Updated date:

Warm & Comforting Nigerian Fish Pepper Soup

Author:

Brian loves food and enjoys exploring various cuisines. He is a keen experimenter in the kitchen and finds cooking therapeutic.

A Bowl of Comfort

A tantalising bowl of hot and spicy Tilapia fish pepper soup

A tantalising bowl of hot and spicy Tilapia fish pepper soup

Delicious West African Dish

My better half and I love to cook, and the lockdown has given us the opportunity to utilise our kitchen more than usual. Although we are not professional chefs or cooks, my wife and I will take turns donning the apron to show off our self-acquired skills. Our recent favorite is this Nigerian fish pepper soup, which was adapted from the West African cuisine. For those that have experience preparing West African cuisine might testify that the process can be an uphill task, especially if you are making the dish from scratch.

Fond Memories of Fish Pepper Soup

Growing up in Nigeria, I had lived in Owerri which is situated in Imo state and there are several rivers in Owerri which blessed us with an abundant supply of fish. On certain evenings, the boys will gather by the river to try our luck; if we managed to catch a Tilapia, it will surely end up in a pot of fish pepper soup. I had a recollection of me going to the village market with my aunt as a little boy, to get Tilapia on days when we wanted to have the dish but did not manage to catch any fish. The village market is situated close to the rivers which guaranteed only the freshest produce, whereby every fish caught is instantly sold to eager customers.

What Makes A Good Bowl of Fish Pepper Soup?

The fish pepper soup dish uses quite a myriad of organic ingredients and definitely lots of spices, which makes it impossible to resist for those that can take the heat. This fragrant and mouth watering dish features a distinct blend of ingredients such as the freshwater Tilapia and combination of spices and seasonings. It is usually eaten in exclusive Nigerian bars and restaurants. Nonetheless, you may still find this dish in any roadside stalls in the streets across Nigeria, but, the locals will lead you to find the better tasting ones.

In Owerri, numerous restaurants may offer a variety of fish or seafoods in their own distinct version of pepper soup. However, those die hard lovers of fish pepper soup will definitely tell you that they prefer the ones cooked using Tilapia or either catfish. I personally prefer Tilapia, because the meat is able to soak up the flavour of the spices and seasonings better. Additionally, most would opt for Tilapia fish because it is inexpensive and thus easy on the wallet.

COOKING TIPS

1. Adding a stalk of lemongrass gives the pepper soup an amazing aroma.

2. If you can’t handle the spiciness of the scotch bonnet peppers, you may use it minimally and substitute it with more portions of bird’s eye chilies instead.

3. The combination of herbs and spices in the pepper soup spice mixture gives the soup an extra oomph. You may source for pepper soup spice in an African grocery store.

4. Adding smoked paprika gives the pepper soup a hint of smokiness.

Cook Time

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

5 min

30 min

35 min

2 - 4 persons

Ingredients

Key ingredient:

  • 2 medium-sized Tilapia fish, cut into 6 pieces

Other ingredients:

  • 2 whole scotch bonnet peppers, minced
  • 1 whole green bird's eye chili, chopped
  • 1 whole red bird's eye chili, chopped
  • 2 whole red chili, minced
  • 1 medium- sized onion, whole
  • 1 small stalk lemongrass, whole
  • 2 leaves bay leaf, whole
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons pepper powder
  • 2 teaspoons pepper soup spice
  • 1 cube Maggi seasoning, whole
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 stalk cilantro, minced

Cooking Instructions

  1. Gather all your ingredients to ensure that you do not miss anything out. To make the preparation easier, get your fishmonger to clean the fish by removing the gut and scales. You may also get your fishmonger to cut the fish for you.
  2. Start off by filling a medium-sized pot halfway through with water and put it to boil on high.
  3. Once the water starts boiling, add the whole onion into the pot. The onion is used to enhance the flavor of the soup and will be removed once the fish pepper soup is done.
  4. Subsequently, add the minced scotch bonnet peppers, a stalk of lemongrass, pepper soup spices, pepper powder, smoked paprika, salt, and Maggi cube seasoning.
  5. Cover the pot and let it boil for at least 10 minutes.
  6. After 10 minutes, reduce the heat to medium and add in the fish. Close back the lid and let it cook for about eight minutes.
  7. After the eight minutes are up, you may stir the dish to make sure all the fish meat gets covered in the broth. You may at this point, remove the onion bulb and the lemongrass stalk.
  8. Next, add in the chopped up green and red bird’s eye chilies along with the basil leaf.
  9. Let the soup boil with the lid closed for another eight more minutes. Do not cook the fish for too long as it may disintegrate resulting in the meat falling off the bones and messing up the soup.
  10. Once the eight minutes are up, switch off the heat and ladle up a bowl of the soup, garnish with cilantro, and serve immediately.

The ingredients

Clockwise from bottom to top – Red chilies, green bird’s eye chilies, scotch bonnet peppers, lemongrass, fresh bay leaf, red onion, spices and seasonings, and Tilapia fish

Clockwise from bottom to top – Red chilies, green bird’s eye chilies, scotch bonnet peppers, lemongrass, fresh bay leaf, red onion, spices and seasonings, and Tilapia fish

The Cooking Flow

Put a pot of water to boil

Put a pot of water to boil

Once the water is boiling, put a whole onion in

Once the water is boiling, put a whole onion in

Add in all the chilies, spices and seasonings along with a stalk of lemongrass

Add in all the chilies, spices and seasonings along with a stalk of lemongrass

Cover the pot with its lid and let the spices cook for 10 minutes

Cover the pot with its lid and let the spices cook for 10 minutes

Add in the fish into the pot to cook with the boiled seasonings and spices

Add in the fish into the pot to cook with the boiled seasonings and spices

After the fish is cooked, put in the chopped red and green bird's eye chili

After the fish is cooked, put in the chopped red and green bird's eye chili

Garnish the fish pepper soup with cilantro before serving

Garnish the fish pepper soup with cilantro before serving

© 2021 Brian

Comments

Brian (author) from Kuala Lumpur Malaysia on May 16, 2021:

Good to hear that, Liz! My family and I are doing fine over here, keeping safe indoors. Thank you for asking.

Do agree with you that soup requires a lot of preparation,but, there are some recipes that are quite simple too. Either way, the effort invested will surely be worth it.

Liz Westwood from UK on May 16, 2021:

I am fine, thanks. I hope all is well with you and your family. In my experience many soup recipes require quite a lot of preparation. But, like you say, the effort is worth it for the result.

Brian (author) from Kuala Lumpur Malaysia on May 16, 2021:

Hi, Liz! How are you? Hope that you are keeping well.

Well, thank you for the kind words as always. This dish is certainly tasty although it looks a bit intimidating I'd say. It may seem a bit tedious to prepare, but, the work is worthwhile when you get to enjoy the soup after it's done.

Brian (author) from Kuala Lumpur Malaysia on May 16, 2021:

Hi, Brenda! Reading your comment tickled my funny bones and reminded me of a friend of mine. He too is just like you and does not like to be presented the fish in it's 'original' state, regardless of how delicious the dish may be. Well, that is why he only eats fish and chips, as he says it does not remind him of the 'animal'.

Brian (author) from Kuala Lumpur Malaysia on May 16, 2021:

Thank you, Louise! This here is my go to dish and comfort food when I am missing my home. Sorry that you don't fancy the head. Well, there is not much meat on the head except for the cheeks and maybe some on the base of the neck, so you will not miss out anything by tossing it out.

Liz Westwood from UK on May 15, 2021:

This sounds like a tasty dish. Your step by step directions are very helpful.

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on May 15, 2021:

Oh my...the ingredients sound great but there is no way I'm eating anything that still looks like a fish.

Sorry, even the pictures make me squirm.

We de-skin fish and cut up into little bites. I don't want to see the eyes.

Otherwise this recipe sounds good.

Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on May 15, 2021:

This sounds lovely, I'd love to try this soup. I think I'd have to throw the head away though lol.

Related Articles