I love street food. I really really do. A true foodie(which I can proudly claim I am) never discriminates. I basically eat anything. I will get all glam’d up and go to a restaurant or put on my boubou and go look a tasty cheap alternative – I just flow. I am also a true Lagosian and I have eaten thousands of meals in the streets of Lagos.
If I were to choose, I would go with street food over fine dining any day. Street food is unpretentious, CHEAP, and easily accessible and there are so many varieties to choose from.
On the other hand, there is the downside or the general claim that street food is unhygienic and can lead to food poisoning. This is very true. These street food vendors sometimes have very poor hygiene or don’t know how to handle food properly but it’s not all of them. On the other hand, however, a lot of people get food poisoning also when they go to high end restaurants. Some particular restaurants are especially guilty of people ending up with bad cases of diarrhoea when they dine there. I won’t name names so I don’t seem racist but y’all know what I am talking about.
Oh, I could tell you stories of my street food experience. I have had some very emotional encounters with food I ate on the streets. Like I could write love songs for some of these meals. They were sublime and are amongst the best things I have ever eaten.
Let’s start with Almighty suya, oh suya. Suya, my dearest dearest suya. (I know, I get this way about food.) I think Suya in Nigeria is one of our best and most popular street food. It is a proud export of ours, I believe. Shout out to our northern brothers for coming up with this delicacy. Suya has inspired so many new dishes now, just check out most food blogs; you are guaranteed to see a recipe inspired by suya or yaji, the famous pepper accompaniment.
By the way, all the suya we eat here in the west is crap. Yes, I say this very boldly. If you have ever lived in the north like I did for my youth service. You will agree with me, the suya we eat here is inferior nonsense.
I know I am coming across quite strongly but it’s the way I feel. Years after youth service, I have still not had decent suya in Lagos. And I have tried everything, well at least most, and none, I repeat none can compare to the humblest suya I had in the north. The suya I can stand to eat these days are the ones they steam in parchment paper. It slow cooks in its own juices, making the meat moist and tender. That’s the stuff.
But I digress, street food is so affordable, it boggles the mind; this cheap alternative to the high-end options is equally delicious. There is a woman who pushes a wheelbarrow around my office, she has a selection of fried and jollof rice, moi-moi, plantain, coleslaw (she calls it salad, which cracks me up) and other assortments. This woman’s rice is one of the best I have had in Lagos and I have eaten plenty. I spend about three hundred Naira to buy food from her and I am always so filled. Imagine if I went to an eatery and wanted to have the same selection I have from her every morning, I would spend about a thousand, five hundred Naira or more.
Lagos is a goldmine when it comes to street food, so many options are available. Agege bread, akara, fried yam, fried potatoes, rices (jollof, fried, white, ofada), roasted corn, boiled corn (love it), ewa agoyin, snacks(the buns, puffpuff family), fruits, ojojo, noodles, boli (Le Boo says it’s a man Viagra, I swear I don’t know where he gets that from ) but the list is endless.
In my childhood neighbourhood in Lagos, we had this puff puff depot behind our house. It was run by Ghanaians (which is amazing, because in Ghana there is no puffpuff, what they have is BORFLOT, a fried dough also which they eat with groundnuts or cereals, it is denser than puffpuff but with more sugar.) We used to go there in the morning and buy it hot from the fire and eat it with honey, it was a fantastic breakfast.
During service year, I had this maishai and he guy had skills. You would think he was a barista from Italy with the way he used to mix teas for his customers, and it was something to watch. He used to make noodles for me in an amazing way. My friends said he had a crush on me, that’s why our meals were so special. Whatever it was, the guy had a gift. His hot chocolates (Teas) were so delicious, he infused them with ginger and just a little coffee. It was amazing. Then he made this egg and noodle omelette that we ate with bread, I am sure that stuff was like a thousand calories, it was sublime. I even recreated the recipe when I got back home to the applause of my family.
There are so many gifted street cooks and if a lot of these street food vendors had capital, education and ‘packaging, they would charge more for their products and be more respected. But it what it is; not everyone can afford to eat richly so they have their huge customer base.
Even when I travel out of the country, my best culinary experiences are still food I eat on the streets. I have a strong constitution so I am never afraid to try new things. It seems that there is universal rule of street food being appealing to anyone. Street food will also tell you a lot about the people of that nation. True talk. We will discuss this another time.
For people who claim that street food is razz, I think those are the biggest hypocrites ever. Street food ke? Some people are sometimes too shy to come down from their cars to buy these meals but see them in their offices where they can send people to buy them for them and you will shocked at how razz their taste buds are.
What’s your street food experience like? What do you love to buy on the streets? Are you proud of your love for street food? Or do you think it’s too razz for your taste? As always love and chocolates.
Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Pangfolio