush Apple Leaf, while the soup is called Bush Apple Soup.

Is Atama Leaf Bitter?

Atama leaf has a slightly bitter taste that gives it its distinctive flavour and aroma. However, it is not that bitter. It can be balanced with other ingredients in the soup to make a delicious soup.

What Is the Difference Between Atama and Editan Leaf?

Atama leaf and Editan leaf refer to the leaves of two different plants that are commonly used in Nigerian soups and stews. Here are the key differences:

  • Atama leaf comes from the bush apple tree (Heinsia crinita), while the editan leaf comes from the African bush mango tree (Lasianthera africana).
  • Atama leaves are broad, green, and have a leathery texture. Editan leaves are narrower, darker green, and have a fuzzy texture.
  • Atama leaves have a slightly bitter taste. Editan leaves are more painful and earthy.


Abak Atama is truly a gem of Annang and Nigerian cuisine. This mouthwatering dish skillfully combines the tart, sweet flavours of atama with fish, meat, and greens to create a well-balanced and nutritious soup. Beyond its great taste, abak atama also carries profound cultural significance for the Ibibio and Annang people. It is a staple served on special occasions and a reflection of Efik and Ibibio’s identities.

Hopefully, this post has provided a comprehensive look at Abak Atama. Although it may take some effort to source the ingredients for cooking abak atama, it is well worth it if you do and make this awesome soup. The next time you want to try out a Nigerian dish, or you’re in Cross River or Akwa-Ibom State, try out this amazing and delicious soup, and you’ll be glad you did.