Hearty cocoyam soup inspired by the soups I ate while growing up in Nigeria is easy to make, nutritious and very tasty. To make this dish; cocoyam is cooked in spicy pepper sauce with kale and fish to make a comforting one pot meal, perfect for winter days.
My local supermarket always have eddoes in their "ethnic aisles" and there is a lot of "taro" drinks and desserts about, but cocoyam is not common in the Western world. So you can imagine my excitement when I came across some at my local open market.
What Is Cocoyam?
It is a tropical crop with edible roots, which is commonly eaten in West Africa, Caribbean and Asia. The term "cocoyam" is sometimes interchangeable used for "taro" and "eddo".
There are so many conflicting information on the internet about cocoyam, taro and eddoes. The differences between these three root crops were not very clear to me when I was researching this post, so I did further research and dedicated a post to the topic.
Cocoyam is a staple food in most West African countries where both the roots and the leaves are consumed. It is one of those versatile food ingredients that could be prepared in so many different ways, that you never tire of eating it.
It some parts of the region, cocoyam is used as a thickener for soups. It can be boiled, fried, pounded and roasted. It made into a porridge and milled into flour. The possibilities are endless with this humble root crop. Cocoyam leaves are cooked as vegetables or just used as a wrap for other foods to be cooked in.
There is a substance called oxalic acid present in cocoyam. It can cause irritation and burning sensation to the skin and the mouth; and it is destroyed by heat. This is the reason why cocoyam and its leaves must be cooked before eating.
How to Make Cocoyam Soup
Cocoyam holds up very well in soups and it is the star of this dish, what you add to it is up to you. I added fish to my soup recipe, but you can omit this to make it suitable for vegetarians. Traditionally. Bitter leaf or ugu (fluted pumpkin leaves) is used for cocoyam soup; but I substituted with Kale. You can use other green leafy vegetables.
This root crop is valued for its waxy starch, which makes it great as thickener. The soup thickens as the cocoyam cooks and begins to release its starch. Add enough water so it appears very thin at the start of the cooking. You will need to reduce the heat to very low after cooking for some time to reduce the sticking to the bottom of the pan. There may be a need add more water if it becomes too thick during cooking. This soup also becomes thicker as it cools, so be aware of that too.
Nigerian Style Cocoyam Soup
- 6 medium Cocoyam
- 1 big Onion
- 1 big Red bell pepper stalk removed
- 2 Beef tomatoes
- 1 Scotch bonnet stalk removed
- 3 tablespoons Oil
- 1 teaspoon Onion powder
- 1 teaspoon Garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon Ginger powder
- Salt to taste
- ½ teaspoon Thyme or a handful of fresh sprigs
- 4 fillets Any white Fish or 2 medium size cut into chunks
- 100 g Kale or 5 leaves, stalk removed and chopped.
- If using fish chunks, add a little salt to fish, making sure all the pieces are covered, then keep aside.
- Remove the skin of the cocoyam with a knife. You can use a potato peeler if you have one.
- Wash and cut into small pieces. Keep to one side.
- Cut the pepper, onions and tomatoes into smaller pieces and add into a blender. Add the scotch bonnet with a cup of water and blend.
- Pour the oil into a sauce pan and allow to heat up. Pour in the blended mixture and allow to sizzle for around 5 mins.
- Add some water into the pan, so the content is quite thin.
- Add some salt with the onion, garlic and ginger powders.
- Pour in the cocoyam pieces and allow to simmer under medium heat for 20 mins.
- Taste and add more salt if required. If the soup has become thick, add some water too.
- Add the fish, kale and thyme. Reduce the heat to very low and cover the pan.
- Allow to the cocoyam to cook through, and remove from heat. This should take no longer than another 10 mins.
If you liked this soup, then you must also try this yam curry, prepared with another African staple root crop.