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When exploring new cuisines, cultures, and food, it can be quite intimidating to have to learn how to make entirely new dishes that you have never even heard of before. Not only are you trying to learn what the dish is, but you are also trying to learn how to cook it. It seems like a lot of stress for the brain, so this article will help you do both in a much easier and more convenient manner. Today you will learn what egusi soup is, and how to make it.
Table of Contents
What Is Egusi Soup?
While there are many different types of egusi soup such as Nigerian egusi soup, and other countries that have tried to make it such as Cameroon, Ghana, and Sierra Leone, we are talking about West African egusi soup today.
Egusi soup is made from ground egusi and egusi seeds. These are similar to melon seeds or pumpkin seeds in both flavor and texture. Egusi is the West African name for plants that have protein-rich seeds such as pumpkin, squash, and melon.
An egusi soup is a soup made from white pumpkin seeds that has a nutty, meaty, spicy, and exotic flavor that comes from a lot of African ingredients. This soup is a brilliant introduction to West African cuisine as a whole due to how well it balances the flavors and mixes them together.
Where Can You Get Egusi Seeds?
Obviously, while mentioning how exotic this dish is and praising it for the unique ingredients used, you may wonder and worry about how difficult they are to obtain. You can get egusi seeds (white pumpkin seeds) from a lot of African stores, international grocers, or online websites such as Amazon. They are not too expensive and will also not be too difficult to find.
While this is an egusi soup, other ingredients to look out for include;
- Palm Oil
- African Crayfish
- Egusi Paste
Palm oil is arguably the easiest out of the three to get as it can be found almost anywhere. The African crayfish might be difficult but it is completely optional. The egusi paste may seem weird as you already have or need egusi, but I promise it is worth it. The paste is much more concentrated and flavorsome so you can add some of it to your soup to bulk up the flavor. Also, the paste is a lot easier to use and can be stored for ages in the fridge.
How To Make Egusi Soup
While egusi soup is usually the same, you can actually change a couple of the components to it to change the flavor. The main ingredient you can change is the meat used in the soup. The ingredients you will need are;
- Meat – the meat is a very important part of this dish, although you can change it to help it better suit your preferences. The meats most people decide to use are either smoked turkey or beef. Both of these make an excellent broth when used and can be combined together if you want to. If you do not have enough time, you can use canned broth instead. For anyone wanting to make a vegetarian egusi soup, you can use vegetable broth instead.
- Tomatoes – Tomatoes are used in almost every dish as they are so versatile and so helpful in completing any flavor you are trying to make. In this case, we want the acidity of the tomatoes and also the color. The whole tomato will be used, so there is no need to buy specially prepared ones or canned ones.
- Egusi – obviously, we need the main ingredient. If you cannot find any egusi then you can substitute them with pumpkin seeds but egusi has a much stronger flavor and it is really recommended to appear in your diet because of how tasty it is.
- Dried crayfish – to balance out the flavors we will have made, we need the savory and salty flavor of seafood. The dried crayfish is strongly flavored and will help out a lot in the dish. If you do not have any dried crayfish or you do not know where to get them, you can use dried shrimps instead.
- Spinach – leafy greens are great in a dish like this and spinach easily works the best. You can choose to use fresh or frozen spinach, it is a personal preference. Other alternative options include kale, collards, and bitter greens.
Making The Egusi Soup
Firstly, you will want to boil the meat. This can be done in a medium-sized saucepan. While the meat is being boiled you will want to season it with salt, pepper, smoked paprika, and chili powder. You can optionally use garlic salt instead of salt if you want that extra level of flavor. On top of this, you can also throw diced onions in the pan with the meat as this will also help flavor everything.
This is about making some homemade stock and broth so it is crucial that you use enough water. Once it has boiled so much that the meat is tender and the water looks saturated with flavor, remove the beef and keep your stock,
After this, heat your palm oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, You can add more onions here and saute them until they are translucent. This will take around 5 minutes and once it is done, add your meat and fish. Continue cooking this for a little longer.
Once this has cooked for a few more minutes, add your chopped tomatoes and their juices alongside a few cloves of garlic and 2 cups of your beef stock. Once these have been added, bring to a boil again and simmer for 5 minutes.
Once this has simmered, add your ground egusi and allow it to simmer for a further 10 minutes. After this, add more of your beef stock to either reach your ideal consistency or to prevent burning.
When this has simmered for the 10 minutes, add in your spinach and let it simmer for a further 5 minutes while you season it to taste. Finally, you can serve it warm alongside fried plantains, fufu, pounded yam, and other starchy side dishes.
- While bitter greens are really healthy for you, the taste is not universally loved. To balance this out. add some sugar to your dish. This will remove the bitter flavor and allow the true taste of the greens to shine through.
- The worst thing is a broth that is too watery. You can always add more broth if you need to, but you should not take any out. Keep this in mind and always remember it.
- Recipes such as this can contain a lot of oil. For the most part, the use of oil is for lubrication or to evenly heat something. This means that the oil content can be reduced if you want it to, as long as the food still cooks properly it does not matter.
- While it may seem like a bit more hassle, you can really improve this dish even more by grilling the meat you made the stock with before reintroducing it to your soup. This will make it taste so much better and more definite which will in turn make your entire dish tastier.
- Dried peppers and chilis are ideal for soups and stews. As we want to control the moisture content as much as possible so that we can get our ideal consistency, peppers that are dried are great to use as they have the same brilliant flavor but contain a lot less moisture. Save fresh chilis and peppers for meals such as salads where the moisture is needed.
- The dish uses a lot of different ingredients and can be considered to be quite a nutritionally balanced meal. Despite this, you may be wanting to prioritize your intake of one nutrition over the others. The recipe can be adapted to suit this as you can add more bases of protein or carbs to it if you wish to. Although, the dish is already very protein-rich.
What To Pair With Egusi
Whether you are looking for a side dish to pair specifically with egusi soup, or you are looking for items to pair with anything egusi-related, these dishes are sure to blow your mind with how well they pair with the egusi flavor.
Fufu is mashed and pounded cassava root. This can be made with any type of starchy root but is most common with cassava. This can easily be made by grinding up the roots and cooking them with water until they reach a thick yet smooth consistency. Fufu is great to pair with soups and stews because of how starchy and thick it is. The taste is also very subtle which means it can be flavored very easily by broth.
Fried Sweet Plantains
Another great African snack is fried sweet plantains. All that is required to make these is some cooking oil and salt. Cut the plantains into slices and fry them until they are crispy. This will give you an addictive and delicious snack that you can pair with a soup, or snack on with nothing else.
Pounded yams are very similar to mashed potatoes but they have a much more dough-like texture. They are eaten all over Africa but it is rare to eat them on their own. They pair so well with soups, stews, and broths that it is almost unheard of to eat them without this pairing. If a whole continent is doing it, maybe you should be trying pounded yams and egusi soup too.
Should You Try Egusi soup And Make It At Home?
Following a super easy egusi soup recipe such as this one gives you barely any reason not to at least try it once. Egusi soup is so delicious and healthy and can be made really easily with little complexity, provided you can get the ingredients. If you are wanting to try different types, you could even try making a Nigerian egusi soup. The ground egusi seeds can also be used in other dishes and to make a healthier egusi soup you can control what sort of nutrients you have in the meal. It really is worth trying to make at least once. If you don’t like it, at least you can say that you have tried it. On the other hand, if you do end up liking it, you have a new meal that you love and can cook for the rest of your life.
FAQs On Egusi Soup
What is egusi?
Egusi is a member of the gourd family and is very similar to butternut squash and pumpkins. Egusi is incredibly high in protein and has a bitter taste, which makes it perfect for savory dishes.
Is egusi good for you?
Egusi is really healthy for you as it is incredibly high in protein. Other than the high protein source, egusi seeds are very similar, nutritionally, to pumpkin seeds. Egusi can also be made into a paste that can be added to a lot of food to give it an extra boost in protein and flavor.
Where can you find egusi?
Egusi can sometimes be difficult to get as it is exotic. You can sometimes find fresh egusi in African markets, Indian markets, or international grocers. However, if you are only wanting the egusi seeds then your best bet is to search online as they will be very easy to find and buy.
What meat do you use for egusi soup?
The meat is an essential ingredient in egusi unless you are making it vegetarian. The type of meat you use is completely up to you as it will still work with the dish no matter what. The most common meats used are typically beef, lamb, goat, and dried fish. Chicken, turkey, and tripe can also be used and will work just as well.