Thursday, April 11, 2013

My nududu (food + drink) delight in Lagos, Nigeria

I was in Lagos, Nigeria for the fourth time this week. In fact, the trip was so short, I am not sure I got the chance to introduce myself as Ayooluwaato Eze to anyone. Now, that dey make me kolo. Because I have so much to say, this is not the blog post in Pidgin. That thing no go be easy. But I go do. I baby jetted into to Lagos Tuesday evening and commotted for there Thursday morning. Let's take that again. I don land for Lagos Toosday evening jor wey I reton to Accra Torsday morning. Let me tease Ayooluwaato Eze's people a bit. Friendly banter between Ghana and Nigeria. Anyway, on to the stories.

Actually, some immigration or customs guy at the Murtala Mohammed airport thought I was Nigerian so didn't ask me to show my vaccination card while he asked a friend and "my Oga at the top". I was not in a mood to pull the Ayooluwaato card cos I was in a hurry to catch what was left of the Champions League games and my jovial nature doesn't rub off Naija aggression well some times. It's surprising how inefficient we Africans sometimes get things done. In fact, I know we need jobs for people but do we really need "jobs for the people" at the expense of efficiency, lean "mean machine" development and . The ride to the hotel in Victoria Island from the airport made me wonder "where is all the "lights-off" we hear about Naija? Lagos doesn't have load shedding but many generators so it's tough to really see what irrational power supply looks like in many sections of Lagos.
Because I am such a foodian, I love to eat. But especially, I like to indulge in local food. So my friend Eki welcomed me properly to Las Gidi with some suya at Glover Court (which had been recommended by my friend Shirley on Facebook). I had beef, kidney meat, gizzard and pork (tozo). The guest house we settled on didn't have Chapman, a local favorite, which was disappointing. But it was understandable cos when we entered the restaurant, the employees were sleeping (literally!) though they said they were open for business. Sounds like Africa's story too in many cases o! Africa, we for learn (coincidentally, am listening to this song sang by Rocky Dawuni).

I had an interesting lunch on Wednesday. Yea, sadly, I didn't get pounded yam, eba, gala, kilishi or some proper Nigerian food. Neither did I get what I would have really wanted - waakye. What? I couldn't get waakye in Lagos? Why, Ghanaians don't live here? I wanted to have a #WaakyeWednesday in Las Gidi. Gidigidi. I 'settled' for rice and chicken wings. The rice was that popular big-grain Uncle Ben type rice that is synonymous with Nigerians. This sparked debates with the following Q and A. "why do Nigerians eat this kind of rice while Ghanaians eat this other kind?" Nigerians like this kind and it is more "filling'. "Which one is more popular around the world?" From perspective, whichever rice you have grown up eating more. But apparently, Uncle Ben type rice is more popular worldwide than Jasmine type rice. "Do we grow different types of rice?" Maybe, but we couldn't really tell. Why? "Do we both import unhealthy amounts of rice and choose differently?" Because, we don't know what we grow because there is so much imported rice on the market, some of which carry local names. And yes, we choose differently.
I went to Bottles in Ikoyi to meet with a friend's sister and also watch the Barcelona game. Because Bottles is such a great name for a bar which serves bottles and their margaritas are to die for and their chicken wings would make you fly like Super Eagles, the whole damn place was reserved. We couldn't find a place for the 3 of us to sit. "You can make reservations for tomorrow", the waitress said. "Sorry, I don't know when I am coming back to Lagos, you've lost me for now". If you got to a restaurant and 80% of tables were empty but were told you can't get a table because they are all reserved for a certain time that was 20 minutes away, would you consider coming back the next day? Okay.

We ended up at Terra Kulture in Ikoyi where I asked the waiter this question "Please recommend a wholly Nigerian drink for me that is not Chapman". As a MIghTy African, at African places at home or abroad, I almost always order a drink that is "African", or has an African name unless none exist. Supporting our own. I do the same with food most of the time too. I ended up getting palm wine and a mix of fruit juices called Ololufe. Yeap, African named drink on the menu. It was as sweet as that Wande Coal song too. If someone asked me if I loved the drink, I will be singing "I do, I do". I then run into 2 friends from Boston who were now living in Lagos. Yes o! The MIghTy African knows many many people.

Later that night, I got some more suya. This time, I had beef, kidney meat, gizzard, pork, saki (pronounced shaki) which is cow stomach and a little bit of masa (rice pudding). I asked the Glover Court Oga to give me some masa to taste cos I wanted to test it before deciding to buy some. I wasn't sure then why it was so difficult for him to cut a little piece for me to try. But yeah, I can't do that at a Thai restaurant but because the masa was right in front of me, I thought I get it from a night suya stand. The things we take for granted. He only gave me some to taste after my friend Loveth had convinced him in Hausa (or some other language) and I offered to pay 50 Naira for a small piece of rice pudding (that's like 23.4 cents thereabout). But then again, like my friend Onche said, could you go to into a Burger King and ask to sample a burger because you've not had that burger before? See, what we try to get away with as Africans? Hehe.
Loveth asked me about why we didn't have Suya in Ghana. "Because we have khebabs?" Suya's wikipedia page says in Ghana, suya is called "chichinga". Not quite, but it's a better answer than I would have given. It would be nice to have a Ghanaian version of Chapman and have many more Ghanaian restaurants serve palm wine. Nigeria's aggression has ensured they sell 'palm wine' more than we do. The Francophone Africans have also given us 'Bissap' which has been packaged as an expensive drink in restaurants when its Ghanaian cousin 'sobolo' is sold much more cheaply on the streets. We can do the same with ..... erm .... asana? We've done it with coconut water. We can do more. Let's create some nududu delight which pays even more. In layman's terms, let's package local drinks and food for (domestic) tourism purposes. Let's not wait for my Oga at the top

PS: Nududu is food in Ewe, Nududu Delight is an online project bringing you the best of Ghanaian and African food and drinks, etc. See Twitter, and Facebook.
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