The most important tip I can give you on Nigeria local food, and the only one that will make you elevate from being a tourist to becoming a real traveler immersed in the local culture, is “Stay away from McDonalds“. When visiting Nigeria, there is awesome local food to try. Head to the local eateries too, and go where the locals go. For me, the food, wine and and even the water is part of the travel experience.
What to Eat in
There are many types of traditional cuisine to enjoy. For example: afang soup, okra soup, owo soup and starch in the Niger Delta, plantain (fried, boiled, roasted), pepper soup, amala, eba, efo, pounded yam (iyan – Yoruba for “pounded yam” pronounce ” ee-yarn” ), jollof rice, ground nut soup, ogbono soup, isi ewu (goat’s head stew), egusi soup, suya (meat on a kebab rolled in spiced and cooked over a fire grill), moin moin, ewedu, gbegiri soup (beans soup), edikangikong, ground-rice, puff-puff (fried doughnut), chin chin, ikokore, owerri soup (ofe owerri), which is the most expensive African soup in Nigeria.
Not to forget 404 pepper soup – it will make you act like “Oliver Twist.” You must realise that 404 means “dog meat.” and yes, it can only be found in certain parts of the country because in the west it is seen a barbaric. All the foods above vary greatly in their taste, spice and flavour. Be warned, it is not uncommon to have a lot of pepper in soups (Nigerian pepper can be very hot!) For the less adventurous traveler, there are loads of “foreign” restaurants in Lagos, e.g.
Sky Bar and the grill at Eco Hotel, Churasco’s, Lagoon and Fusion all three next to each other (all-you-can-eat Brazilian grill, Indian and Sushi respectively) with a nice view of the lagoon, Piccolo Mondo, Manuella’s Residence (great Italian Pizza from Manuella the Italian lady), Bungalo (close to Coschari’s BMW in VI) – good sports bar, grill and Sushi, great Sunday buffet at Radisson Blu. Chocolate Royal is a nice family restaurant with excellent ice cream selection (including ice cream cakes) and pastries in VI. Inside Chocolate Royal is an Oriental restaurant called Métisse. Bottles in VI is a grill and Mexican restaurant. And there are loads more flavours from every corner of the world. Just Google and ask taxi to take you there. Outside Lagos and to a lesser extent Abuja, Western food will tend to disappear, with “Jollof Rice and friend chicken” being a “safe” option if you are not adventurous.
Foreign restaurants are expensive and you can prepare for a bill of at least $50 to $75 or even $100 per head for main course, ice cream and one drink per person. If this is too much, try the Syrian Club in Ikoyi (turn North – away from the water) at the Mobil filling station in Awolowo Road (the night club street) in Ikoyi, continue a few blocks and on your left you will see the Syrian mosque, turn in the gate just after the mosque and the Syrian Club will be on your right on the inside of the premises with nice Lebanese/Syrian flair at very affordable (for Lagos) prices in an outdoor setting. If you are a new expat living in Lagos, do yourself a favour and acquaint yourself early on with the following more expensive, foreign owned, but well worth-it, smaller specialist shops in VI selling all the delicacies and nice imported red meats that foreigners long for in and that Shoprite, Park and Shop and Goodie’s (the main supermarkets) may not stock: 1.
Deli’s on Akin Adesola (the main road leading to Bar Beach), 2. L’Epicérie across the road from Mega Plaza and 3. La Pointe on Kofo Abayomi Street (close to the Brazilian Embassy/Consulate) and not easy to spot. Knowing these places will significantly improve your coping ability in the first couple of months.
What to Drink in Nigeria
Nigeria is one of the places where Guinness is brewed outside of Ireland. And they do it pretty well, although it’s not the same product. The Guinness brand (with logo and copyrights where they should be) is also used to brew both an alcohol-free malt version of the black stuff, and an extra strong (about 7.5%) version of Guinness in Kenya (in the case of the latter) and Tanzania (in the case of the former). Beer is actually big business in Nigeria, although the move toward evangelism and islamic law is making its mark.
Lagos is relatively unaffected due to its cosmopolitan nature. Heineken, Star, Harp, Gulder and other international beers are available. Malt beverages (non alcoholic) are very common in Nigeria. The other cheap drink of choice is gin, which is locally made. Some locals will swear to it making their step uncle’s dog blind, though, so be careful. Never drink the water sold in plastic bags, except they have a NAFDAC registration number on them. It probably hasn’t been boiled, and may carry some nasty diseases.
The bottled water and other soft drinks are safe. Other drinks to consider include: palm wine, wine, zobo (red soft drink, is a tea of dried roselle flowers), kunun, kai kai (also called ogogoro). The northern states have implemented Sharia (Islamic) law, which means that alcohol is prohibited. Ironically, the only places where you can drink a beer in these states are the police staff bars and the army barracks, because these are institutions under federal law. Beer is available in Kano, in restaurants managed by foreign or Christian people, Chinese restaurants, and/or French cafes. For a real night out, go to the Sabongari area of the old town.
Plenty of bars around that stay open till very late. Many do decent food as well. Sabongari is also the place to buy alcoholic drinks and there are plenty stores open late into the night. Some hotels in Kano are “dry”, however in Tahir Guest Palace the staff will be quite happy to buy you a few bottles of beer for you in your room (all rooms have large fridges).
Other local foods, or drinks that you recommend? Please add and comment.