Native Yam Pepper Soup(Ji Mmi’ri Oku)
Oh! the joys of growing up as a little girl with a mother whose joy was in making food with age old recipes. Native yam pepper soup was always a hit whenever my mother made it. She used to make it with all kinds of dry fish, crayfish and aromatics. My favorite part was always the yam; which mother cut into huge chunks. It was soft and usually had the taste of the pepper soup…And to eat this meal, you had to dip the yam in some oil and pepper; then chase it with the pepper soup. It was just jazzy!
Ji mmi’ri oku is literally interpreted in English as hot water and yam. It is medicinal especially for new mothers; as it is known to help heal the insides after child birth.
Speaking of child birth, Nigerians have different rituals for new mothers. For the Igbos, this dish is made immediately the mother has had her baby; and the earlier she starts; the better for her stomach to heal. We also have another ritual where the woman is supposed to tie a big piece of cloth around her stomach to help keep the stomach flat. A good belly massage with hot water and a towel helps a great deal. She is also expected to sit only on hard surfaces for a few months to prevent her hips from spreading.
I remember after having my ajebutters, I had to eat ji mmi’ri oku; even if I didn’t want to observe other rituals. I like yam, so I didn’t really care. Even now; this meal is helpful in the curing of the flu, it helps with stomach upset and is a gives a great hug during the winter months. When I had my ajebutter1, my Aunty made me some and she had all kinds of aromatics, spices, stock fish and dry fish in the bowl. My brother served it to his visitors and it quite pissed me off! I was meant for me to heal…hiss lol
The healing properties of this meal comes from the spices and aromatics used. My favorite Nigerian spice is Ehuru and it is known to heal the stomach. As a matter of fact, I have used it for my upset stomach and it helpled to sooth it greatly. I actually made this pot for my ajebutter1 on the day she had a small stomach upset. She ate it all day and was playing by evening. The uyayak pod is also a soother. Many a time, I have had a cold and I have made regular pepper soup with the uyayak pod and the ehuru and it has helped put me to sleep; to help me rest; as what you need when you have a cold is sleep and fluids. You’d be surprised what these little spices can do for your body. It’s no joke!
1 small Nigerian yam tuber(peeled and washed)
1 large dry fish(washed and deboned)
8 ehuru seeds(Jamaican nut meg)
one uyayak pod. Aka Aidan fruit (try breaking it into pieces, but not into a powder)
3 small African negro pepper i.e (uda)
3 small habanero peppers(ata-rodo)
1/2 tbsp. crayfish
1/2 tsp dry chili powder
A hand full chopped scent leaves or basil
salt to taste
Roast the ehuru over open fire or toast it in a pan. Blend with the habanero pepper. (the scent is heavently)
Roast the negro pepper and remove the seeds by slightly crushing the pod.(do not blend into a powder…discard the seeds and use the slightly crushed pod in the soup)
Pour the peeled and washed yam into a pot. Pour water into the pot; until a little above the yam. Add all the seasonings except the dry fish and the scent leaves.
cook until the yam is tender. Remove the yam from the pot(this prevents the yam from over cooking); then add the dry fish and dry pepper.(if you need to add more water, you could do so at this point and adjust seasonings). Cook for a few more minutes. Add the scent leaves, check for seasonings and serve with yam, crushed habanero and palm oil.
What are your customs and traditions when it comes to meals like this? Please share with us in the comments 🙂