We Didn't Know Much About Nigerian Street Food Until We Read This Crucial Story

Many lines have been written about so-called "street food" — rustic and many times inexpensive meals served outdoors using minimal forms of cooking equipment. Looking closely at street food oftentimes provides a look into the most fundamental tenants of a culture's culinary oeuvre. It also makes us really hungry.

In Vietnam, an impoverished country with tens of millions packing the two over-crowded cities Saigon and Hanoi, noodle soup is a street staple at breakfast time — fortifying and inexpensively made from the long simmering of beef bones, snow-white noodles and shaped with fish sauce and astringent herbs that grow like weeds in the tropical climate.

In Oaxaca, Mexico, it's fried grasshoppers (chapulines) that are peddled by street vendors like popcorn and peanuts — taking advantage of an earthy, slightly nutty, foodstuff known more globally as a pestilence than a plat principal. In Mumbai it's dosa. In Singapore it's kaya toast. In Korea it's soondae — a mild blood sausage dipped in a mixture of salt and red pepper. The stories we've published go on and on.

But when it comes to African street food, we sort of draw a blank. It's no secret that African foodways are a blind spot for many journalists, though chefs like Sean Brock are starting to travel there for research and inspiration:

Nate Minor of Minnesota Public Radio spent two weeks in Nigeria on a reporting fellowship sponsored by the International Center for Journalists and filed a thoughtful account of the roadside foods in the country.

"Nigerian street food is not for the weak of heart, or stomach," he writes in a dispatch published on the Splendid Table website. "Upwards of 60 percent of Nigeria's population lives in poverty. It's a country full of people on the move, always working to make ends meet. For them, street food is a staple."

In the story he documents a colorful variety of foods found in the country's port capital of Lagos. There's charcoal-grilled croaker served with a spicy tomato-based sauce and moyi-moyi — a steamed bean cake blended with pepper, onions, salt, palm oil, tomato puree, crayfish and nutmeg. The story is really worth a read.

Find more photographs and dispatches from Nigeria on Minor's website.