Green Abunabuna Soup with Snails

Ntohuro Nkwan / Kontomire Nkwan

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Easy

  • Makes

    5 to 6

    servings

Appears in

The Ghana Cookbook

By Fran Osseo-Asare and Barbara Baëta

Published 2015

  • About

My husband, an Akwapim from the Eastern Region, loves this Akan soup that is notable for its green color. Unlike him, I am not fond of snails, but it can also be made with smoked game and fish (see Variations). Ghanaians’ beloved fermented fish (momoni) or kobi (salted tilapia) give this soup a distinctive flavor that is generally unavailable to those of us outside Ghana, though adding a little salted cod and/or a dash of Thai fish sauce approximates it. Akans commonly include the spice known locally as “prεkεse” but Akwapims do not.

Here we give you an adapted recipe for Western kitchens. (I am grateful to Emelia Kwapong, owner and director of Tasty Treats at the Nogouchi Canteen at the University of Ghana; Legon, my husband’s favorite place for abunabuna soup when he’s in Accra, and especially Georgina Twum, the assistant director, for walking me through the process, increasing my understanding, and answering my questions.)

Ingredients

  • 5 to 12 snails (depending on whether each person wants 1 or 2 snails)
  • 1 pound cocoyam/taro/kontomire leaves or other greens (e.g., collard greens, mustard greens, spinach), or frozen spinach
  • 8 ounces dried smoked fish of choice (such as mackerel, whitefish, or whiting)
  • Chili peppers, to taste (in Ghana, they would likely use about 5 small green kpakpo shito peppers; you could substitute 1 small seeded jalapeno [mild], or 1 small green or red seeded cayenne [hot], or 1 green seeded habanero [hot], or 2 red seeded habanero or Scotch bonnets [very very hot], or ½ teaspoon [mild] or ¾ teaspoon [medium] ground dried red pepper)
  • 1 square inch salted cod and/or a dash of Thai fish sauce (optional)
  • 1 large or 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 medium red or green tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon Ground fresh ginger (optional)
  • Several fresh mushrooms of your choice (e.g., about 6 cremini), rinsed, wiped dry, the tip of the stem removed, halved or sliced if desired (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon powdered herrings if available (or to taste), or substitute seasoned salt
  • Salt to taste (do not add until the end as smoked/salted ingredients will add saltiness)

Method

Directions

Prepare snails

  1. Scald the snails in boiling water to kill them. Wash the snails with water and remove from shells with a fork. Wash again with water and a little lemon or lime juice. Put a little cornmeal on your fingers to remove the sliminess. Take scissors or a knife and remove the heads. Rinse snails again to remove any sand.
  2. After cleaning the snails, simmer in a small saucepan with water about 5 minutes (do not overcook). Remove from the pan.

Prepare other ingredients

  1. Wash the greens, removing any tough stems, and cook whole for just 2 or 3 minutes in a little water on the stovetop or covered in the microwave. (The bright green is characteristic of the soup so do not overcook.) Set aside. (Alternatively, defrost a package of frozen whole leaf spinach or other green. No need to cook it).
  2. Wash and debone the dried fish and remove the skin. Break into pieces if desired, and set aside.
  3. Remove the stem ends of the fresh chili peppers; if desired also remove the seeds and membranes for a less spicy soup; slice.
  4. Soak the salted cod, if using, in boiling-hot water for a few minutes to reduce saltiness. Drain.

Prepare soup

  1. Put 6 cups of water into a soup pot and add the cooked snails, prepared chili peppers, chopped onion, and whole tomatoes. Bring to a boil and lower the heat and simmer until the tomatoes and peppers are softened, about 5 to 10 minutes.
  2. Add the salted cod, ginger, and mushrooms, if using, and continue to simmer. Taste the soup as it cooks and remove the pepper slices when the soup is spicy enough for you and discard them.
  3. As soon as the tomatoes are softened, remove them with a slotted spoon. If preferred, remove the tomato skins. Blend them together in a blender with the lightly cooked greens. Return the ground ingredients to the pot.
  4. Add the prepared smoked fish and powdered herring or seasoned salt, and another cup of water, if desired, and simmer. After the flavors have blended add salt to taste.

To serve

This soup is traditionally served with Ghana-style Dumplings (Fufu), but also goes nicely with rice or mashed yam.

Variations

  • Like many Ghanaian dishes, this recipe is highly flexible. While some people prefer fresh red tomatoes, others like green tomatoes.
  • Many recipes include variations, such as adding a little groundnut paste (peanut butter), ground beans, or crabs, or omitting the mushrooms.
  • Substitute 2 pounds (bone-in) or 1 pound (boneless) smoked turkey or game for the snails, cut as desired. Add with the smoked fish.
  • Substitute dried smoked snails for the fresh ones.