A friend who just came back from Senegal told me about the Soupou Kandja, which is Okra Soup commonly consumed in Senegal. One of the peculiar things about foods from Senegal is the way they throw in big chunks of vegetables especially garden eggplant, and carrots. Depending on the type of food, they might throw in big chunks of cassava (manioc), sweet potato and the Irish potato but garden eggplants or aubergine is almost always present. It was interesting when she pointed out that not all of the Senegalese she dined with ate these vegetables, they were often left in the plates; as if they were just for garnishing.
I have seen different recipes of Soupou Kandja on the internet and some are very time consuming to prepare. The Soupou Kandja my friend ate was with crab and other seafood but I have seen many recipes with different kinds of fish. I was surprised to see locust beans in the recipes and I was told that we do have many things in common – in terms of foods. The Okra used was chopped and then pounded in a mortar and was added to boiling water to which smoked and dried fish were already cooking. Vegetables were added as well as other proteins. Tomato puree was a constant feature in all the recipes I saw and this was added to it. Whole scotch bonnets were thrown in to add some zing. The okra was cooked for over 20 minutes before about 50-75cl of palm oil was added. I gasped at that point. It was a lot of palm oil but then it was not food for one either. Some Okra powder was also added. By the time the Okra was done, the soup was very dark and thick. All the green of the okra had disappeared. Some more recipes were better for the nutrients especially the ones that added the Okra last.
I decided to modify the simplest one. I started with chicken and fish in water along with big chunks of carrots and garden eggplant (I was not eager to try roots and tubers). I added my seasonings like thyme, curry, oregano, black pepper and a half a bouillon cube (I decided not to add salt). I blended tomatoes, onions and garlic instead of the tomato puree used in the recipes. After this, I added few tablespoons of palm oil and then the chopped Okra went in and in few minutes I turned off the fire. It looked like the regular Ila Asepo or Okra soup but with big chunks of vegetable.
So, here it is; my version of Soupou Kandja; Senegalese Okra soup.