That’s what I found myself thinking when I found out the team at Eat.Drink.Lagos were planning a Jollof Festival (the answer to the jollof question, by the way, is no. But you already knew that).
An all-day food festival centred around the West African pride and joy that is jollof rice is pretty much up my alley, so armed with my camera and an empty stomach, my jollof mission began.
The festival this time around was on the Mainland (major win for all mainlanders), at the Jaekel House, a museum on the grounds of the Nigerian Railway Corporation in Ebute-Metta. The vibe was quite rustic; the abandoned train carriages, railway tracks and signage, long picnic tables covered in ankara and the ‘secret’ garden. Getting there from Ikoyi was straight forward as was parking, which I was dreading.
Anyone who has ever been to an EDL food festival knows you have to be prepared; arrive early, map out your food plan, and carry cash, and that is exactly what I did. I didn’t want to be stuck behind long queues only to hear “Madam, our POS isn’t working,” or worse “Sorry, we’re out of food.”
Once I had paid my gate fee (which came with a voucher for a free Guinness, but more on that later), the first, most obvious thing I noticed was the Maggi stand. They were offering all kinds of jollof but that seemed boring to me. I wasn’t here to waste my time on conventionally made jollof when I had seen menus with more creative offerings.
So I found my way round back to the ‘secret’ garden and the first stall was Eko Street Eats. I’d heard legends about their yaji shrimp tacos so I was ready to throw all my money at them. I also got the jollof arancini (pronounced ‘aran-chini’) and the puff puff funnel cake. Let me tell you, Chef Imoteda knows her stuff. The arancini was a ball of smoky jollof rice-the kind you get at owambe parties-covered in breadcrumbs, deep-fried and topped with a pepper sauce and a plantain sauce (I know!) I quite liked it but it was a bit too oily for my liking so I could only handle about three forkfuls.
The tacos came two ways; a chicken version with yaji, veggies and topped with a blueberry coulis and parsely, and a shrimp version consisting of salsa, blackened shrimp covered in pepper sauce, parsley and crushed black pepper. Now I completely understand when food reviewers use the phrase “explosion of flavour”.
The final item on my list was the puff puff funnel cake with cream and a caramel sauce. I wasn’t particularly excited about this but that changed once I had a bite. The puff puff dough was fried in thin spirals but somehow remained soft on the inside and crisp on the outside. I’m not sure how this was done but I’m legitimately thinking magic (I see you Chef Imoteda).
Overall, Eko Street Eats was LIT/10. I thought about giving them a 9/10 because of the oily arancini, but that’s literally the way arancini is supposed to be made so…
Next, I headed over to The Burgundy Stove and got their Po’Boy sandwich, a soft baguette stuffed with breaded shrimp and fish, an apple slaw, a jollof jambalaya of sorts, and topped with a remoulade sauce. Now I’m not bougie, so I had to google what remoulade was. All I was told by one of the chefs was that it was healthy (the least of my concerns at a jollof festival). All in all, this was a really, really good sandwich. Bonus points to them as they didn’t use that hard baguette Nigerians are fond of using for sandwiches.
Side Note-They also had sweet tea! I haven’t ever come across sweet tea in Nigeria so this was a pleasant surprise.
In between, I decided to take a Guinness break and use the voucher I was given at the gate. I‘ve never liked Guinness so I was surprised to find myself actually liking it. This was the Guinness Africa Special which is supposed to be made with “traditional african herbs”……I guess.
A quick glance at their website says the spices include lemongrass, ginger, kola nut, vanilla and chilli. I can’t say I tasted any of those things (pardon my ignorance) but either way, it tasted perfect and was quite smooth. There was a hint of something else I can’t place my finger on but maybe it was those one of the ‘traditional african herbs’.
The last vendor I gave a try was Goodness Gracious Gourmet as I was saving them for last. Their menu was the most intriguing with items like jollof gnocchi and a layered chilli and ginger infused asian-style jollof rice bowl, both of which I tried. I quite like gnocchi (basically Italian-style dumplings) but I definitely didn’t like this. It was cooked in a tomato sauce that had a sweet tang to it rather than the typical smoky, spicy tomato sauce used for jollof rice. I’m not sure if that was what threw me off but I had one bite and was done.
The very last thing was the asian-style jollof rice bowl….except it wasn’t in a bowl. The rice was served on a plate surrounded with chopped chillies (ata todo for my yoruba brethren), julienned carrots, shrimp, strips of beef and topped with a fried egg. I actually really liked this. All the flavours worked well together. My only complaint was that the beef, although well marinated, was quite dry.
I liked this enough to actually consider making a version of this at home but more in the style of Korean bibimbap.
All in all, I quite liked this festival as it was pretty chill, not too rowdy and it gave the vendors a chance to be creative with their recipes. I’m hoping the EDL crew do a suya festival next. *hint hint*.
A special shoutout to Flutterwave (the payment partner for the event) who gave me a free phone case because I spent over N5000 on food (don’t judge me).
By the way, if you’re wondering how I got through all this food, I had a food buddy to share with. Thanks Folarin!