The science behind Edikang Ikong

Funmi's Skin Nourishing Soup

Funmi’s Skin Nourishing Soup

In my previous post A Calabar girl’s beauty secret, I talked about a dish commonly eaten by the Calabar people of Nigeria which combines the benefits of Green leafy Vegetables, Palm Oil and Seafood all in one plate and yes, this is no other than the much coveted Edikang Ikong soup.

While taking this dish apart in order to understand it’s nutritional benefits. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the traditional methods of cooking this revered dish has a strong scientific backing and caution must be taken when modifying the dish.

For instance Vitamin A and E present in green leafy vegetables are fat soluble therefore some fat is needed for them to be absorbed in the digestive tract. Also polyunsaturated fatty acids which can be be found in leafy vegetables will work against vitamin A unless an anti-oxidant is present, which is where Palm oil comes in. Palm oil is a powerful anti-oxidant rich in beta-carotene, not to mention being cholesterol free and containing heart friendly co-enzyme Q-10.

This soup is traditionally cooked with little or no water which again nutritionally speaking makes sense, seeing as vitamins which are water soluble can be lost. Also I’ve often wondered if meat had always being a non-negotiable element of this dish since it is largely riverine area (this is just my theory though).

Also the method of cooking the vegetables traditionally by adding the leaves and taking the pot off the stove immediately can be understood (though I do this slightly differently) as vitamins in leafy vegetables tend to be killed off by excessive heat, especially boiling.

I do love discovering the scientific validity of traditional methods because our great grandmothers might not have been aware of anti-oxidants but they had a 5th sense which guided them. And as someone once said “before removing a fence we need to always pause long enough to ponder why it was erected in the first place”

I haven’t named this Edikang Ikong soup out of respect for the people of cross-river who get very protective and even angered when the authentic recipe gets altered in any shape or form. I do not have access to the traditional ingredients so what I will be sharing here is a dish which combines the basic elements which I believe make this a healthy meal and a true skin nourisher.

You will need 

  • Spinach (Washed and sliced)
  •  Kale/any other green leafy vegetables of your choice (Washed and sliced)
  • 1/2 cup of dried ground crayfish
  • 1 smoked mackerel – Fairly big chunks
  • 450 g beef/Lamb/chicken (Moderate/bite size chunks)
  • 3 tbs of unprocessed palm oil
  • King prawns
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 Garlic cloves
  • 1 ata rodo/scotch bonnet pepper (optional)
  • 1 stock/bouillon cubes
  • 1 tsp each of a selection of your favourite spices to season the beef (Ginger, curry,thyme,sage,chilli flakes etc.)


1) Place beef/lamb is a pot, season with stock cube and other spices of your choice. Add diced 1/2 onions and garlic.

2) Add some water (200ml) or just enough to cover the meat. Cook the meat slowly in consistent low or medium heat until tender or cooked to your taste.

If you get some fat over your broth once meat is cooked, you might want to skim it off. One of the benefits of boiling is that it can help reduce excess fat.

3) In the mean time blend the scotch bonnet pepper (if using) , dried crayfish, half of a medium onion in a blender. You will need to add a bit of water to make blending easy, use the stock from the meat.

4) Pour the blended mixture over the meat. Stir well and let cook under moderate-low heat for about 5 mins. The mixture at this point should have a broth like consistency to it.

5) Add the palm oil to the simmering mixture and stir in.

6) Add the smoked mackerel and king prawns at this stage and let simmer under low heat for another 3 mins.

7) Measure out a 1-2 cup of leafy vegetable per person into a plate and pour broth over it. Stir and there you have it!

Serve with eba/garri, pounded yam, Semovita, rice etc. You can also enjoy it on its own, its a tasty way of eating those healthy greens!

Skin nourishing soup with rice

Funmi’s Skin Nourishing Soup Served with Rice


The ‘traditional’ recipe calls for meat to be cooked with little or no stock left. I do this differently. Reason being when meat is cooked vital minerals and nutrients are drawn into the surrounding broth. The broth is a vital source of nutrients don’t let it evaporate. 🙂

Also the leafy vegetables would normally be added to the broth on the stove. I do it slightly differently for a two reasons:

1) I believe it’s important for greens to be eaten as fresh as possible. Some of it’s nutrients can be destroyed by heat, especially boiling.

2) I also like to know exactly how much leafy vegetable I’m eating. The danger of a tasty beef,fish and prawn laden broth is that you might tend to load up on more of these than actual greens. Getting portions right is important 🙂

Hope you enjoy this and do let me know how you get on 🙂

Remember to like and share if you’ve enjoyed this. Thanks!


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