From Priscilla Ediare, Ado-Ekiti
Like the biblical verse, “a stone that was once rejected has now become the chief corner stone,” frying of bean cakes (Akara), initially strange in Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State, is currently making waves and inroad in the state capital.
Frying of bean cake, fondly called “Akara Yahoo,” is now a serious business embarked upon by young men. “Akara” is the Yoruba name for bean cake. This delicacy can be taken with bread, cassava granules (garri), pap or pap jellos.
Before now, people saw this line of business as strange. It sprang insinuations linking the business to ritualism and activities of internet fraudsters also known as “Yahoo Yahoo Boys.” This is because of the general belief that it is business for only women. Also, Akara balls usually come in round shape and small size, these features negate “Akara Yahoo” that come in very big balls.
The “Akara Yahoo” business was first spotted opposite old INEC office on Bank road, Ado-Ekiti, when a young man started it in commercial quantities. With time, it started appealing to many and patronage began to increase. More spots were springing up in other areas of the town.
Unlike the usual local method of using firewood to fry bean cakes in large quantities, those in this line of business now use commercial gas cylinders and cookers to fry.
In Ado-Ekiti, Akara Yahoo sales outlets are spotted in busy areas, like Adebayo, Basiri, Fayose Market, Ajilosun, Okeyinmi, Bank Road, Egbewa, Ekute and EKSU (Off campus). Each cake is sold for N50. It has chopped onions, grated pepper, seasonings, salt and vegetable oil as some of its ingredients, with already washed and peeled black-eyed or brown beans (ground).
Customers come from far and near including students, office workers, private vehicle owners, commuters and okada riders.
In some of the sales outlets visited, customers were seen either standing or sitting patiently waiting for the akara balls to be ready. Sellers also display loaves of bread, pap jellos (Eko) wrapped with leaves, garri, cold swater (aka pure water), sugar among others to go with the bean cake.
Some sellers, own more than one outlet and those with high patronage have more sales attendants, male and female. Most big stands are covered with tarpaulin or roofing sheets housing some wooden benches for customers’ use.
Frying time depends on location. Some start as early as 7:00am while others start later for office dominated areas. Some close as early as 6:00pm, others as late as 8:00 to 9:00pm, everyday except Sundays. Some sellers also skip Saturdays due to the area they are located.
Mrs Ronke Abiodun, a tailor, said she was not comfortable when she first saw men frying Akara: “When I first saw them frying Akara I was like men frying akara. These boys (Yahoo Yahoo boys and evil people) have arrived in another dimension.
“But with time I started changing my mind towards them, seeing that they are doing it for them to survive, so, I started patronizing them. But, I have kept buying from this very stand because of the consistency in the taste and is close to my shop.”
Mr Solomon Akande, a student, said: “The first time that I saw them, sincerely, I stood some metres away and looked at them well. It looked somehow to me and immediately I called and told my friend, whose thoughts also aligned with mine and he asked where? But, It took me sometime to start buying it, that was after I saw somebody well known to me selling it.”
Mr Ifeanyin Desmond said: “I didn’t have problem with it when I first saw them. I have never been bothered when people say Akara Yahoo. I bought the bean cakes on the first time I saw them. They were Igbo boys and I believe Igbo people can stoop so low to do any business to live. It is only new to them in Ekiti, men fry akara, puff-puff in market places in Lagos.”
Mrs Nike Akomolafe, a government worker, said: “Initially, my perception about them was a negative one. When a colleague told me she bought it, I exclaimed ha! Akara Yahoo! She retorted saying, those boys are just hustling, nothing attached those words relieved me.
“Two days after, she bought some for me worth N200 that I should taste it. The aroma was inviting, I ate two of the balls and liked it. That was how I started to buy it. Though, it is a delicacy that I love and often prepare for my children, it goes well with us anytime. My patronage with them has saved me a whole lot of time and energy as I patronise them almost everyday except weekends.”
Mr Akin Odewale: “I ride okada for a living. Most of us buy food sold by the roadside. I buy Akara because it fills my stomach. What I do is that I buy Akara, a loaf of bread and pure water. That serves as a meal for me, oftentimes, I buy twice a day.”
The sellers refused to shed more light on the business. Some responded they had nothing to say others said they would not talk because government might from there begin to tax them.