This soup gets its name from the fact that the mother of a newborn drinks it to keep up her energy while she stands vigil all night. Now why is she standing vigil? Well, legend has it that on the seventh day after the infant’s birth, the umbilical cord usually falls off. And if the umbilical cord has not been kept clean, demons might come to suck the blood from the child’s navel. So the custom is for family members to sit up all night making music and singing to scare away the demons. Thus, this soup has come to be known as Night-Vigil Soup.

Many people around the world, including those in Cape Verde, associate chicken soup with Jewish culture. Traditionally the faithful have sipped chicken soup on the Sabbath and religious holidays and serve it to new mothers for nourishment. Many of the first Portuguese to settle in Cape Verde were either Sephardic or New Christians (converts from Judaism). It is indeed possible that this dish evolved from the traditional chicken soup that was made with dumpling casing from rice and finely chopped breast meat. And, according to Sephardic tradition, chicken soup is served at Passover and on the seventh day after birth, when male babies are circumcised.

This soup is also said to cure hangovers and ailments.


1 chicken (3 pounds), cut into 8 pieces

2 tablespoons salt

2 garlic cloves, minced

½ bay leaf, crumbled

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 medium onion, sliced thin

½ cup rice

1 pound potatoes, peeled and cubed

1 pound manioc root, peeled and cubed

1 medium tomato, peeled and cubed

¼ cup whole mint leaves


Soak chicken parts in cold water with 1 tablespoon salt for 20 minutes. Remove the chicken, dry well with paper towels, and rub with mixture of 1 tablespoon salt, garlic, and bay leaf. Heat the oil in a large soup pot and sauté the onion. When the onion becomes transparent add the chicken pieces and sauté for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add 3 quarts water to the pot and bring to a boil. Add the rice, potatoes, and manioc to the chicken. Stir well and then add the tomato. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 35 minutes.

Serve in a soup tureen. Place a few mint leaves in each soup bowl and invite guests to serve themselves.

Cook’s Note: Manioc root is available in most supermarkets and Asian and Latin American specialty stores.


Serves 8 - 10.


country : Cape Verde

course : soup


source : Cuisines of Portuguese Encounters / Cherie Y. Hamilton


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