About the food of Senegal

The westernmost point of Africa near Dakar, Senegal. Photo by Jeff Attaway.

The westernmost point of Africa near Dakar, Senegal. Photo by Jeff Attaway.

Today’s daydream takes us to Senegal… a land of alluring contrast.

One, long finger of Senegal fades into the Atlantic ocean, the westernmost point of Africa. As you wander inland, past the subtropical streets paved with the catch of the day, still fresh from the ocean, you will see as many collard shirts and slacks as you do bright tunics and robes.

Three quarters of the population lives in cities on the coast. Once past the bustle (where buses noisily bump past rickety carts), the roads slowly turn to dust and the Savannah takes over. Here, the people’s bright clothing stands out against the golden grasses, thatched roofs, and earthen walls. The flicker of fires in outdoor kitchens makes for a spark of natural color.

 

Maps and Flag of Senegal courtesy of CIA World Factbook.

Maps and Flag of Senegal courtesy of CIA World Factbook.

This former French colony still has traces of French culture in the food. Baguettes can be found under arm, but more popular than that is rice and millet. Rice is increasingly popular thanks to the ease of preparation although there’s old love for couscous made from millet.

With lakes and rivers everywhere, fishing is the main industry and the day’s progress can be found flashing along the water in turquoise, blue, and red boats. Fishermen proudly show of blue marlin and baracuda, grouper, hake, sole, and even shrimp or crab. Unless eaten quickly, the fish is typically dried or smoked to ease preservation. The most well-known dish in Senegal is Thiéboudienne which is a one-pot dish of stuffed fish with rice and vegetables.

Fishing boats. Photo by Jeff Attaway.

Fishing boats. Photo by Jeff Attaway.

Another incredibly popular dish is Chicken Yassa, made with lemon juice and loads of onion [Recipe]. In fact, Yassa is a staple throughout much of West Africa and served family-style with a platter of rice. On the side you might find avocado and mango salad, as we enjoyed for Antigua and Barbuda.

Peanuts in Senegal. Photo by Manuele Zunelli.

Peanuts in Senegal. Photo by Manuele Zunelli.

Other staples include black-eyed peas (how auspicious for the New Year, which is when we ate this week’s feast) which make their way into salads [Recipe], fritters, and stews. You can also find peanuts everywhere, a.k.a. groundnuts. Again, these show up in groundnut soups (as we made for Ghana) and sweets. In fact, along the city streets, one can pick up sugar cookies coated in peanut butter and crushed peanuts[Recipe]. What a delight.

Wash it all down with tea. In Senegal, they offer three servings to symbolize friendship and that “the longer we’re together, the sweeter our friendship grows.”

Farm in Senegal. Photo by Apetithan.

Farm in Senegal. Photo by Apetithan.

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Comments

  1. At the weekly market in Saint-Louis (France) there is a woman from Senegal selling fatayas with all sorts of flavours, and you dip them in a delicious sauce ! She also sells a fantastic drink from hibiscus flowers, bissap. We love this and very often buy from her – not to mention that she’s very nice and there is a good atmosphere at her spot !

  2. Senegal has the distinction of being one of the few countries in West Africa that I never visited. Sadly for me. But there are quite a few Senegalese restaurants up in Harlem, and I’ve been to several. There was also a “secret” Senegalese restaurant near Times Square in the back room of an ordinary sandwich shop and they had amazing Cheb (Thieboudienne).

    Music… Senegal has so much amazing music (from modern Mbalax to more traditional) that I created a whole player with 100 songs from Mali and Senegal. Here it is. The second song is from Senegal and so are many others. Youssou N’Dour is the most famous rock star, but what he plays for Europeans in Paris is totally different from his high-energy performances for African audiences. Some of the latter are on this player. The songs with “Etoile de Dakar” in the name feature him.

    http://www.myspace.com/0/music-player?friendid=61062139&plid=603422

    Please listen to all the songs immediately!!!!!

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Thanks Brian! That second one is a mellow, cheerful jam. I really like these. They make me want to sit by the sea!

  3. Do you have plans to publish this blog into coffee table/cook book?

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