I spent a little over a week in the southern city of Port Harcourt. My friend who I stayed with had warned us before-hand that he was going to fling us straight into Port Harcourt living, particularly with the food. Since we were there for quite a few days, we ate a number of things, but some of them stood out way more than others.
Bole and Fish
Bole is the go-to meal when you are in Port Harcourt. You can find it on most streets and the pricing ranges based on quality, hygiene, etc, so there are loads of options. The meal is made up of roasted plantains, yam and fish (typically mackerel), topped with a palm oil based pepper sauce, fresh onions, ugba and shredded utazi leaves.
The sweet plantains and yams are used to scoop up the delicious sauce that pools at the bottom of the foil for mouth-fulls of goodness. The mackerel is soft and nicely seasoned and delicately flakes off with zero effort. The sharp bitterness from the utazi leaves and the mushroom like texture from the ugba makes the food profile very dynamic and interesting. The meal is quite filling and high energy, perfect for the boisterous city.
This is a traditional soup made with a medley of seafood like periwinkles, crabs, prawns, etc. It is as rich as it is delicious and if you are a seafood enthusiast like myself, you might even have dreams about it.
We ordered this at Chef Edwards Food house and it feeds 2-3 people. You can pair it with your 'swallow' of choice, eba, pounded yam or wheat. The soup is very rich and when made with fresh seafood ingredients, it is next level. The prawns were sizeable and you could taste that they were freshly caught. The savoury juices from the soup splash into your mouth as you crunch through the crab legs and the periwinkles dance like a concert in your honour. A real gift from the people of Port Harcourt.
Onunu is made from a mixture of very ripe plantain, boiled yam and palm oil. These ingredients are pounded together to create a dense orange mound. It can be eaten with any stew or sauce you like, we had ours with croaker pepper soup.
Onunu is very filling and very energy dense. It is quite sweet and pairing it with the savoury pepper soup, was delicious. The croaker was fresh and the cook didn't hold back on the spice. Next time I have this, I would like to eat it with some fresh vegetable soup or a soup with more 'body'.
Grilled catfish with Sweet Potato
This is sold all over Nigeria but is especially lovely in Port Harcourt. The catfish is cleaned and slow roasted in a pepper sauce with sweet potato and fresh onions. We ordered this from 'Grenhams' and it cost N3,500.
The catfish is huge, longer than an adult forearm and can be a bit intimidating, but not to me. The foil is opened up and the steam and aroma breaks free, luring you in to destroy whatever diet you're on. The fish is soft and gently flakes off the bones. The gelatinous skin can be peeled off the foil and have the most flavour; my best part.
Port Harcourt shawarma's are different, they are made with love. Living in Lagos, I had gotten used to the tiny, mayo-packed ones and was pleasantly surprised. They are sold everywhere but most of them cost around N1,000.
The shawarmas here have a lot more girth and it’s not from the cabbage. They are densely packed with whatever meat you want and are a meal and a half. Flavour wise, I didn’t notice anything too different from the typical mayo based flavour; tasty nonetheless.
Lunch at The Boys Company
One hot afternoon, my friend took us to Boys Company to have lunch by the pool. He had warned us that the portions they serve here could easily incapacitate you for the day, so between us 3, we decided to split a side of peppered wings, a club sandwich and some egg fried rice.
Peppered wings, our starter were hot, spicy, meaty and generously slathered in the sauce. The wings were crispy on the outside, perfectly cooked on the inside and slid off the bone with little to no effort. We each had two juicy wings and I began to wonder how we were going to eat the rest of the food.
The Club Sandwich came soon after that and it was grand as well. Nicely toasted bread slices escorted a party of eggs, fresh greens, some cheese and shredded chicken. A lot of sandwich people overlook the bread, but its the most important - well toasted bread gives has great texture and makes every bite interesting. We all agreed that it was an amazing sandwich and possibly one of the best I had ever had.
The fries were fresh, hot and dusted with a bit of seasoning and had been nicely deep fried.
Egg Fried rice and Roasted Chicken
By now, I wasn't sure if I had enough room left for anything else, but I had to put my body on the line to sample the rice and chicken. The egg fried rice was very rich and cooked perfectly with no clumps. The chicken breasts were slow roasted and dripping in juices. Chicken breast can end up being too dry if overcooked, but this was mouth-watering. Fresh, crispy coleslaw beckoned to me to partake, but I could only indulge one or two forkfuls.
If you are ever in Port Harcourt, you should definitely visit/order food from any of the places I have mentioned in this post. As I mentioned before, it is a lively and energetic city, so you need to eat well for the day to day activities. I would love to experience more local delicacies when next I go back but I am thankful for all I was able to try within the short time. South south food is amazing!
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