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Busayo Oderinde: Street Food Chronicles

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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

My name is Busayo, a Food Enthusiast, I love love food, its a huge passion for me and I believe Chocolates make the world a happier place. Feel free to contact me via email, [email protected]

45 Comments

  1. *curious*

    April 3, 2015 at 9:32 pm

    haha @ “how razz their taste buds are.”

    I don’t discriminate on the basis of street vs fine dining. I leave that to my taste buds and GI system.

  2. Bumzie

    April 3, 2015 at 9:32 pm

    You should try the suya sold at MMA in Lagos. It is absolutely delicious….. you will love it. I used to drive down there just for the suya with my boo untill recently when I relocated. The thought of that suya is making me to salivate

    • A

      April 3, 2015 at 11:23 pm

      The first and only time I tried the suya at MMA, I had a bad bout of food poisoning. I probably went on the wrong day

  3. scarlet

    April 3, 2015 at 9:51 pm

    Boli of life ‘roasted plaintain’, with roasted groundnut, my all time favourite! I don’t mind parking on the highway to get em’ and trust me, I can price ‘haggle price’ for Africa. Lool. Then there is this jollof rice joint that makes a lot of sense, with 300 naira am good to go.

  4. Sabifok

    April 3, 2015 at 9:51 pm

    Great article. I am also a street foodie. No matter where I visit, I pride myself on seeking out street vendors, as the personal touch they give the food makes the food taste better. Yes there are hygiene issues, but have you ever gone behind the counters of some of the more established eateries? Even in Yankee, if you saw how the burgers and shakes were put together in the kitchen, you would throw up.

    For suya, years ago I used to like University of Suya in Apapa. That place had suya made out of most types of animals. I also tell people that some of the best Chinese I have ever had was at a street stall in Camden Market in Jand. It was a medley of fried rice, Singapore fired noodles, kung pao chicken, hoysin sauce, some spring rolls, Mongolian beef. It was glorious, I ordered and ate it on the go. I took it with me when I entered the Aldo store, to the store attendants irritation, but I nor send. I even ate it on the Tube Station platform. It was that good.

    In yankee, there was this Taco truck parked in a subdivision I used to drive through. Glorious Mexican food.

    When I was in Uni, the street vendors knew my name especially the akara sellers. I and my chick would order Agege bread featuring akara, sit in my car, play music, and wolf it down. We would then visit the zobo stand and get two sachets. Then home to make love. Buying street food with the one you love strengthens your bond

  5. Aproko

    April 3, 2015 at 10:21 pm

    Iya Eba in Lagos Island…her rice and stew and snail is not from this world. I’m sure I have been jazzed.. I also ate one Amala at IponrinMarket one early morning. God! Amala, gbegiri, ewedu, shaki and friends… Sigh… I still think about it till date…

  6. Nikki

    April 3, 2015 at 10:27 pm

    Cheers to a fellow foodie!!!! I completely agree with you that those in the west miss out on real suya. I’ve lived in the west and somewhat in the north, and no street food compares with Balangu and hot masa!!!! Balangu is grilled lamb barbecue, masa is a sort of pancake made with corn dough(my best guess). Now, the beauty of balangu is that you see the huge lamb part (may be the side or the thigh) being grilled, a mix of the juices and spices running through, while it’s being sliced and served. It is best consumed while it is hot…you will never be the same again!!!!

    • Nikki

      April 3, 2015 at 10:28 pm

      Balangu (barbecued lamb or ram)*

    • Dolly P

      April 4, 2015 at 1:09 pm

      Balangu make sense die!

    • q

      April 4, 2015 at 8:05 am

      nikky you killed it on the balungu & masa! chai! those abokis’ be killing me with that. the mai shais’ in the north proper r from a different world.there are some who fry all sorys in egg sauce and it is bloody cheap especially now buhari won election. just shout ‘sai buhari’ and you automatically become a mutum mina! save for the violence & discrimination, the north is the best place to live in Nigeria, forget lagos.

    • q

      April 4, 2015 at 9:02 pm

      on the flip side, for those who live in abuja and wont mind exploring food options, can we hook up? [email protected]

    • Heartless

      April 9, 2015 at 7:59 pm

      Masa is made from rice not corn flour, the best masa in the world is made in Minna, Niger State. You are welcome.

  7. tunmi

    April 3, 2015 at 11:49 pm

    I LOVE STREET FOOD. We lived in Mushin, so yeah we relied on street food. After waking up to fetch water, one of us would go buy bread from the bakery or the women who sold them. Warm bread straight out of the oven (I can still smell it) with butter/margarine and a cup of Ovaltine or Milo was the bestest.

    In the afternoon when we got back from school, I would have to get everyone’s lunch. I used to buy jollof rice and fried fish head from this one lady who used to kiri (walk around selling) and it was all roughly N20. If she wasn’t available, I would take containers from the house (4 in all for all of us) and the choices were amala with gbegiri and ewedu with assorted meat. The lines were something serious because the food was so good. Another option would be ewa agonyin and fried yam with plantain. And that would be our after school lunch till mommy got home from the office.

    And one time my mum bought us boli and she spread butter on it. The melted butter on the boli was all kinds of good. And then the snacks, gurundi, kokoro, dundun, yam and palm oil, goody goody, coconut cookie/chip, biscuit, yogurt, ube, corn and coconut, oranges with that special peeling the Hausa women did, shawarma, and of course the mighty Suya with garri. Gosh I miss street food.

    • Author Unknown

      April 4, 2015 at 2:23 am

      Onije ku je LOL

  8. mywifeisfiiiiiiine

    April 3, 2015 at 11:57 pm

    Chai, my Unilag days where spent at white house, how I miss the amala and ogufe with smoked fish, then down to surulere after visiting Lemo for those who know who lemo is, you had to go to designer rice or the amala joint at bank olemoh or visit amala shitta which was just a stones throw from Lemos smoke joint. O i forgot about Iya Ruki at adeniji adele her rice and pepper stew had no part 2, I waka for food for lagos o. Thank God for Wazobia here in Philly, Alhaja holding it down for us.

    • Fifi

      April 4, 2015 at 11:36 am

      Lol was craving this morning so i went to bank-olemoh just now from ikoyi, it was worth the trip, i love my iya eba ooo best cure for hang over after a friday nite out, i dont think anyone love boli and epa more than me and puff is my ultimate snack, at parties i only request puff puff no need for those nasty samosas and spring rolls

  9. Shopperoflife

    April 4, 2015 at 12:37 am

    Street food is the life. I once worked in Warri. No jollof rice compares to main market jollof rice with fried pork. .That was until l found a fly in my jollof rice. The love affair died dead. Fine dinning o, street dinning o any which one as d spirit directs.

  10. Author Unknown

    April 4, 2015 at 12:57 am

    Not sure if it qualifies as street food, but Ghana High on Lagos Island all day everyday. Been a while though.

  11. always happy

    April 4, 2015 at 2:39 am

    e ba mi gbe jesu soke… oba nla oba to da – May God bless all the street chefs who have been bringing us “correct grubs” since 1960. I celebrate una, una do well.

  12. Kunmi

    April 4, 2015 at 7:31 am

    Street food is the business. My mum never let us eat street food when we were younger claiming that our stomachs were too aje butter but she would eat the same food and claim that she grew up in Gbagi market so it can’t affect her *major side-eye, Mummy* But she kent stop us now. Shoutout to boys boys Bawuleshie

    On another note, there’s nothing more heartbreaking than travelling for a while and missing your favourite street food, only to come back and realise that it has changed/or you overhyped it in your mind.

  13. Rs

    April 4, 2015 at 7:59 am

    Street food is the biznayeeee

  14. BlueEyed

    April 4, 2015 at 8:10 am

    Nice write up! My mum and I are the champions of street food! My mum is a typical lagosian and everytime she’s back in Lagos, she utilizes her plethora of taste options. I also eat street food whenever I travel, my best street food experience were both in Rome, (those Italians put it down with no apology) and Istanbul (Turkish kebabs are the truth!). But my Naija street food experience has to top them all.

  15. AsMyself

    April 4, 2015 at 9:58 am

    Ghana High. Amala Shitta. Bank Olemoh rice. Ewa agoyin in Lagos

    Ogwaligho rice in Benin.

    Pepper rice, roasted chicken/fish and plantain with the sauce specially made from nchanwu, bush meat and plantain in Uyo…

    Suya…

    Endless possibilities oh.

  16. hmmmm

    April 4, 2015 at 11:11 am

    Talking about food .. bellapeeps ..please recommend a nice naija spot to eat in London. ..Thanks

    • ola

      April 4, 2015 at 4:29 pm

      Go to 805 on old Kent road

    • ik

      April 5, 2015 at 1:48 am

      1. 805 -Old kent road.
      2. ASO ROCK Dalston Kingsland RD. There is a branch at Holbon london too.
      3. Obalende Suya dalston kingland rd, down the rd towards tottenham.
      4. There is a Naija restaurant in peckham. Can’t remember the name but once you come out of peckham rye train station, turn right count 3 shops. lol

      I love food, can’ t you tell?

  17. tygorf

    April 4, 2015 at 11:26 am

    My siblings and I were forbidden by our dad from buying street food when we were younger. The man will be forming hygiene but will be sending me to buy him ewa agoyin from idowu-ese in Mile12 and d softest agege bread. *Yimu* me dey always buy my roasted bole, fried yam, akara and suya codedly. Now that am older, I go just comot face chop my tin in his presence and give him the “am old enough to make my decision” face.

    • Yinkz

      April 4, 2015 at 10:05 pm

      @tygorf you are the real deal if you ever ate It a Mele’s ewa agonyin from Idowu Ese Lane. I lived in Iyase till 2012 and we uses to trek there when she stopped hawking.

      Then there is Iya Sola with her sinful rice, beans, dodo, ponmo and eggs soaked in palmoil stew on Fasanya Street. I used to buy her food in nylon on my way to work and decant when i get to the office. Then all dose fried yam, dodo on the corner of Adedoyin and Fasanya…

      I miss Ketu sha…

    • Tosin

      April 6, 2015 at 9:27 am

      ‘decant’ – kai, you just killed me!

  18. Pipi

    April 4, 2015 at 2:18 pm

    God will bless you jare!

  19. Aye

    April 4, 2015 at 3:09 pm

    Street food was a taboo when I was a child, still is o. But now I enjoy with all my heart. A couple of food poisoning experiences have taught me to be cautious so I savour the delicious smells most of the time.

  20. Ibukun

    April 4, 2015 at 4:15 pm

    Funny how everyone here loves street food. I honestly do not& I’m not proud or forming . I was brought up not to eat out. I only eat street food when I absolutely have no choice.

  21. UcheM

    April 4, 2015 at 5:11 pm

    A foodie is a gourmet, or a person who has an ardent or refined interest in food and alcoholic beverages.A foodie seeks new food experiences as a hobby rather than simply eating out of convenience or hunger.- wiki a foodie is very different from an indiscriminate food monger . Nice article but the term must be used in appropriate terms

    • Tosin

      April 6, 2015 at 9:26 am

      shuoe!
      Please, we should define foodie. Not you, UcheMeidontknowwhattamtalkingabout

  22. An

    April 4, 2015 at 5:18 pm

    Now I just wanna come back home…

  23. Anonymous

    April 4, 2015 at 6:26 pm

    I only shop in Dubai

  24. dee

    April 4, 2015 at 9:19 pm

    shout-out to Olaiya canteen at shitta and designer rice at bank-olemoh cose surulere

    • ms.b

      April 4, 2015 at 10:13 pm

      Hmmm, olaiya is now expensive o. Not like before, almost on same level with them TFC now.

  25. Anonymous

    April 5, 2015 at 7:56 am

    This article brings a tear to my eye. my mum is the original foodie who cooked all manner of foods that she hated the thought of anyone in her family eating out. And she banned us from street food – and we didn’t even know how to get it if we wanted to. The irony of it was that my mum will buy said street food and eat it in our presence and when we asked for some, she will say not for children. Shuwo!

    anyway, as I haven’t lived as an adult in Lagos, I can’t really testify – I’ve always said I wanted to do a food tourism of Nigeria and I will one day as soon as Boko Haram, kidnappers and militants are removed. Can’t wait! And say what you want, Naija food (if consumed in right proportions) is super healthy

    • Tosin

      April 6, 2015 at 9:25 am

      ojoro mummy.

  26. Tosin

    April 6, 2015 at 9:24 am

    I love you.
    I took my mum to ‘street food’ yesterday. She said she liked it. Shout out to my realest Lebanese guys.
    I see some extrafabulous pastries on my street nowadays, but have never dared to eat them.
    I finally learned to eat asun. Leftover asun is great too. Leftover boli. Leftover anything almost. Leftover moinmoin ohmaigahd the best sandwich.
    I dine weekly at my realest amala joint. Yelz. Because when eating out, I figure amala is safest because of the ultra high temperatures.

  27. hmmm

    April 7, 2015 at 12:13 pm

    Thank you, I’ve been to 805 and aso rock. I actually went to bronze bar (canning town) that Saturday, will be writing a review soon.

  28. honeyposh

    April 8, 2015 at 11:11 am

    i grew up in surulere and all people there use to form not eating out……..my family was different,my dad was a true born lagosian and along the way my mum as initiated,kai we researched all manners of street food,a particular woman along irone avenue in aguda,kai her stew was favoured by God almighty himself,bank olemoh designer rice,shitta amala, white house,ewa agonyi and hot bread,our family house was in obalende and God did we eat suya?
    Ghana high jollof rice nko,the only thing i crave when i am down…lol. Now am old enough i look back and smile, i have trekked and trekked all in my quest for street food,nothing beats it o.
    let me get some bread and akara and top it with chilled coke………my day just got better

  29. peace

    April 27, 2015 at 4:26 pm

    Remember the amala ticket we ate as kids for lunch, sometimes we come from school to food in the house but we insist on eating ‘amala ticket. I think i ate the best amala then… These days, fine dining has its pecks but street food wins.
    Looks out for neatness though

  30. L.U

    May 16, 2015 at 9:02 pm

    Boli and roasted fish on the streets of Port Harcourt is divine. Especially the ones in town. It made my service year bearable.

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