Isophu Yombona (Mealies and Bean Soup)14

 It’s a  bit chilly in Jozi and since today is International Soup Day I thought I would share my favourite soup with you…..

Isophu yombona is a traditional soup for the Xhosa culture in the Eastern Cape.  It is made from dried mealie kernels and sugar beans  by just simmering these ingredients until soft then add seasoning such as salt.

This soup takes me back to the good old days when it was cooked in cast iron pots on a fire situated in the centre of a thatched roof rondavel with windows the size of a fist hehe!  Ok maybe I’m exaggerating a little bit here….windows were the size of a rugby ball….This way of cooking way warmed up the room during the cold winter days and everyone would gather around the fire while the soup was cooking.

The soup takes a long time to cook and is slow cooked.  This long cooking procedure usually presented an opportunity for story telling.  The grandmother would narrate the stories.  In those days most households did not have television sets, this encouraged the children to use their imagination.  Most often the stories would have a wolf and a jackal.   In all these stories the jackal was portrayed as wise and the wolf as stupid.  Those were good days as we never knew how a wolf looked like,  however you imagined a fool.  Hehehe!  Good days indeed!

Fast tracking to the future and recreating the same kind of scenario the soup would be simmering in the kitchen with the aroma inviting an imagination of a tasty and steaming bowl of soup….ready to be savoured…….Mmmmmmm!

What is your favourite soup and what does it remind you of?

Isophu Yombona

Serves: 4

 250ml dry meal kernels

250ml sugar beans

3litres boiling water

3 spring onions, chopped

200ml -250ml bacon, diced

2.5ml salt

1 stock cube

2ml black pepper

5ml olive oil

1-2 garlic, chopped


  1. Soak the beans in just enough water to cover them.  Throw away the soaking water.
  2. Add 2L of the water and simmer at low heat until the beans and the kernels are soft.
  3. Add the rest of the water and continue simmering then add seasoning, bacon and chopped spring onions.
  4. Serve.
  1. BlueWolF Reply

    HEY ~~~~~
    us wolves aint st00pid, tho we like a good soup !!!!!

  2. Andie Reply

    Mhmmmm….had lots of this when i was home. Super delicious and just perfect for winter.

    • Thuli Reply

      You know in the homelands they keep it real! Thanks for the comments!

  3. Abe Reply

    IYOOOOO ingath’ uyivile imithandazo yam !!! As I was navigating ur site (new user), I was just hoping I’ll find oku kwesophu. I love it but can’t cook it, mommy never taught me. Enkosi nenekazi !!!

    • Thuli Reply

      Hi Abe, thanks for visiting. Hope you enjoy Isophu! :-)

  4. Neli Reply

    Hi Thuli,

    I like the post and am eager to try i-sophu. Problem: what are ‘dry meal kernels’? Is this umbona dried out? how is it dried?

    Please help.


    • Thuli Reply

      Hi Neli,

      Thank you for your comment. You buy them from a shop already dried out. You wont find them at your PnP stores. Ask around I’m sure you’ll find a shop that sells them in your area. If all fails, use sweet corn cut from a cob. However, add it towards the end of your cooking as they are already soft. Let me know how it goes.



  5. Don Landy Reply

    When I grew up in Mthatha, too many years ago in Norwood. We had a kitchen maid who was many people in one person. She was also my mother, my protector, my counsellor,and the person who told my mother of the naughty things we got up to! Her name was Evelina. She was a black woman from Ncambedlana, just outside of Mthatha. She used to make Isophu Yombona. I have’nt had it in nearly 40 years. I think now is the time, so I can reflect and remember Evvie ! Thank you for the recipe!

    • Thuli Reply

      Hi Don! Thank you for visiting, taking the time to leave a comment, for sharing your experience and childhood memories! Comments like yours keep me going and remind me why I started the blog in the first place. I hope the recipe is as good as the one Evvie used to prepare (rural mamas can cook! :-)) Enjoy and let us know how it goes!


  6. Intombi YaseMampondweni Reply


    • Thuli Reply

      Hope you enjoyed the dish and it was as good as your mom’s! :-)

  7. Nceba Reply

    Yiza nazo Thuli. Kumnandi ukubona umntu omtsha nje ngawe esikhumbuza ngemvelaphi yethu. Siswele nje amatye okusila, mhlawumbi ubungenza nevideo yakho uguqe etyeni usenza umgrayo upheka umqa okanye usenza umphothulo okanye utshongo. Sibamba ngazo zozibini. Umqombothi ungawulibali nawo ngoba oontanga bakho kumnyama kubo xa kufikwa apho. Nomxhaxho ubaxelele ngawo.

  8. NOMAZA Reply

    Hello sisi, Enkosi ngaleblog yakho, im from East London, living in France a couple of months back i was in Paris and i went into a Brazillian shop, and to my suprise they sold iBrown bean, and yesterday i was kwiMarché, yindawo where all farmers sell iproducts zabo, and VOILA there was an Arab selling UMBONA, so i took it, my husband saw it kwifrige and said yintoni le, he has never seen umbona live, hahahahaha, so tomorrow Thanks to you im going to cook this soup, i hope it cames out well, because like you i have beautiful memories attached to the soup, my late grandmother and my mother.

    • Thuli Reply

      Hi Zaza!

      Thanks for your comment. I hope the soup was delicious and hubby enjoyed it! Do come back and share some of those beautiful memories with us! xxx

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