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My Naija foodie experience

Flavours of Africa change drastically with region, our writer explores what Lagos has to offer

Travel enthusiasts and foodies say there is no better way to understand a culture than through the spoon.  I was in Lagos, Victoria Island to be precise, for a few days and every meal for me had to be Nigerian inspired. I’m but a few days back in Nairobi and I already miss the authentically African food available in Lagos. 

I wasn’t about to dine on French fries and burgers while there. I also know the rule of thumb is to never order meals with complicated names, but I did the complete opposite. In fact, the harder the name was, the more curious I got.  I was with an adventurous friend, so this was a plus and we went way out of our comfort zone.

If I had enough space on these pages I would give you my whole foodie experience. Unfortunately, I will have to limit this to the tits and bits of my trip. Best of all was the eating experience and I will share three of my favourite meals in Nigeria. The first day during lunch hour I had pounded yam and egusi soup in goat.

The yam is one of the more popular Nigerian fufu recipes and is made from boiled and then pounded white yam.  Egusi is a kind of soup thickened with ground melon seeds. It also has oil and water added and typically contains leafy vegetables. It can come with chicken, beef or just as it is, but I opted for goat meat.

I loved the difference in flavour the egusi gave to the goat meat. In Nigeria, they cook everything with pepper, so I had to get right in tune.  Loved the texture, the richness in flavour and the peppery finish.

A plate of jollof rice with chicken in egusi. Photo/FAITH KYOMOUKAMA

The pounded yam is like ugali, only softer and according to my tongue more flavourful. They brought knives and a fork, but a meal like this is best enjoyed with bare hands.

Luckily I was with my free-spirited travel buddy so I had nothing to worry about, shy for who?  (I wish I could say it in Swahili)

Next best meal was Jollof rice served with Egusi Chicken. Jollof is like fried rice, but with an easy base and delightfully flavourful. They dice their chicken so it easy to chew through the egusi.  I could have easily had this every day for lunch. The quantity and quality are at par and trust me, they don’t play with the portions, high-class restaurant or not.

Breakfast, for example, was a whole meal. And no, this was not brunching. It was just a normal early-morning breakfast. You would find a choice of pounded yam, fish garri and other filling items on the menu.

Then there was the yam pottage. Yam pottage basically consists of mashed sweet potatoes, beans, dried fish and spices. I had one with a tomato base. This variation balances the nuttiness of brown beans with the natural sweetness of yam, and the palm oil adds a rich smoky taste to it.

The chef, who is from the Yoruba tribe, told me that it is known as asaro in his language. Every time I was in this city I had a healthy hefty African meal. Junk food was a rumour.

 For the most part I enjoyed the food culture in Nigeria. In fact, if I could, I would just travel to Nigeria to explore the food culture specifically I’d be a happy woman. This would of course take a bit of time as there are over 300 tribes in Nigeria. You can only imagine how diverse their food culture is. Maybe next time I’ll get to tick off a few more indigenous items off the menu.

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