Nigeria is a country rich in culture and her people. Food is a very important part of culture and in Nigeria, food is specific for regions. Food plays a role beyond providing nutrition for the body. Food brings people together and fosters community. This is why starch and banga soup has transcended from being an Urhobo delicacy in Southern Nigeria to a national treasure in Nigeria as a whole. Starch and banga soup is enjoyed by foreigners who come to Nigeria for tourism, likewise immigrants abroad who buy their meals at Nigerian restaurants abroad. In the 2014 Nigerian romance comedy “Thirty Days In Atlanta,” starch and banga soup is the meal Akpos(Ayo Makun) eats when he gets to Atlanta. Starch and banga soup is a delicacy that takes love, patience and effort to prepare, hence the long process.
Banga soup is prepared from an extract of the palm fruit. The palm fruits are gathered together, rinsed with water and boiled. Some people extract the palm fruit concentrate by hand while others pound the boiled palm fruit in a mortar to extract the concentrate. Nowadays, the palm fruit concentrate is sold in tins for people who want to save time and energy whilst making their banga soup.
The recipes vary from tribe to tribe, but some spices make the difference. Other ingredients like cray fish, dry fish, beef, salt, stock cubes and pepper make the banga soup delicious. There are some optional ingredients which makes banga soup more extra for some individuals: it could be periwinkles, dry bitterleaf, scent-leaf and even okra. Banga soup may be served with any swallow of your choice, but it is best accompanied by starch. Starch and banga soup are the delicious couple who manage to catch the eye of everyone in a restaurant when they are served in plates near each other.
Starch has this rubbery, soft texture that makes it a unique and light swallow. A white powdery descendant of fermented cassava, it is traditionally prepared in a pan greased with palm oil. The palm oil helps it attain the yellow colouration which it is known for. Starch or Usi as it is fondly called, is mixed with some water until it is smooth and set to fire. The mixture is stirred until it transforms from chalky white thickness to a rubbery yellow consistency. Starch is then served alongside the banga soup which may or may not have been cooked in a small, almost flat clay pot known as evwere.
Starch and banga soup is a delicacy enjoyed by people of all ages, tribes, gender and religious affiliations all over Nigeria. If you have not had a taste of starch and banga soup, you are definitely missing out. Besides the divine taste, the health benefits of starch and banga soup are numerous. The delicacy provides a variant of Vitamin E with antioxidant properties that are good for your brain as well as Vitamin A for healthy vision. The magnesium in the delicacy is involved in neuromuscular transmission and it helps reduce the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. Starch and banga soup is good for consumption because it helps prevent heart disease. Starch and banga soup is healthy and delicious: finding both qualities in food these days is a Herculean task.
P.S: This article was written by a proud testifier of the goodness that is starch and banga soup. If you have not had a taste of this goodness, you are in my prayers. I am sending you love and light, then tissues to dry your eyes. Taste and see that starch and banga is good!