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Leaf-wrapped snacks: oleleh, agidi

Oleleh from a street vendor in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

What: These custard-like snacks—traditionally wrapped and steamed in kola or banana leaves, tamale-like—are two of the more interesting street foods you’ll find in Freetown. Oleleh, pictured, is made of ground binch, or black-eyed beans, along with palm oil, onion, and various seasonings; while the sweeter yellow-colored agidi is made with pounded corn (see photo here). Both are soft and moist, though the agidi is more gelatinous in texture. Interestingly, agidi is sometimes eaten an accompaniment to crain crain, although we saw it sold only as a separate snack on the street.

Where: We found this oleleh in Freetown near the bus station on Wallace Johnson Street—but as these vendors are always walking, you just have to keep your eyes peeled for banana leaves poking out of the baskets they carry on their heads. Both snacks are pretty common in Freetown.

Order: Each oleleh or agidi will cost around Le1,000. We much prefer the more savory oleleh to the sweet agidi, but both are worth flagging down a vendor to try.

Alternatively: Also in Freetown, the long-running Balmaya (078-919750; 32B Main Motor Rd., Congo Cross, approx. map), an airy restaurant with a lovely veranda and an attached high-end African art gallery, offers a healthier, non-street version of oleleh, prepared with less palm oil (it’s a bit drier as a result), which is served on a plate, not in a leaf.


 

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