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Exploring Street Food in Lagos w/ Anjola Awosika

When my grandmother was alive, she used to bring back locally made snacks from her travels to neighbouring towns. She would bring back all sorts - coconut candy, eja yoyo, danbunama, etc. Recently, I was at a food fair and I saw a vendor selling a bunch of these snacks that my grandmother used to bring back and it felt like I was thrust into a time capsule.


I tweeted about the snacks and ended up planning a food tour trip with Anjola Awosika. He is a talented, self-taught food and drinks photographer who has a passion for telling stories about African culture through food. Once the logistics were planned out, we made our way to the busy Isale Eko market to see what we could find.

We decided on Isale Eko because it is a busy market place and it's the informal home of street food in Lagos.


Here's what we found:


Eja yoyo

We found a lady who was selling mountains of Eja yoyo and crayfish. Eja yoyo are tiny fish, typically smelt or anchovies. They are de-gutted, washed and patted dry. Then, rolled in a mixture of flour and seasonings and then deep fried in vegetable oil till they turn golden brown. They are delightfully tasty and have a fun crunchy texture. You literally can't stop eating them.

The lady who was selling them was eager to tell us how they are prepared and where they get the fish, but she expressed some disappointment because there wouldn't be the annual fishing festival this year due to the pandemic. They look forward to the festival because it attracts lots of people to the area.


Fried crayfish

These are prepared in similar fashion as the Eja yoyo and are just as delicious. They are deep fried and can be eaten whole for an immaculate crunch! They turn bright red/orange because the cooking process destroys certain proteins and this causes the redness.


Boli and Epa

Boli and Epa is a pretty common street food combination. Boli is plantains roasted over an open fire and Epa is roasted peanuts. The plantains are sweet and very filling, while the peanuts give a salty balance and a mild crunch. The combination makes for a pretty filling street snack that is common across Nigeria.

The plantains we found weren't the ripest because it wasn't their peak season, I usually prefer them softer and sweeter.


Spring rolls

These are another deep fried snack that are made by rolling vegetables or meat in sheets of flour and deep fried until the outside is golden brown and crunchy. They are a delicacy borrowed from Asian cuisine and have become a common chop in Nigeria's "small chops".

The ones we found were more flour than anything else, so we didn't really enjoy those. However they look great in photographs.


Puff puff

These are deep fried balls of dough that are best eaten hot. They have a sweet taste and with a soft and fluffy mouth-feel. Some people add pepper to the dough mix and this gives them a bit of heat, a concept I'm not sure I like yet. They make great snacks and I know a woman who can be kidnapped with them.


Indomie and egg

Our very own palliative! Standard indomie noodles, cooked with some fresh onions and peppers and topped with crispy fried eggs. This is the only thing we didn't eat, our bravery couldn't hack this one, but indomie and egg requires effort to taste bad so I'm sure this was alright.


Oranges

The last thing we found were oranges. Different fruit can be found on the streets depending on the season. These were local oranges and they were sweet and juicy. The vendor swiftly peeled and cut them in half and that was a good dose of vitamin C in it's own biodegradable pack.


Street food is very cheap, so I didn't bother putting prices here. There are still other foods that we couldn't find that I would like to explore, so leave a comment if you want a sequel!


Check out Anjola's instagram HERE and don't forget to share!

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