Street foods are popular in most cosmopolitan metropolis. Lagos, the commercial nerve center of Nigeria West Africa, is no exception. Unlike food trucks that exist on the streets of New York City, the roadside food vendors in Lagos operate from makeshift facilities ranging from an open charcoal grill on a small bench or table or a wheelbarrow full of fruits and vegetables to umbrella facilities tucked either directly on the street or on a sidewalk with sizzling grilled meats, vegetables or pastries sending their aroma all over the place.
Most often, these makeshift facilities obstruct not only pedestrian traffic but also vehicular traffic and contribute to some of the notorious traffic problems of Lagos. Street trading is very popular in Lagos. It is said that you could actually buy ‘anything’ you want in traffic or on the streets in Lagos.
These foods however fill a niche in the sense that street foods are cheaper than restaurant foods. They are fast, available on the go, and often affordable. You can make a choice of the size or portion of the food that you want. Restaurants are usually far away from most road traffic or offices and could be time consuming to order and sit down for a prepared meal. Street foods are usually on ‘the go’ and consumed as you walk away or in the car ensnared in traffic!
There is hygiene issue with these foods. They may be covered but most are open to the elements allowing dust, splashed mud and water particularly during the rains, flies and insects to settle on the foods. People touch them to find what they need thereby transferring germs from their hands to the food. Vendors tend to use their bare hands to receive the cash and handle the food simultaneously which forms a real potential for germ transfer. The surroundings are usually dirty.
It is a brisk business and some of the vendors swear about their ‘substantial’ income from these businesses. There is very little or no overhead. They generally transfer their makeshift facilities back to their homes or a nearby storage at the end of the day only to bring them back the following day. Some hawk their wares on their heads and go from store to store to ply their foods. They may carry a small stool allowing them some comfort as they move from station to station. I understand that there is some harassment by local law enforcement and health officials.
Foods sold this way include but not limited to fruits and vegetables such as apples, grapes, cucumber, tomatoes, carrots, Agbalumo (African star apples), bananas, Ube (African or bush pear), Kola Nuts, bitter kola etc, fried foods such as Akara and Dodo, pastries or dessert foods such as the famous ‘puff puff’, donuts or doughnuts, meat and fish pies, fish, eja kika, shawarma, hotdogs or sausages, grilled foods on local grills such as chicken, Bole or roasted plantains, roasted corn or maize, yam, sweet potatoes, Ube (African or bush pear), suya (grilled meat on stick or kebab), fully cooked rice and beans with stew and Ewa Agoyin or local brown beans with stew. These foods are nutritious with careful selections but be suspicious of the hygiene!
I have chosen to present a few of these street foods so that you can have an idea of what goes on, on the streets of Lagos. Enjoy!