How to Prepare Ishapa Soup: The Typical Nigerian South Western Roselle Soup

Ishapa soup is one soup that has made the highlight for me for straight twenty-one years during Christmas and New year holidays. The only year it didn’t was last year Christmas holiday which I spent away from home. Eating ishapa soup and pounded yam on Christmas day is a tradition and even more like a ritual for my family.

roselle leaves used for ishapa soup
Roselle leaves/ Ishapa leaves
Photocredit: Afrolems

Roselle leaves- ‘hibiscus sabdariffa’ are usually available all through the harmattan season and in my family, we only prepare this soup on Christmas and/or New year day. It’s not a taboo for us to eat it any other day, it’s just our special delicacy. People in some other parts of Nigeria such as Kwara state enjoy this soup as soon as the roselles are available for purchase in the market.

However, here’s what I figured. People in Kwara state do not treasure this soup like we do in Ekiti. They cook it on low key like any other soup. A woman that I once met in the market told me that you can prepare the roselle alone by just steaming it in pepper and in my mind, I thought, “how disregarding to prepare ishapa shabbily like that!” In Ekiti, particularly in my father’s house, we don’t do it that way. We add egusi, beef, crayfish, many other kind of seafood that you can think of and chicken. We prepare this soup like no other. This soup takes a special kind of time that makes me sometimes leave my mom alone in the kitchen while she’s cooking. And the neighbors love mom’s ishapa

Although, I adopted the Kwara method of parboiling ishapa in this recipe, and I couldn’t afford to add chicken and too many different Nigerian seafood compliments, every step aside the first, is as I learnt from my Ekiti mother. So, take your time to go through every step and get the best ishapa soup.

PS: Mindless of how well this soup goes with other swallows, I highly recommend that you enjoy your well prepared ishapa soup with correctly pounded yam.

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Video of how to prepare ishapa soup on Foodiedame channel.
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How to Prepare Ishapa Soup: The Typical Nigerian South Western Roselle Soup
Cuisine Nigerian
Keyword Ishapa soup
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Cuisine Nigerian
Keyword Ishapa soup
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
  1. On low heat, parboil fresh roselle or dried Ishapa in hot water and salt for about 15minutes till the ishapa is soft.
    how to prepare ishapa soup- foodiedame
  2. While parboiling, blend pepper and locust beans. Also, get your egusi paste ready and set aside. Egusi paste is what you get from blending melon in water or blending the melon dry and mixing with water afterward.
    how to prepare ishapa soup pepper and locust beans- foodiedame
  3. After boiling, discard hot water, add another cold water to the roselle in a bowl and add some ashes to it.
    Ishapa in ashes for isjapa soup roselle-
  4. Leave the roselle in the ash water for about 10minutes and then, properly rinse out the ash from the roselle, leaving no element of ash.
  5. Set the properly cleaned roselle aside, set up a pot on the cooker, get the pot heated and add palm oil to warm up well.
  6. Scoop spoonfuls of egusi paste into hot oil and allow to fry. After frying, carefully, remove the egusi from the oil, put in a dish and set aside.
    frying egusi for ishapa soup
  7. Pour blended pepper and locust beans into the oil, allow to fry for about 5minutes and pour back the fried egusi. Stir the mixture and season with salt, stock cubes, cray fish, ponmo, meat and any other additive you desire.
    egusi sauce for ishapa soup
  8. Stir well, add about 1 cup of water to allow the soup to cook. Cover and leave for 5minutes.
  9. Add the parboiled roselle into the soup, stir the roselle into the egusi soup and leave to further cook.
    ishapa soup recipe
  10. After cooking for about 10- 15minutes and the ishapa soup is well thickened, turn off the cooker and serve with any desired food.
    ishapa soup foodiedame
Recipe Notes

The addition of ashes is a tradition of this soup that many Nigerian South Western mothers do not skip. The essence of adding ashes is to remove all or some of the tangy taste of the hibiscus. You really won't like the taste of ishapa soup if the roselle tastes tangy. The typical woman from Kwara state would parboil as I described in step 1. However, if you travel to Ekiti state, women like my mom will often boil water, pour ashes over the roselles in a bowl. After boiling the water, they'd pour it over the roselle and ashes, cover it and allow to sit and steam for some minutes, usually till the water becomes cold.
The difference between the Ekiti and Kwara method is that when ishapa is parboiled over fire as is done in Kwara, it has the chance to get as soft as possible. Whereas, sitting the ishapa in hot water doesn't provide it with the maximum heat that will soften it. Hence, the ishapa will usually not turn out so soft. But, in the process of carrying out step 9 of this recipe, the ishapa becomes further cooked and softened to taste regardless of the method used in step 1.

Although, I've never skipped this part of the recipe step, a few other cooks out there have tried it. I cannot guarantee you a fabulous taste but if you feel awkward adding ashes to a vegetable to be consumed, you can skip the whole process.

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