One of the beautiful things about living in Port-Harcourt (the capital city of Rivers State, Nigeria) is access to a wide variety of fresh seafood! This soup takes full advantage of that, if the ocean decided to put all of its bounty in a delicious soup, it would be Odu Folu (Native Soup).
Funny thing is even though i lived in PH from when i was 9 till my mid twenties, it wasn't until i was in college and went to visit a friend in another school in Port-Harcourt that i tasted this marvel for the first time. I got to their place as they were heading out to eat and they asked me to come along, i had just eaten but went along because duh, they were leaving home. We get to the restaurant and i tell the server that I'm not hungry. Listen, as soon as the first bowl hit the table, i lost all home training!
I had to learn to make this for myself because i shouldn't have to only enjoy this when in Port-Harcourt and go to a restaurant, that was just unacceptable!
I have seen it made with a few different vegetables but what gave me the flavor that i tasted in that restaurant is Uziza, double points if you can find it fresh (this bit is for those of us in the diaspora, the misery of having to deal with mainly dried herbs and vegetable, but half bread is better than none).
Also, this is a SEAFOOD soup!!! Meat, chicken and any other form of land animal does NOT belong in this soup. If you want to make substitutions because of allergies or for taste reason, you will still have a good tasting soup, but it wont be Odu Folu.
Please use whatever seafood/shellfish that's available to you. Here is what i used;
2 Lbs Catfish - because there's nothing better than randomly catching fleshy bits of fish
1 Tilapia - or any other lean fish
1 Large Crab
1/2 Cup Ngolo (whelks) - Shout out to mom for hooking me up all the way from Nigeria.
1 Cup Periwinkle
1.5 Cups Apple Snails
Clams & Mussels
Wild Red Shrimps
2 Red Onions
1 Cup Palm Oil
3/4 Cup Crayfish
Salt and Pepper
Peel and wash your cocoyam properly.
This is the thickener for your soup, i have seen some folks use Achi to thicken the soup but i find that the taste just isn't the same. If you don't have cocoyam, you can also use regular (African) yam to thicken, I ended up adding a bit of yam to this.
Do not salt the water, boil until tender and a fork easily goes through it.
While that is going, season catfish with 2 seasoning cubes, salt, pepper and 1 chopped onion. Allow your water just come to the level of the fish or slightly cover it. Remember The flavor of your soup is built in your stock. If you have a bland stock, you'll work double hard to get a tasty soup.
If you don't have/like catfish or just want to use a lean fish, you can skip this step but please have some tasty stock, about the volume you want your soup to be, handy. Doesn't matter if its chicken or meat stock, it should just be a rich tasty stock.
No, store bought will not do, UNLESS, you season it some more to give the flavor more body. Watch it though because they usually have a lot of sodium, so salt conservatively.
Cook fish on low to medium heat until tender but not falling apart. Remove fish from the stock and set aside.
Before we go on, if you've seen a lot of my recipes, you'll notice that i tend to use 2 different types of pepper; Cameroon pepper (the black powder in the pic above) and fresh habaneros like in the pic below. They both bring the heat but Cameroon pepper brings a smokiness that i just can't do without. Please do not use both if you cannot tolerate a lot of heat, you will however need fresh peppers.
In a blender, add pepper and the remaining onion and just pulse until you have a rough chop, we don't want a smooth blend.
Pour palm oil into a large frying pan and lightly fry pepper and onions on medium heat until they soften.
While the pepper is frying, season your other fish...
Add to hot pan and fry for 2-3 mins without flipping.
Then turn over and repeat.
Because i like to build flavor, i almost never add plain water to my soup. Add a cup of stock (from the other fish), and cover the fish and allow to cook for another minute or 2.
By this time your yam should be ready. I believe in working smart not hard (plus i'm lazy), so out comes my food processor.
Add the yams and if there's any water left in the pot, add a tablespoon or 2 to help you get a smooth blend. If you don't have a food processor, mash smoothly or pound in a mortar.
PS. If you didn't know, you can also make proper pounded yam in a food processor.
Back to the pan.
Remove fish and add the rest of your RAW seafood and snail.
There are few things worse than overcooked seafood! My mussels and clams were pre-cooked so they are not in this picture.
Gently turn over until they are properly coated. Cover the pan and allow to cook for 3 minutes.
One tip i use when cooking with crab legs is to tap the shell with the back of a knife to break/crack the shell. This will allow your sauce to seep in favor the sh*t out of the crab meat.
Remove seafood. You can leave your snails in because they can handle more cooking, especially if you're using large African snails.
Gently pour your palm oil sauce into the pot with the remaining stock.
It's time to thicken your soup. Turn your heat down low.
You can go about this 2 ways; either add the yam in little balls into the soup and with a spatula, mash it against the side of the pot...
...the easier way especially if you haven't done this before is to add yam into a sieve, over a bowl, pour some of your soup stock and with a spoon or spatula, gently pass it through. Your sieve should be touching the liquid as you do this, you will end up with a thick smooth slurry. Do this a little at a time so that you don't waste your stock and end up not needing all the yam.
Add yam until the soup just begins to thicken, and when you stir, it doesn't feel like its all water. the soup will continue to thicken as it cooks and even more as it cools. If you add to much yam, you'll end up with a pasty soup that is too thick, then you'll have to add water which will dilute your flavor.
You might still end up with some small bits of yam, don't worry about them, they'll disappear as your soup cooks down.
I mashed my yam against the pot, i made a little slurry just for demonstration
Add crayfish and taste for seasoning, adjust as needed.
Remember i said my mussels and clams were pre-cooked? This is their time to join the party. If you have raw clams and mussels, you would add them with the rest of the shellfish and take them out as soon as the shell opens up.
Bring back the rest of your seafood including the fish.
Add uziza leaf. I used a handful. Gently stir in. I like to cook with a spatula because it wont break things up.
Allow soup to just come to a boil then turn the heat off.
Serve up with YELLOW GARRI!
I don't make the rules, Native soup goes with yellow garri. Lol.
Just look at this beauty! *heart eyes*