This Nigerian Beef and Ramen Noodle Pepper soup is a Simple and Low-Calorie Broth with Complex Flavours
Let me introduce you to one of the most prolific and versatile soups in Nigeria… Pepper Soup. If you haven’t come across Nigerian Pepper Soup, let me break it down to you. This soup is a simple broth – a consommé comes to mind – with very complex flavours. It is usually made with chicken, fish, beef or assorted meat, which is a way of using up different cuts of meat including the innards. And its’ characteristic complex flavours are courtesy of the mix of traditional spices from which this dish derives its signature.
Another defining characteristic of this dish is in the name. Nigerians really take the word “pepper” in Pepper soup literally. Boy! this soup is as spicy as it gets. Many years ago when I lived in Nigeria, I could easily tolerate the heat in a traditional Nigerian pepper soup. However, living in the diaspora for the last few decades has tamed my “spicy tooth” somewhat… Although my favourite lunch-time Thai restaurant in Zürich would beg to disagree, as I am always requesting extra servings of chilli at lunchtime. But I really have lost my “fiery-tooth”.
But back to the ingredients, the blend of spices that give Pepper soup its’ distinct flavours are African Negro Pepper also known as Selim Pepper, Alligator Pepper and Jamaican Nutmeg. These spices are typically African and very aromatic, and form the heart and soul of this soup.
Did I mention versatility? This soup is all things to all people. Every respectable pub or bar has its own house pepper soup on tap – the perfect accompaniment to a cold glass of Gulder or Guinness Beer. Wedding feasts, naming ceremonies, and other social gatherings are not complete without pepper soup. The old folks will tell you it is the cure for malaria, colds, and/or any form of aches and pains that one may have. And new mothers will often receive more than one bowl of pepper soup from relatives to speed up the post-birth recovery process.
Whether pepper soup does indeed possess these supernatural abilities is debatable. However, the spices used (African Negro pepper, Alligator Pepper and Jamaican Nutmeg) are ancient spices that have medicinal qualities that are beneficial to the general wellbeing – so maybe that’s it?
The hot and spicy nature of this soup is one that lends itself well to being sipped on a cold winter’s evening, but for me, pepper Soup is so reminiscent of home, that the ability to recreate it in my alpine kitchen in Switzerland, is a symbolic amalgamation of two distinct facets of my life – and so, I have given myself the permission to enjoy my pepper soup on a warm summer-like day in month of May.
Knowing me as you do by now, I have “jazzed” it up. For starters, I made the base with bone broth, infused with the African spices. My meat of choice was roasted grass-fed fillet of beef, which I first browned to seal in the juices and roasted till rare. Finally, I topped my pepper soup ramen noodles – because I couldn’t help myself…
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