For all of its many faults, here’s the good thing about Lagos traffic: You could never go hungry. In fact, you’ll be so spoiled for choice, you might as well be at some sort of street food restaurant – gentrifiers please don’t get any ideas.
When it comes to Lagos traffic and food, there are two situations you are likely to find yourself in. The first is a short burst of traffic usually caused by a traffic light. In this case, you are most likely to get the first thing you lay your eyes on if you are feeling peckish. The second is the kind of traffic you sit in for hours, the kind you sleep and wake up in, the kind you strip naked, lay a hand on your left breast and swear for Sanwo-Olu when you finally get home, five hours after leaving your destination for what should have been a 30-minute commute. In this situation, you have the luxury of time to select from all the fine pickings of street food Lagos traffic has to offer.
I found myself in this situation last week and that’s when I decided to rank Lagos traffic food from the best money can buy to the worst. I ranked them in terms of taste, accessibility and convenience.
Gala and La Casera
Nothing works better for an empty stomach in traffic than Gala and La Casera. Also, nothing goes better together than these two. They are like bread and butter or Amala and Ewedu. Gala and La Casera were made for each other and it’s beyond me how over the years, both companies have never come together to create a joint marketing campaign. I know Gala isn’t what it used to be in it’s prime, but if you buy the one which costs 100 Naira, it comes a little close.
The only problem with Pure Bliss is you can’t stop at one and that’s never a good thing. Here’s how it starts. You roll your window down to buy two with 1,000 naira note and the hawker gives you 800 naira change. 30 minutes later you’ve moved just 1 km, and you’ve eaten both packs of Pure Bliss. You decide to just use the 200 naira change you got before to buy 2 more. Next, you use the remaining 100 naira to buy what you swear is going to be your last one. Except it’s not. At this point, you’ve had 5 packs of Pure Bliss and you are thirsty, so you use the 500 naira to buy a bottle or two of water. Now you have two, 200 hundred naira notes. So you buy another two and then another two.
If you sit in traffic long enough, this vicious cycle continues with the next 1000 naira note in your wallet, and the next, and the next. Before you know it you are home at 3 am wondering why you feel sick and how in the world you consumed a carton of Pure Bliss.
You know what they say about an apple a day keeping the doctor away? I only remember it in Lagos traffic. Which is convenient because, although sitting in traffic for so many hours might be slowly killing me, I at least remember to eat healthy. If you think about it, one cancels out the other and I’m going to end up living till the age the good Lord intends. So if you don’t want Lagos traffic to kill you, buy your apple a day. My favourite fruits to buy are these packs of grapes because they are priced cheapest on the streets.
You know how popcorn hits different when you are watching a really good movie? The same thing goes for how its potential in traffic. If there’s nothing interesting to look at, nothing to do, nothing interesting playing on the radio, then popcorn just doesn’t make for great traffic food. On the other hand, if you’ve just witnessed a 1998 Corolla ram into a 2018 Benz and take its fender off, that will be the perfect time to buy popcorn in traffic.
If you are willing to look beyond the fact that we are essentially sold half a bag of air and half a bag of peanuts with every pack, Burger makes for quite a tasty traffic snack. Given the fact that it still dominates the streets, I’m willing to bet that we are all overlooking this minor inconvenience.
With the hundred and one brands that seem to come out every minute, buying plantain chips in Lagos is always a gamble. You might find a great brand today and they’ll be nowhere to be seen the next time you are stuck in traffic. While we are on the topic, your safest bet when it comes to plantain chips in Lagos traffic is ‘Red Oak’’, the one in the red pack specifically. Consuming enough plantain chips to fill you up if you are hungry also means consuming enough water to have you looking for a bathroom in five minutes. Which is not a situation you want to be in, in Lagos traffic. 0/10 won’t recommend.
Groundnut, Cashew Nut & Walnuts
Both of these suffer the same fate as plantain chips. They are unable to make a dent in your stomach and they are guaranteed to make you gulp down water by the gallon. These are snacks meant only for 20-30 minute bursts of traffic and nothing more.
Buns, Puff Puff and Egg Rolls
All of these are elite street foods in their own right, but the reason they rank so low on this list is that it’s impossible for them to bang when they are cold. And while in some rare instances you might be lucky enough to catch the hawkers just as they hit the streets with a fresh batch straight off the fire, the odds of that happening is slim. Also if you buy an egg roll in Lagos traffic you deserve whatever comes to you as a result of your recklessness.