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Michael Afenfia: Will the Real Bolé Please Stand Up

Michael Afenfia

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It wasn’t too long ago that Richard Quest of CNN started a firestorm over what country made the best jollof rice. I haven’t been to Senegal and I am yet to taste Ghanaian jollof rice, but something tells me Lai Mohammed, our Minister of Information was wrong when he called that battle in favour of Senegal. Nigerian Jollof rice has got to be the best anywhere in the world rice is on the menu. There is no contest.

Besides feeling it in my bones and from the many Owambes I have attended in Lagos and elsewhere, it feels like the patriotic thing to say.

Anyway, while that dust is yet to settle, it looks like another culinary war is raging, at least in my inner circle. I call it the bolé imbroglio.

For those of you who don’t know, bolé is that unripe, semi-ripe or ripe roasted plantain delicacy that started out as a roadside snack in the streets of certain Nigerian States, but has now crept into the stable categorisation of lovers of good and affordable nutrition.

So, this particular battle was triggered by my editor friend, Damola Olofinlua who by the way, has never tried the irresistible combination of bolé and roasted fish marinated in finger-licking spicy gravy that Bayelsa women make so well. Damola says to me, “if you must eat roasted plantain with anything, it has to be with groundnut.”

Nooooooooooooooo! That’s not even a combo I want to contemplate so I would not even get into that debate. I’ll save it for another day.

The real debate for today, the burning question for the moment is about supremacy – supremacy of the states. Let me just put it out there, in what city in Nigeria can the best bolé and fish combo be had? Port Harcourt or Yenagoa?

Well, I lived in Port Harcourt for a number of years, so yes, I can attest to the culinary skills of the great ‘roasters’ of bolé and fish in D-line.
In fact, there was a time when I couldn’t resist them and I would drive from Ada George Road to Igbo-uku Street, just to grab lunch. Yes, it even became an obsession, until I moved to Yenagoa a few years ago and discovered the woman that sold roasted plantain along Waterboard Road by Ovom. My first taste of Yenagoa bolé and fish was an epiphany. It changed everything I thought I knew about roasted plantain and peppered sauce.

Americans are known for burgers and hotdogs, Mexicans have their tacos and guacamoles, Japanese are famous for sushi and of curries, Chinese are legendary for spring rolls and tofu and Lebanese have shawamas and kebabs. I could go on and on, but I would stop here and just skip to the part where I say Nigeria would one day be famous for its jollof rice and bolé , and we’d all have Bayelsa to thank for it, at least for the last part.

Port Harcourt people dey try oh, I no go lie, but when it comes to bolé and fish, we Bayelsans, we’ve got this.

So, if you’re planning a trip to the Niger Delta, please include Yenagoa in your itinerary and please, don’t live without getting a taste of what we are famous for – bole and fish.
Until next time, stay #BayelsaProud.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime

A proud son of the Ijaw nation and lover of Nigeria, Michael Afenfia associates with everything good and exciting about Nigeria.His ongoing work, the Mechanics of Yenagoa, is published on his blog every fortnight. So far, he has authored three critically acclaimed novels and a number of nonfiction writing, including a biography. He is @MichaelAfenfia on social media and can be reached via [email protected]

19 Comments

  1. Enny Heart Heart

    December 8, 2017 at 3:06 pm

    Tiri gbosa for this writer. So on point! Please Ph people if you’re reading this, leave the too much garnishing from the bolè abeg. Can’t wait to go home for the weekend and branch that lady’s bolè joint mbok.

  2. Californiabawlar

    December 8, 2017 at 3:47 pm

    Bòlè – do-do (no pun intended) ?

  3. Nengi

    December 8, 2017 at 4:03 pm

    Luv that PH bole and fish mehn.
    Had to ask my sisters to bring it to me to Lagos all the way from PH (LOL)

  4. Miss_Flygerian

    December 8, 2017 at 5:12 pm

    Someone once told me that bole and fish actually originated from Bayelsa but was popularized by PH folks. Don’t know how true that is. I already live for PH bole and fish but I must visit Yenagoa to test out this theory.

  5. Eno

    December 8, 2017 at 6:25 pm

    I lived in PH for many years as well and the bole and fish from D-Line was the truth…oh my goodness! My dad was then transferred to Bayelsa and for the first time, I tasted Bole from Yenegoa. I can’t even begin to describe how good it was ( I am salivating right now). It truly was on another level. Kai! Those were the good old days. I have lived in Lagos as well and the bole there is as unappealing as it gets. I would rather buy banana and eat with my groundnut. I am so homesick now. My next trip to 9ja has to be through PH city if not for anything, for the bole.

  6. FasholasLover

    December 8, 2017 at 8:37 pm

    AAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaah Izon!

    • Ello Bae

      December 8, 2017 at 9:34 pm

      Ahhh!! FasholasLover so you are my cousin on my mother’s side? Tubara?

    • BlueEyed

      December 9, 2017 at 12:48 am

      My izon people dey here too?!!

    • Rahama

      December 11, 2017 at 3:44 pm

      Proudly Izon! So we’re plenty here sef! Haaa Izon!

  7. Rukky

    December 9, 2017 at 7:00 am

    In Gh we take roasted plaintain with groundnut, some take it with palm oil. My first time knowing u can take it with fish and sauce. Woow will love to try it someday in shaa Allah ?. Our diversity as humans makes us great.

  8. omomo

    December 9, 2017 at 3:10 pm

    wow…im izon too o….

  9. Delta geh

    December 9, 2017 at 4:40 pm

    My question is why has no one brought that PH bolé to Lagos? That person will make serious money ehn

    • omomo

      December 9, 2017 at 10:36 pm

      lydia”s place in victoria island serves PH Bole..but people can go to ph understudy it and bring it back

  10. Olorunsogo

    December 11, 2017 at 1:12 pm

    Had the privilege of being in bayelsa a few weeks back…. asides the memories of the hopsitable people, it’s also the Bole and fish that i can’t seem to get over. Can’t wait to come back for some more.

  11. Rahama

    December 11, 2017 at 3:49 pm

    I think the real debate shoulda be bole and fish vs bole and fish (skumbia fish to be precise). Eating bole with groundnut is a travesty! It’s plain wrong! Haba Lagos people. See ehn once you eat Port Harcourt/Bayelsa style bole and fish you will fight the next bole and groundnut seller you see on the street. I kid you not! Lets not forget to give a shout out to the Elekahia bole spot too o. Damn all this food talk is making me hungry!

    • El John

      December 11, 2017 at 10:36 pm

      Loved this comment once, I want to thumb another likeness for it. That combination – Bolè and Epà (groundnut) is just unappealing. How does one combine two solid/dry snacks…??

      I’ve had a taste of both worlds – PH and BY Bolè. I think they’re many vendors in PH who can’t handle the gravy/sauce well enough when compared to the folks in BY. So, for me, BY wins here.

      Oh, I’d also like to point out Bolè and Chicken with Spicy scent leaves sauce. Those in Uyo or Calabar can attest to this. Nice one Mikey 🙂

  12. D. Olofinlua

    December 12, 2017 at 4:56 pm

    The comments here have got me really curious. To quench that thirst, I should be in Bayelsa this weekend. Some day, I will try the PH one too – maybe beginning with its Lagos version. I just hope I will not detest my Lagos Bole and epa because of the experience as someone predicted sha.

  13. Promise Hanson

    April 13, 2018 at 5:01 pm

    The problem with Port Harcourt Bole and Fish is that indigenous women no longer roast. It has being run by non-indigenous people, mostly Igbos, who knows nothing about roasting fish or making the pepper sauce. They could not even spend time to understudy the art of roasting bole and Fish properly. They all rushed into into it because of the money. I don’t blame them though. They must make a living.

    In my area, Town, we used to have some Okrika women at Plaza, one Nembe woman at Morehouse, some Izon and Kalabari women I can’t remember where.

    Bole and Fish is a traditional dish of the Riverine communities, just like Onunu, Native Soup, Epiti, etc. You can’t pinpoint where it originated from, but we just know they originated from the Riverine communities, with our love for fish and anything from the sea. Does anybody still sell Epiti in Port Harcourt?

    I still remember the last Fish and plantain my late uncle roasted for me when I traveled home for holiday as a child in secondary school. He just returned from fishing that day and was surprised to see me. Finger licking awesomeness. Today I roast it myself in Lagos, and I bet you I do it better than most of those women.

  14. Ambros Esumai

    November 13, 2018 at 8:02 am

    Yeah no doubt about PH D-line bole going well, but Bayelsa water board lady’s Bole is the bado, talking from so much taste of it, because its location is just opposite my office, the magnificent EDUCATION HOUSE built by Governor Henry Seriake Dickson, Having a taste of it everyday, makes my day and work more interesting.

    Sometimes the excitement of knowing I will eat bole at work makes me fall in love with my everyday work activities.

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