Igbo Culture | Igbo Language

Food and Recipes

Nigerian chophouses typically list a number of soups with meat or fish ingredients, served with either pounded yam, eba (steamed garri), semovita or jollof rice. Pounding yam is an effort on its own, and after observing its pounding, you probably value your food a lot more. The soups are mostly palm oil based and the most popular ones in Igboland are:

chop house
Rural Bar/Restaurant in Isi-Uzo

Meat or fish is a key component of the soup, mostly originating from cow, chicken, goat, turkey, dry fish or stockfish. Stockfish is air-dried codfish that is soaked and cooked in the soup. Some restaurants advertise bush meat as well, which can be from antelopes, but more valued is the grass-cutter (also called bush or cane rat), or maybe even less familiar species. Bush rat meat is worth a try, when cooked properly, as it is very tender and well spiced. Vegetarians, unfortunately, may find themselves limited to only a few non-meat dishes on the menu list.

The less hungry people may try moi-moi or suya. Moin-moin is a delicious steamed bean cake; suya is a brochette with thin slices of grilled cow or goat meat. To make this section complete, you can find the recipes for egusi and okro soup:

Egusi Soup:
675 g of meat, chicken or fish,
½ cup of dried shrimp or crayfish,
1 ½ cup of tomato paste,
2 cups of leafy spinach, bitterleaf or other greens,
2-3 chilli peppers,
1 cup of palm oil,
½ cup of sliced onions,
1 cup of egusi seeds (or melon seeds),
salt to taste.

Cut the meat into bite-sized chunks and add 1 cup of water, ½ teaspoon of salt and half cup of onions to it and cook it for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, fry the finely chopped onions, tomato paste and peppers for 5 minutes in palm oil. Grid or crush the egusi seeds and mix it with enough water to make a paste and add to above together with the shrimp or crayfish. When the meat gets brownish, add it to the above sauce to cook until tender. Add the bunches of bitterleaf (finely chopped) 10 minutes before the end of cooking time.

Okro Soup:
5 pods of okro,
Meat or fish,
1 medium onion
3 peppers
½ cup crayfish
1 dessert spoon of palm oil
1 stock cube and salt

Trim, wash and cut meat or fish into small pieces and boil until cooked. Pound together the onion, peppers and crayfish, add it to the meat and let it simmer for 3 minutes. Add the okro, stock, salt, palm oil to the soup and cook for a further 3 minutes. Note that for vegetable soup, you can use greenleaf instead of okro.
Both soups are to be most typically served with pounded yam or garri.

igbo cooking
Cooking in Igboland

There are many local chop houses and street food around in Enugu. There is also a considerate number of western (O’Neill’s and Hobby’s) and Chinese restaurants (Raya and Genesis) in the town, as well as fast-food places (Bubbles and Mr. Biggs) with pizza’s, hamburgers and fries served. Nightclubs, such as Frenzi (in a beautiful colonial style building), Spring Fellows and Vincent Gardens, do only serve light snacks.

Conversation: In the Chop House

♬ Click here to listen to this conversation.
- Bata n’ime onye ahïa.Come inside customer.
- Olee üdï nrï unu were?What kind of food do you have?
- Anyï were ji, osikapa na garri.We have yam, rice and garri.
- I were agwa?Do you have beans?
- Mba.No.
- Esogbuna, weta garri.Don’t worry, bring the garri.
- Ego ole?How much?
- Weta garri naira asaa.Bring garri worth of seven naira.
- Ï chörö anü?Do you want meat?
- Olee etu i si ere anü?How do you sell meat?
- Anyï na-ere otu naira mobu naira atö.We sell for one naira and for three.
- Tinye otu anü naira atö.Put one meat worth of three naira.
- Were ya. Take it.
- Nye m mmiri.Give me water.
- Were ya. Have it.
- Tinyekue ofe.Bring more soup
- Weta afere.Bring your plate.
- Ofea törö ütö.The soup is tasty.
- Ego ole ka m ji gï?How much do I owe you?
- Ha ncha bü naira iri na abüö.That is 12 naira.
- Were ego.Take the money.
- Da alü.Well done.
- Ka e mesïa, ka odi oge özö.Good-bye, till next time.


ülö oririchop house
üdïkind, sort
ofesoup, stew
anü öhïabush meat, bush animal
mmanyadrink, beer, wine

Grammar: Present Tense and Imperative

For the present tense of verbs, the verb stem is used. If the personal pronoun follows the verb (which is the case for the first person inseparable pronoun), an a- or e- prefix is attached to the verb stem in line with the vowel harmony, i.e. an a- prefix for verb stems with an a, ï, ö or ü vowel; an e- prefix for verb stems with an i, e, o or u vowel:

bilive (verb stem)chïcarry (something in the hand) (verb stem)
ebi mI liveachï mI carry

This prefix falls away with the other pronouns. The second and third person inseparable pronouns harmonise with the verb stems:

i biyou liveï chïyou carry
o bihe livesö chïhe carries

Separable pronouns do not require harmonisation:

anyï biwe liveanyï chïwe carry
unu biyou (pl.) liveunu chïyou carry
ha bithey liveha chïthey carry
mü na gï bime and you livemü na gï chïme and you carry

Other example:

be (verb stem)
abü m MikeI am Mike
ï bü emekayou are Emeka
ö bü emekahe is Emeka
anyï bü Mike na Emekawe are Mike and Emeka
unu bu Mike na Emekayou are Mike and Emeka
ha bü Mike na Emekathey are Mike and Emeka

The negative present tense is formed by harmonising the verb stem with the harmonising prefix a or e and suffix ghi or ghï in the following manner:

abüghï m NickI am not Nick
aha m bü Michael; aha m abüghï Nickmy name is Michael; my name is not Nick.
anyï chï anüwe carry meat
unu akwöghï anyïyou do not carry us
ebi m na Achara LayoutI live in Achara Layout
ebighi m na GRAI do not live in GRA

The imperative uses the verb stem without any prefix:


The imperative can be followed by a noun or pronoun:

nye m egogive me money
gwa mtell me
kwuo yasay it
züö akwabuy a cloth
unu zaa alayou (pl.) sweep the floor
ka ha gaalet them leave
ka anyi laalet us go (home)
ka anyi gaalet us leave

The negative imperative is formed with the prefix e- or a- and suffix –ne or –la, both harmonising with the verb stem:

erinedo not eat
azalado not sweep
unu azalayou do not sweep the floor