Afang Soup: A Green, Leafy Nigerian Vegetable Soup

September 15, 2017 (Last Updated: March 3, 2020)

Afang soup, eaten by Efik and Ibibio people of Nigeria is a delicious stew made with Afang leaves and a leafy vegetable called waterleaf or malabar spinach.

Nigerian Afang soup, eaten by Efik and Ibibio people of Nigeria is a delicious stew made with Afang leaves and a leafy vegetable locally called waterleaf.

If you have been following yummy medley for a while, and have managed to escape a trip to your African market, this Afang soup recipe is going to push you to go there, and trust me, this dish is worth the trip. Get on google and look up “African grocery stores near me”, and get ready to take a trip to flavortown. For Africans already familiar with African grocery stores, or for those who live in the great continent already, this for you should be a simple trip for you. Let me introduce you to my delicious Afang Soup recipe, a leafy vegetable soup commonly associated with Calabar city in Nigeria but with cultural and family roots in the Ibibio and Efik tribes of the riverine areas of the country. These two tribes, which inhabit the Akwa-Ibom and Cross River states in Southern Nigeria feature this soup quite heavily in their cuisine and celebrations but to my knowledge, there are no major differences in their method of preparation.

A little background story about my food history, my mother is from a state in Nigeria called Akwa-Ibom, and the stereotype of women from this state is that they cook the best food in Nigeria. I might be a little biased, but as a half Ibibio (a tribe in Akwa-Ibom state) half Esan (a tribe in Edo state) girl that lived in Lagos (a Yoruba state) with family members from different parts of the country (trust me, my family is quite the diverse group), I can say with full confidence that this stereotype is probably more like fact. My mom and her sisters (she has four like me), my late grandmother, and pretty much any one from my mother’s side of the family that cooked for us growing up always had the best food. Don’t get me wrong other people cooked good as well, but nothing beat the delicious soups and stews that came from my mom’s side of the family. I remember the first time I had non- Akwa-Ibom pepper soup, it was one of the most disappointing soups I tasted, and I knew from then on that I was brought up with taste privilege.

Overhead shot of two bowls of afang soup

Afang soup is one of the delicious dishes to come from my mother’s side of the family. I have since learnt that this is a dish cooked by some Cameroonians as well, as some parts of Cameroon share a border with the part of Nigeria where my mom is from.  There are other dishes that Cameroonians and Cross River/ Akwa-Ibom people share as well, and I will talk about those eventually.

What is Afang Leaf?

Afang leaf also called Eru in  Cameroon and Okazi in other parts of Nigeria is a flavorful green leafy vegetable Gnetum africanum, that is commonly grown in West Africa and used in making different soups and stews. Afang is one of the most common leafy vegetables in Nigeria and is also found predominant in Cameroon, Gabon, Congo and Angola.

Afang soup, made by the Efik and Ibibio people that live mostly in the coastal states of  Cross Rivers and Akwa Ibom (2 neighboring states out of the six  Southern states that constitute the natively  nicknamed ‘South South’ regions of Nigeria) is a stew made with Afang leaves and another common green leafy vegetable locally called waterleaf aka Malabar spinach.  Afang soup is quite the staple in the coastal cities of  South Nigeria and is  heavily featured in ceremonies and festivals of the  Ibibio, Efik and other residents of the ‘South South’, including weddings, christening of newborn babies or even at funerals. Because Cross River and Akwa-Ibom states are riverine, most stews and soups originating from these states are made with some type of seafood and might include a variety of assorted meats, as featured in this recipe.

How to Prepare Afang Soup

Our stews and soups can be surf and turf style (like in this recipe), but most Efik or Ibibio stews and soups that are not vegan, have seafood in it.  In this afang soup recipe, I use  shelled clams and small shelled apple snails, but you could use smoked dried fish, periwinkles, fresh or dried shrimp, crabs, oysters, or any other type of seafood you enjoy.

List of Ingredients

  • 2 lbs  (about 907 grams) Malabar Spinach aka Water leaf- While waterleaf can be substituted with conventional spinach, its best substitute is lamb’s leaf lettuce.whole and sliced malabar spinach or waterleaf
  • 57 g  or 2 oz dried Afang leaves (may be labeled Okazi/Eru in the African store) – Afang leaves have no substitute that I know of, so if you have never ventured into an African grocery store, you will need to if you want to try this Afang soup recipe. Just ask for Okazi or Eru. In a pinch, Afang leaves are also available online for purchase, but I encourage you to go to an African store if you can.Dry Afang or Eru or Okazi leaves in and out of packet
  • 3 lbs  (About 1.4 kg) Goat meat cut into large bite size cubes – Feel free to omit this and all animal products if you would prefer a vegan version of this Afang soup recipe .
  • ½ cup of cooked shelled Apple snails
  • ½ cooked shelled ClamsBowls of beef, snails and clam meats
  • ½ cup palm oil
  • 2 Red onions
  • 2 Scotch bonnet peppers substitute with habanero peppers
  • 4 tbsp Ground smoked dried shrimp aka crayfish
  • 3 tsp Chicken Bullion
  • 2 tbsp cayenne pepper/ crushed red pepper flakes optional
  • Salt to taste

Prep the Onions and Peppers

Slice both onions and scotch bonnet peppers, and set them aside.

Braise the Goat Meat

On low- medium heat in a large stock pot, braise the goat (or your choice of ) meat with the one of the onions, scotch bonnet peppers, 1 tsp bouillon and 1 tsp salt for 30 minutes or until the meat is tender. onions, pepper and meats in the pot

Half way into braising the goat meat, add ½ a cup of water and stir the meat to prevent in from burning. Keep the pot covered at all times during the braising process. Once the meat is tender and is done braising. Set aside.

Prep the Water Leaf/Malabar Spinach

While the meat is braising, wash your Malabar spinach in cool water to get rid of sand and dirt. Pick off the tough stems, but save the tender stems and leaves. Chop and set aside.

Prep the Afang Leaves

In a food processor, roughly grind the afang leaves just to break it up a little. Afang leaves are mostly sold in the African store already shredded, but you can break it up a little more using a food processor/ mortar and pestle so the shreds are not as long.

Cooking the Soup

In a deep pot heat up the palm oil on medium heat (be careful not to over heat the oil on high heat) and sauté the other sliced onion for 10 minutes until it is starting to get caramelized.

Add in the snails and clams, and continue to sauté for another 5 minutes.

Add in the braise goat meat and reserve the braising liquid. It is a very flavorful stock, and will still be used.

Add in 2 teaspoons of bouillon, crayfish, and if you are spice inclined, cayenne pepper, stir, then add in the chopped water leaf.

Just like regular spinach, the water leaf will look like a lot at first, but wilt down in a few minutes. once the water leaf starts to wilt, add in the Afang leaves and stir.

Add about 1 cup of the braising liquid to the stew, turn down the heat to low, and continue cooking with the pot covered for another 10 minutes.collage for cooking Afang soup in pot: adding snails, meat and leaves

After 10 minutes, taste the stew for seasoning and adjust the salt if necessary.

Turn the heat off and allow the stew to sit for 5 minutes, then serve hot

Overhead view of pot with Nigerian Afang soup

Afang soup goes best with many types of firm fufu. It is great with Eba, pounded yam, ground rice, oat fufu, and lafun. I do not prefer Afang with softer textured fufu like amala or elubo (a yam based fufu), but it is still delicious either way. If you do not have access to fufu at all, you can eat Afang with boiled rice, but nothing beats Afang with a good firm fufu.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I substitute water leaf for spinach?

You can use spinach as a substitute for water leaf/ malabar spinach. It tastes a little different from traditional when cooked with typical spinach, but it is a fair substitute in a pinch. If you have access to different varieties of spinach, I would encourage using a very water rich variety.

Why is Afang Soup called a Calabar Soup?

Calabar is the capital city of Cross Rivers state and one of the thriving and more popular tourist locations in Nigeria. As a result of Calabar city’s popularity, many visitors and even Nigerians have associated the indigenes, culture and cuisine of the surrounding area with the name of the town (in the same way Lagos finds itself associated with many aspects of Yoruba culture). This association results in the colloquial notation of Afang as a ‘Calabar soup’ even though it’s roots go much deeper wider and its ubiquity extends far wider even, as discussed before, as far as the neighboring cities of Cameroon.

What are the Health Benefits of Afang Leaf?

Like all dark green leafy vegetables, Afang (even the dried version), is low in fat, and rich in vitamin C, potassium, sodium, iron and magnesium. Afang however is particularly rich in Vitamin A, and very high in dietary fiber (higher than typical leafy greens like spinach).

What are the benefits of Afang soup in pregnancy?

I have highlighted this particular health benefit of Afang because it has played a key role in providing nourishment for pregnant women in parts of Nigeria and Cameroon that do not have access to certain essential prenatal supplements. Since Afang is particularly rich in folic acid and vitamin A, it has been significant in providing adequate nourishment for both mother and unborn baby. Feel free to check out this published study to get more information about the health benefits of Afang soup and read a little more about its benefits in pregnancy.

Afang soup in bowl served with oatmeal swallow

Enjoy my afang soup recipe! Please let me know if you try it and while you’re here, why don’t you check out my other vegetable stew recipe: Nigerian Spinach Stew (Efo Riro) or my Tasty Groundnut soup recipe.

Nigerian Afang soup, eaten by Efik and Ibibio people of Nigeria is a delicious stew made with Afang leaves and a leafy vegetable locally called waterleaf.
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5 from 7 votes

Afang Soup Recipe

Afang soup, eaten by Efik and Ibibio people of Nigeria is a delicious stew made with Afang leaves and a leafy vegetable called waterleaf or malabar spinach.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time1 hr
Total Time1 hr 20 mins
Course: Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine: Cameroonian, Nigerian
Servings: 8
Calories: 362kcal
Author: Yummy Medley

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs Malabar Spinach aka Water leaf
  • 57 g 2 oz dried Afang leaves (may be labeled Okazi/Eru in the African store)
  • 3 lbs Goat meat cut into large bite size cubes
  • ½ cup of cooked shelled Apple snails
  • ½ cooked shelled Clams
  • ½ cup palm oil
  • 2 Red onions
  • 2 Scotch bonnet peppers substitute with habanero peppers
  • 4 tbsp Ground smoked dried shrimp aka crayfish
  • 3 tsp Chicken Bullion
  • 2 tbsp cayenne pepper/ crushed red pepper flakes optional
  • Salt to taste

Instructions

  • Slice both onions and scotch bonnet peppers, and set them aside.
  • On low- medium heat in a large stock pot, braise the goat meat with the one of the onions, scotch bonnet peppers, 1 tsp bullion and 1 tsp salt for 30 minutes or until the meat is tender.
  • Half way into braising the goat meat, add ½ a cup of water and stir the meat to prevent in from burning. Keep the pot covered at all times during the braising process.
  • While the meat is braising, wash your Malabar spinach in cool water to get rid of sand and dirt. Pick off the tough stems, but save the tender stems and leaves. Chop and set aside.
  • in a food processor, roughly grind the afang leaves just to break it up a little. Afang leaves are mostly sold in the African store already shredded, but you can break it up a little more using a food processor/ mortar and pestle so the shreds are not as long.
  • Once the meat is tender and is done braising. Set aside.
  • In a deep pot heat up the palm oil on medium heat (be careful not to over heat the oil on high heat) and sauté the other sliced onion for 10 minutes until it is starting to get caramelized.
  • Add in the snails and clams, and continue to sauté for another 5 minutes.
  • Add in the braise goat meat and reserve the braising liquid. It is a very flavorful stock, and will still be used.
  • Add in 2 teaspoons of bullion, crayfish, and if you are spice inclined, cayenne pepper, stir, then add in the chopped water leaf.
  • Just like regular spinach, the water leaf will look like a lot at first, but wilt down in a few minutes. once the water leaf starts to wilt, add in the Afang leaves and stir.
  • Add about 1 cup of the braising liquid to the stew, turn down the heat to low, and continue cooking with the pot covered for another 10 minutes.
  • After 10 minutes, taste the stew for seasoning and adjust the salt if necessary.
  • Turn the heat off and allow the stew to sit for 5 minutes, then serve hot

Notes

 

 

30 Comments

  • Reply
    Osaze
    September 16, 2017 at 10:02 am

    5 stars
    This is my absolute fave! I can not wait to try this recipe

    • Reply
      Lois
      September 17, 2017 at 6:35 am

      I am sure you will enjoy it Osaze!

    • Reply
      Joseph, Olajumoke
      December 9, 2018 at 9:56 am

      Thank you for this piece, I’m going to try it right away. Can i use car fish to cook Afang soup?
      Thank you
      Jumoke

      • Reply
        Lois
        January 8, 2019 at 9:42 am

        Hello Jumoke! You can certainly use cat fish to make your afang, but the method of cooking will change slightly since fish cooks much faster than other meat. I will work on creating a seafood version for this recipe.

  • Reply
    Gifted hands
    September 16, 2017 at 2:14 pm

    5 stars
    I love this! It takes me back to my childhood. My mum is Ibibio too!

    • Reply
      Lois
      September 17, 2017 at 6:34 am

      My sister!!!!!

  • Reply
    Cheekey
    September 17, 2017 at 12:18 am

    5 stars
    Looks good. Hope to try it soon!

    • Reply
      Lois
      September 17, 2017 at 6:33 am

      I am sure you will enjoy it Cheeky!

  • Reply
    Adeniyi.
    September 17, 2017 at 11:43 am

    Mouth watering, going to try it this weekend.
    I love veggies.

    • Reply
      Lois
      September 17, 2017 at 4:23 pm

      I hope you do. Enjoy!

  • Reply
    Dominique | Perchance to Cook
    October 24, 2017 at 3:09 pm

    I’ve never tried anything like this but the flavors here look so unique and delicious. I’d love to taste this soup!

  • Reply
    Ashley @ Big Flavors from a Tiny Kitchen
    October 25, 2017 at 9:14 pm

    I haven’t tried these greens before, but now I’m totally intrigued! This soup looks SO comforting and delicious – YUM!

  • Reply
    Gloria @ Homemade & Yummy
    October 25, 2017 at 10:47 pm

    5 stars
    Wow…this sure does sound interesting. Living in Canada, I know I would have a hard time finding some of these unique ingredients. Maybe if I visited some of the markets in Toronto. Sounds like something I would like to try for sure.

  • Reply
    Alicia Taylor
    October 26, 2017 at 1:24 pm

    I haven’t ever heard of this soup, but it’s beautiful! Such an informative post, too! Thanks for all the details

  • Reply
    Marisa Franca @ All Our Way
    October 27, 2017 at 7:42 am

    We love our soups and stews and this looks just like what we love. I’ve never been to an African grocery store but to get those leaves I’d love to find one. I’d certainly love to taste this.

  • Reply
    Ben Myhre
    October 27, 2017 at 8:21 am

    I want to try this… so unique!

  • Reply
    Lynn | The Road to Honey
    October 29, 2017 at 4:46 pm

    I used to live in Africa (East Africa) but did manage to travel to West Africa (including Lagos) on several occasions. I don’t recall seeing this lovely stew. . . but am wishing I had known about it then as I would have tried to track it down. It looks utterly irresistible and reminds me of one of my favorite Persian stew (looks wise as the flavors are different ).

    • Reply
      Lois
      October 30, 2017 at 12:46 pm

      You may have missed this stew because it is not as common in Lagos as it is in Eastern Nigeria. Lagos is in west.

  • Reply
    Kate
    October 29, 2017 at 5:56 pm

    This looks so good! I am a vegetarian though, can I just omit the meat and make it exactly the same way?

    • Reply
      Lois
      October 30, 2017 at 12:44 pm

      You certainly can. Maybe you can switch out the meat for mushrooms.

  • Reply
    Cheryl
    October 30, 2017 at 6:27 am

    This stew looks like it’s bursting with flavor! I’d love to dive right in.

  • Reply
    Amanda
    October 30, 2017 at 8:11 am

    5 stars
    What a hearty and comforting looking soup! I’ve never had goat meat, but I would love to try it. Braised meats always have such a fantastic texture.

  • Reply
    Julie
    October 30, 2017 at 3:55 pm

    This soup looks amazing! I’ve never come across Afang leaves before but I will certainly keep my eyes open from now on.

  • Reply
    Tatiana
    October 31, 2017 at 1:44 am

    Never heard of Afang leaves before. I will look around in San Francisco for an African store to buy those !

  • Reply
    Erica Dawn
    August 5, 2018 at 12:24 pm

    5 stars
    Yum!!! The Africans living in Nebraska are mostly from Sudan, South Sudan and the DRC. I’m hopeful that I can find the Afang leaves at one of their shops. What do you think about substituting chard for the Water Leaf? That may be harder to find fresh.
    Great comment on the benefits of this stew for pregnant women, LOVE IT!

    • Reply
      Lois. O
      August 6, 2018 at 2:52 pm

      Hey Erica! I am not sure about substituting water leaf with chard, but I know spinach or lambs lettuce will work in a pinch. Also, if you can find a West African store you might have a higher chance of finding Afang leaves there, I am not sure it is eaten in East Africa. It is worth giving a shot though.

  • Reply
    YASUA
    December 11, 2018 at 5:33 am

    5 stars
    Amazing recipe

    • Reply
      Lois
      January 8, 2019 at 9:43 am

      Thank you so much Yausa!

  • Reply
    amudat
    June 2, 2019 at 9:52 am

    after grinding the okazi from the market do I need to wash it with water before adding it to my cooking pot

    • Reply
      Lois
      June 24, 2019 at 10:14 am

      Hi Amudat! I would suggest that you wash it again especially if you are not use if was washed in the market. Maybe you can buy the leaves whole, wash it, and grind it yourself at home. I usually don’t advise grinding in the market.

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