Many Bini people, of Edo State, consider the omoebe soup to be their best-known dish. A soup of herbs and spice, it is also known as the “black soup” due to both the dark colour of the ground bitter leaves and effirin (scent leaves) and to the colouration from the banga sauce (palm fruit) used. The darkening is a result of the leaves oxidizing. The colour, though, is dark green.
Traditionally, the pumpkin leaves are ground with stone for texture, but they could be blended. If the bitter leaves are fresh, they must be washed several times to rid the bitter taste—with water, soda, or edible potash. Omoebe soup is topped with beef, shaki, ponmo, or stockfish, and served with eba, starch, or pounded yam.
The herbs have medicinal qualities: the bitter leaves stimulate digestive juices, the pumpkin leaves reduce hypertension, and the scent leaves have anti-inflammatory properties. They also reduce calories.
The Bini Black Soup is different from the one out of Ondo, for which marugbo leaves are used.
Otosirieze Obi-Young is Editor of Folio Nigeria, where he profiles innovators and facilitators in culture: art, business, entertainment, activism, health, food. He is a writer, journalist, curator, media consultant, former academic, and Founder & Editor-in-Chief of Open Country Mag, a new online platform covering African literature. In 2019, he received the inaugural The Future Awards Africa Prize for Literature. In 2020, he was named among "The 100 Most Influential Young Nigerians" by Avance Media. Find him on otosirieze.com or on Twitter & Insta: @otosirieze.