Move aside White House, the most valuable Amala vendor trophy has moved base and I say this with all sense of responsibility.
You may have been disappointed by Amala Olaiya a few times, but when it comes to numbers, Surulere trumps every other area in Lagos when the sale of quality Amala is concerned. As usual, I have a story to tell.
My car brakes had been screeching for a while and when the husband took the vehicle for routine servicing last Saturday, I assumed all problems would have been addressed. I took him to the airport at first light Monday in the same car and when I was ready to go to work the hymns began again. I managed till Wednesday evening when on my way home from work, the hallelujah chorus coming from the brakes became quite embarrassing. So, on Thursday, I headed to our mechanics, somewhere in Shitta.
It was a quick fix, and while on the test ride, I told Kehinde (our invaluable family mechanic) that I needed to buy lunch having gone past lunch order hour at the office.
“I want correct amala, gbegiri and ogufe (goat meat). Where can I get? Sebi, I will see take away plate to buy.”
Kehinde had a tough job deciding where to take me to. He thought for a bit then he suggested the famous Olaiya. I cut in:
“I’m not looking for anywhere fancy. I just want correct food.”
That was when he explained. The problem wasn’t a scarcity of Amala vendors, it was deciding where to go.
“There are those who only sell early in the morning, then the afternoon ones, and then those who come out only at night”
I was shocked. “People eat Amala for breakfast? I thought ‘swallow’ was strictly for lunch and dinner?”
Kehinde laughed. Then, I asked him to take me to buy Amala Shitta (I had heard people use the phrase often). And he asked, “Amala Shitta ewo? Amala Shitta po l’orisirisi (Amala vendors abound in Shitta, which are you referring to?)” At this point, I gave up and just told him to drive anywhere. And we parked soon.
He pointed me to this not very spacious place. Thankfully, it wasn’t very busy inside. All the departments were amply spread out as is typical of an Amala establishment. The sink for handwashing is first, then someone picks out the plate, gives me with directions to the next lady further down. This young lady has a big pot of piping hot Amala placed in between her legs on the floor. I hand her my plate, ask how much a scoop is sold, she says N50, then I ask for N200 worth. Then she directs me halfway back the way I came – this is the soup and meat section. I ask for gbegiri, ewedu, ogufe and assorted meat. This other lady calculates my bill, of course without a calculator, and points in a direction I hadn’t looked in the last 15 minutes.
Two well-rounded ebony middle-aged-looking women balanced in this corner, almost behind the door. I went near and one asked, ‘how much you buy?’
“N650,” I replied and gave her a N1000 note.
She handed me change and I walked out with my white plastic bag swinging from my right hand. I wanted to ‘appear’ in my office right away so I could devour the goodness. Kehinde dropped off by his workshop and I sped towards Ogunlana, Lawanson, Itire, and finally hit the Oshodi highway where my office sits on the right-hand side.
I surprised myself when I took out another two hours responding to emails and writing before I stood up to go to the kitchen. I microwaved my Amala and moved to the eating section. The second I opened the plate, the smell first tickled my senses. My nose instinctively started running. Now I usually have a problem with people who do not know how to balance the gbegiri quantity with soup. There are the recommended ratios that make a perfect mix, and the soup lady, scored a sterling A in this department. I EMPTIED my bowl and the ogufe was the icing – N200 for that matter.
The elements combined in my bowl could never be achieved for the same sum at White House, Yaba, apart from the bucket of oil I’d first have to pour off my plate before being able to eat the food. And while I know that Amala HQ worldwide remains Ibadan, Oyo state, Lagos’ Amala HQ has officially moved to Surulere. Have you had a bite of Amala in Surulere?