Naija soul food (better described as street cuisine) is the backbone of the Nigerian workforce…the unsung delicacy whose ghetto-like location has had middle-class workers turn up their noses but whose aroma is quick to seduce them. Many have driven past these unorthodox food stands oblivious of the singular umbrella stand, mini cauldron of
burning boiling hot oil and a plastic table embellished with mouth-watering oily breakfast options.
A popular breakfast choice on the Marina outback in Lagos is the Risky burger – ‘burger’ because it comes with fried bean cake (popularly known as ‘Akara’) stuffed in Agege bread (Nigeria’s cheeeeeeeeeeapest loaf), and ‘Risky’ because you just might run the risk of…well…getting the runs (to be expected if the beans was over-fermented…in a fairly hygienic basin). A less risky choice would be the Highway fries – a supposedly cool name for old-fashioned fried yam slices with a measly dollop of the seller’s special anti-aging red sauce (not because it reverses the aging process but I suspect that same bucket of stew has been reused for days and the appearance hasn’t changed one bit!). And if you just want to ‘maintain’ then you can’t go wrong with the fried plantain (hold the sauce!).
Lunchtime would never be the same in Nigeria if it wasn’t for the serenading of the big mammas (complete with ethnic headgear and waist-high wrappers) whose mini ‘food courts’ have been cleverly coined as ‘Mama-put’ joints. The short personal illustration could explain this point better:
- Hungry me: Mama, good afternoon.
- Mama-put: Good afternoon. Wetin you won chop? (What would you like to eat?)
- Hungry me: Give me hundred Naira rice
- Mama-put: *Serves the steaming rice on a plate and waits for further instructions*
- Hungry me: Put plantain…like fifty Naira…put vegetable.
- Mama-put: Meat nko? (what about meat?)
- Hungry me: Eh…one beef…and mama, put one por-moh (sauteed cow foot) and one shaki (sauteed ram intestine)
Tourists can be forgiven for misunderstanding the lingo of love in these Mama-put spots (and getting downright offended by it):
- Tourist: I don’t know what to have
- Mama-put: You like to swallow? (This seemingly sexual connotation is simply referring to a choice of vegetable soups served with either Eba, Pounded (or Poundo) yam, Wheat, Semovita or Fufu).
It’s also the taboo foods in the office that Nigerian office workers love to eat; like the Boli (roasted plantain) and roasted corn – both looked down upon as ‘unposh’ for office establishments. Some diehards still manage to get away with eating these ‘forbidden’ snacks in the office since the aromas are relatively mild. If you ever come across a severely oiled rumpled up newspaper you can be sure Akara/Highway Fries/Boli/Roasted Corn was at the crime scene. Feeling hungry now? ‘Make una chop bele-ful’ (eat to your fill). Written by a self-confessed Naija soul food junkie.
Sources: Google images