In the lush landscapes of the South West Region, nestled within the Bakossi tribe, a culinary treasure has been cherished for generations — the delectable Kwanmkwala and Esubag (fufu and black soup).
The meal not only captivates taste buds but also weaves stories of tradition and cultural pride.
The name itself, Kwanmkwala, echoes the rhythmic dance of the pestle within the mortar as it traverses up and down, front and back, creating a symphony while pounding cooked Igbo cocoyam leaves.
The result is a velvety puree that forms the heart of this extraordinary dish.
The ingredients are a dance of flavours and nutrition. Red cocoyam leaves, Njasang, your choice of meat, dry fish, pepper, salt, magi (optional), palm oil, bush pepper, four corner spices, habanero peppers, and the white Macabo come together to create a culinary masterpiece.
Cocoyam, the star of the show, contributes rich nutritional qualities to the dish—higher in protein, vitamins, and minerals than other root and tuber crops like cassava and yam.
The cocoyam leaves, bursting with immune-boosting vitamin C, add a layer of health benefits to the gastronomic experience.
The preparation, though technical, is a labour of love.
The culinary secrets emerging from a skilled chef who is an expert in Bakossi cuisine unveil the artistry concealed within Kwanmkwala Soup:
Kwanmkwala Soup Procedure:
- “Wash the cocoyam leaves and boil them with Njasang, pepper, and spices until they turn dark green,” advises the chef.
- The chef emphasises the importance of grinding the cocoyam leaves into a paste, which forms the soup’s flavorful foundation.
- After washing and cutting meat, it should be boiled with salt and magi, with the addition of dry fish to enhance the flavour, according to the chef.
- “Introduce palm oil to the pot of meat and dry fish, letting it simmer for a burst of richness,” suggests the chef.
- The chef guides enthusiasts to add the cocoyam leaf paste to the pot, ensuring the concoction harmonises into a flavorful blend.
- “Season with salt and magi, considering the inherent seasoning in the meat and dry fish,” notes the chef.
- The final touch, as per the chef, involves allowing the mixture to simmer until the Kwanmkwala Soup is ready to be served with fufu.
Esubag (Fufu) Procedure:
- “Peel and wash cocoyams, placing them in a pot with water. Cook until the cocoyams are soft, adding water as needed,” advises the chef.
- The chef emphasises the process of pounding the cocoyams into a soft dough, which is then transferred into a bowl.
- According to the chef, the fufu is best mixed by folding the dough until it forms a perfect mould.
Compliments to the Feast:
To enhance this culinary experience, Kwanmkwala and Esubag can be complemented with an array of side dishes:
- Fried bitter leaf
- Mpuh fish
- Fried snails
- Egusi Pudding
Kwanmkwala and Esubag soup, renowned for its unique taste and nutritional value, is a delicacy enjoyed across the country.
Quotes from enthusiasts:
Ivo, a native of Tombel in the South West Region, shares with MMI, “If there is any meal I like eating all the time, it’s my traditional meal: Esubag and Kwanmkwala. It is very delicious and yummy.”
He continues, “Even when I have lost my appetite for food or to eat anything, the moment I come in contact with my traditional meal, I become mouth-watering. It’s so sweet and appetising. What a succulent meal!”
Anita, a resident of Buea, expresses her preference for the meal: “I like it because it is simply swallowed. I don’t like chewing. In addition, it contains all the classes of food, and if well prepared, it’s very delicious and appetising, even just by sight. It makes people want to try it as it is very attractive.”
For the people of Bakossi, this meal transcends sustenance; it is a celebration of heritage and a connection to the flavours that define their identity.
As they gather around the table, each bite becomes a homage to tradition and a testament to the culinary artistry that has stood the test of time.