I’ve been in Lagos for just over a month now and it has been quite an eye-opener. From the culture and weather to the food. There is so much to tell about this vibrant, energetic city, but let me begin with some of the things I have noticed in terms of food.
As some of you might not know, Lagos is the largest city in Africa, with a population of over 15 million inhabitants. With such a dense population, housing and infrastructure is high up on the list of things that require attention from the government, farming and creating a more sustainable living, not so much, in my opinion. There really is limited space for planting and growing your own vegetables. For this reason, fresh produce and meat travel quite some distance to reach the shelves of supermarkets. This contributes greatly to the food prices.
Fruit & Vegetables
A lot of fruit tastes differently and also look slightly different to what we are used to in South Africa. These include mangoes and pineapples. I have not seen locally produced baby marrow. They are all grown until they reach a bigger size. Grapes, cocktail tomatoes, rocket, broccoli and cauliflower are all imported or locally produced and low quality.
Fresh food, specifically fruit and vegetables, is not as readily available as in South Africa. The variety is also very limited compared to what you can get in South Africa. Fruits and vegetables that are not locally produced, but available at some speciality stores / delis, come at a price. If and when some fruits and vegetables are available at local supermarkets, not only does quality pay the price, but the selection of fruits and vegetables are limited. Fresh produce needs to be consumed quite quickly after you bought it as it does not stay fresh for too long, especially fresh fruits and vegetables bought at a market on the street (without refrigeration).
I have not seen any fresh milk or cream. A lot of the milk is imported as long-life items. The average price for a litre of milk is R26.00. The same goes for whipping cream. All cheeses are imported and extremely expensive. Cheddar cheese averages at R320.00 per kilogram. Even processed cheese is not affordable to many. I have seen a lot of cheese that has been imported from South Africa. It is no wonder Lagos is among the most expensive cities to live in.
Supermarkets & Restaurants
I have seen three Shoprite supermarkets in two of the bigger malls in Lagos. I have also seen a few Spar and Game stores. There are many smaller independently owned grocery stores.
Debonairs, Dominos, KFC are some of the food franchises in Nigeria that South Africans know all too well. There are a few Spur, Ocean Basket, Steers, Mugg & Bean restaurants. Some other food franchises that are unknown in South Africa, but favoured in Nigeria are Chicken Republic, Mr Bigg’s and Tantalizers. Lebanese, Indian and Chinese cuisines are popular in Nigeria.
Food items that are widely available in Lagos:
- Plantains – Plantains look like very large bananas. They are more starchy than the dessert bananas that we know. They are usually prepared like many starchy vegetable in households. Plantain chips are also very popular and quite nice.
- Dessert Bananas – These bananas are also very affordable, but more expensive than plantains, and as you know, sweet on your palette.
- Mangoes – The mangoes are not the same as in South Africa. These mangoes are smaller and quite sour.
- Pineapple – The pineapples are huge. They don’t turn yellow, but are eaten green. They are not as sweet as the yellow pineapples you get in South Africa.
- Papaya – Like pineapple, these are also consumed while still green. The taste is not as sweet as South African papayas.
- Limes. Limes are very reasonably priced. Lemons are not as easy to find and rather expensive compared to limes.
- Rice – Jollof rice is king in Nigeria, like most West African countries.
- Bread – Bread is a staple food, just like in South Africa. This is also a popular item sold by street vendors. Normally street vendors sell bread with small tubs of margarine. A lot of margarine brands do not need to be kept refrigerated, thus a great idea to sell these items together.
- Yams – I have had yam chips which were quite flavourless.
- Potatoes – The potatoes are mostly small with yellowy flesh.
- Sweet potato – These are the same as in South Africa. I have not seen golden sweet potatoes.
- Aubergine / Eggplant. These are widely available and inexpensive. The sizes range from very little (about the size of a small plum) to very large (medium-sized paw-paw)
- Red onion – this is the locally produced onion variety in Nigeria. Brown onions are imported and more expensive.
- Oyster mushrooms – these are locally grown and much more affordable than other mushrooms which are normally imported.
- Catfish – to be honest, I’m not too keen to try this. But it’s a promise to try it at least once before finally making up my mind.
- Goat – found in all supermarkets. The locals love it.
- Basil, parsley and coriander – these are widely available and not expensive.
- A big variety of beans.
- All kind of flours – yam, plantain, semolina, rice, bean, cassava, etc.
- Peanuts – very high in demand and sold by many street vendors.
- Palm and soy bean oil – Sunflower oil is not easily accessible and is imported.
20 things that we miss about South Africa:
- Spontaneous trips for Aroma ice cream and coffee
- Spending public holidays having a braai with friends and family
- Fresh milk
- Smoothies and wraps from Kauai
- Variety of fresh food
- Drinking water from the tap
- Friends & Family
- Thunderstorms on our house’s tin roof
- The sound of birds
- The taxis. Yes, you read correctly. The taxis. You have no idea what ‘unroadworthy’ is until you drive around in Lagos. Reckless driving is everyday practice, everywhere you go. Luckily you stop flinching after a while. 😉
- The N1 highway – in such a good condition with so many working lanes and people (mostly) obeying the road rules
- Woolworths & Dischem stores
- Dry shampoo
- Hazel Food Market
- Boerie rolls from Hokaai Butchery
- Shopping at the Hospice bookstore
- Well-maintained structures
- Park Run on Saturday mornings
- McDonald’s breakfast after an epic wedding or night out
What would you miss most about South Africa?
Here’s to one hell of an adventure that waits!
I’ll keep you updated!