Meet Market Square
Read till the end to get a surprise gift. I’m not kidding, there actually is one.
So now that I've (hopefully) banished your fears of market square, it's time to hone in on the more 'exotic' options available. (I won't be doing the familiar ones like Italian/hot dogs/etc. for now because, well, the food is kind of self-explanatory). I'll be interviewing a non-British/EU cuisine every other week so you can move away from the basic gal diet and impress others with your worldly food knowledge. Meet Sunkanmi, the owner of Africfood, one of Market Square's top stalls.
C: So how did you end up in market square and what's your favourite thing about trading here?
S: I've actually been selling Nigerian food since 2010, catering for events from home. Market square was a great decision for me actually, as it's very central and I've got a lot of people coming over for lunch ranging from businessmen to tourists. It's always busy. Also, we're (the traders) just a great big family. Everyone's really friendly and helps each other out.
(I can attest to this. She ran out of cooking oil whilst I was interviewing and someone from the Thai food truck ended up running over with supplies)
C: To be honest, I'm not that familiar with Nigerian food. Mind telling me a bit more about your cuisine?
S: Nigerian food is all about taste and spice, strong flavours and experimenting. Without taste it's not good food. We like colours too. It's special because we use African spices or use familiar condiments in a very different way (Maggi cubes in particular).
We don't really have dry foods, it's all very stew based, with red pepper sauce as the base. So yes, staple ingredients typically found would be peppers: bell peppers and scotch bonnets, melon seeds and spinach. Apart from rice, staples also include lentils and beans. The language is very descriptive, so the names of the foods basically tell you what it is or the story behind them.
So basically, you choose your stew and it's served with jollof rice (S: rice cooked in red pepper sauce) and fried plantains. There's:
Ayamase the goat curry that Sunkanmi recommends. (S: It's a special sauce. Name literally means 'wife don't cook', until the men bring good food back from hunting.) This is my personal favourite. When I had it the meat was so tender I didn't have to use the knife to cut it, just finished the whole thing off armed with a plastic spoon. It does certainly live up to Sunkanmi's description of 'it's only good food if it's tasty', by which I mean it does have very strong flavours. Goat sounds exotic, but really, just think of it as the cousin of mutton. This is quite spicy though (I mean I found it okay but I do have a biased Asian palate, basically a higher spice tolerance). For those of you with a delicate palate who can only order korma/butter chicken in Indian takeaways I'd recommend you stay away from this and go for the options below, which are catered for you. BUT, if you're looking for exhilaration, and have had enough with the conventional (sandwiches are boring, and don't you ever get fed up with buttery?), DO give this a try.
Egusi (either goat or beef depending on the day) is the melon seed stew. It's basically the red pepper sauce base with added ground melon seeds for flavour, which gives it an interesting dimension. This one's my favourite out of the milder options.
Efo Riro is the stew with goat, beef and fried spinach. This one is less complex than Egusi in terms of flavour, you can really taste the red pepper base here. Those who are less adventurous could try this as a beginner's step into the world of Nigerian food.
Apart from jollof rice, other sides on offer are yam pottage, similar to sweet potato, cooked in red pepper sauce. Ewa, just a beans stew, very healthy. Using this as a base, one could also blend it into a bean cake called moi moi (kind of like the vegetarian burger patties?) which could be spicy. Akara would be fried bean cake.
Hopefully, you're now less intimidated by the (previously) unknown and are ready to expand your food horizons into the truly international.
Well, I did promise a surprise gift, so here you are:
Courtesy of Sunkanmi, anyone who mentions that they've come from reading Charmaine's article on The Tab will get an extra 10% on top of the normal student discount. So you get 20% off your food.
Also, next week, I will be starting my series where I interview a person on their national cuisine and get them to share an authentic recipe that's beginners friendly. I'll be with my resident Italian to answer all the things you've ever wondered about Italian cuisine so ask away via Google Forms below (you've got the chance to solve all your Italian food problems by Saturday):