Stepped in, looking at a snack

In Food by Omobolanle Olarewaju

Close your eyes (figuratively I mean, you literally just started reading); transport yourself back to when you were a kid. What snack couldn’t you wait to eat after school? When your mother forced you into itchy formal wear and dragged you to a wedding, what snack made going even slightly more bearable?

If you compare notes with friends, you’ll find that based on where you grew up, the scrumptious snack that brought you so much joy is different from that of the people around you. Speak to a Kenyan and you might hear that the food that gave them munchies was some roasted maize. A Sudanese person might tell you to try Halawa Simsim, a caramelized crunchy sesame seed dessert. A South African might tell you that they’re in love with the dry, meaty Biltong, or the saucy, bready bunny chow.

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With equal vigour, 3 Trinidadians might each argue that the best snack of their country is a cold Snowcone smothered in syrup and condensed milk, or some flaky, savoury Sehenas, or the fried dough-curry combo called Doubles. The last Trinidadian might make a strong case for Bake and Shark, a beach snack that includes; you guessed it, actual shark meat.

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Hungry yet? We’re just getting started 😈.

I’m from Nigeria, and for a foodie like me, there was never a shortage of snacks I could use to freely express the true extent of my gluttony. Let me take you to the Giant of West Africa. You can bet that the country with the largest population of Black people in the world, definitely has some snacks that slap.

The greatest snacks of all time.

Puff Puff: For me, and many other Nigerians, there was never a shortage of puff puff. This soft, fluffy, chewy ball of deep-fried dough can be found anywhere in the country. You enjoy them at weddings, Owambes (parties) and fast-food eateries.

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Everywhere you turn there’s puff puff. Organizing a baby shower and need an easy snack? Puff puff. Trapped in traffic on the way home from work? The street vendors will sell you puff puff. Hungry after going for a job interview that you know they aren’t calling you back for? Walk down the street and console yourself with your neighbourhood puff puff lady. Even watching her fry them will soothe your soul. The best part about this snack? You’ll never eat just one.

Chin-Chin: What Nigerian snack is easier to eat than Chin-chin? Crunchy, sweet and delicious by the handful, it would be difficult to find a Nigerian who doesn’t like Chin-Chin. Sweet dough cut into tiny pieces and deep-fried, it sounds simple, but the simplest foods are often the yummiest.

This snack has become a household staple. Sold in bags, plastic bottles and bowls, you can find and eat chin chin anywhere. It’s a pop it in your mouth on the go type of snack. And it satisfies you every single time. The only problem? You’ll probably end up eating the whole bag.

Kuli-Kuli: I love this one. It’s made of peanuts, roasted, ground into a paste and mixed in with ginger, pepper and other sexy spices. It comes in different shapes and sizes, from balls to sticks to weird loopy things.

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It’s nutty, spicy, crunchy and overall very satisfying. My pain, and it’s the bane of my existence, is that it’s very rare to find it outside of the country. It takes such skillful hands to make that in most cases, the best place to find it is on the busy streets of Nigeria. The hands of the local food artist are always the most skillful.

Suya: It is a travesty for you to visit Nigeria and not try Suya. Beware of your taste buds and keep a bottle of water or milk nearby because it is not for the faint of heart. The spice level is highhhhhh. But this gingery, spicy, firewood roasted beef will have you chewing through the tears.

For beginners, there are three conditions for eating Suya. Number 1: It must be made by the aboki/mallam on the street. Only they know the true recipe. Number 2: It must be night time. There must be darkness or the suya won’t be tasty. I don’t make the rules. Number 3: They must be wrapped in newspapers. I don’t know if it’s the ink or the taste of bad news, but how dare you consume suya wrapped in anything but yesterday’s newspaper? It’s just not done.

Meat Pie: My personal favourite, my specialty to make, share and eat. Where do I start with this simple culinary masterpiece? If done well, you’ll have a crust that’s buttery, flaky and a little bit crunchy around the edges. Inside you have ground beef, cooked to savoury perfection with potatoes, carrots and pepper.

When you bite into this pocket pie, lord! You might bite your inner cheek. No, in fact, you should bite your inner cheek; that’s the test of an amazing meat pie. You should be so consumed by chewing that you forget your cheeks are not a part of the meal. That’s how you know you have a good meat pie.

I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I will be eating alllllllll of these when next I’m in Nigeria. If you have to roll me on the plane afterwards then so be it, t’is the price I will pay for culinary satisfaction 😋😋😋.

So what’s your favourite snack from back home? Why do you love it? Drop them in the comments @trad_magazine or tweet at us @trad)magazine and let me know what other countries I should be visiting to tickle my tastebuds.

Till then, my fellow gluttons, I will be making and eating some sexy Meat Pies. I’d share but um…no.