Wednesday, January 19, 2011

introduction to some foods of senegal...

ahh the foods of senegal, how i really dont miss you but i do crave you, thanks to your abundance of MSG in every bite. people have asked me what the food is like here so i thought id give an introduction to the cuisine that predominates senegal.

the very basic and most popular (shall we say national dish?) is ceebujen. literally translated, it means rice and (of) fish. it's basically fish and vegetables and rice. the rice is seasoned and can be white or red depending on the sauce you use (the red comes from the tomato paste, white without). vegetables depend on the season though in richer households, there will be an abundance and variation - though always thoroughly boiled to the point where nothing retains its nutritional value. fish can be fresh or as not fresh depending on where you live and your access to fish. the fish is also stuffed with spices.

there can be many variations on the ceebujen. sometimes there's lemon. sometimes there's bissap sauce. and sometimes theres an onion tomato sauce with the occasional fish ball drizzled on the rice. this variation is called ceebucaga (literally rice of prostitute).

then the other very popular and traditionally senegalese dish is called yassa. yassa is pretty much an onion sauce over white rice. there are occasional vegetables like carrot and potatoes but otherwise, not as plentiful as the fish and rice dish. yassa can come with meat (yassa yapp), fish balls (yassa boulette), or chicken (yassa ginaar). the picture is of yassa boulette.

then there are the heavy and rich sauces on top of white rice. below we have maafe gerte yapp - a peanut sauce over white rice with some meat. variations can be substituting the meat with fish. i dont have a picture of another dish called domada but it's also a thick and rich sauce that is more tomato based and usually with fish balls.

this is a variation of fasi which is a tomato onion sauce over white rice with vegetables and some form of protein. depending where in the country you are, they cook it differently so it may not look like this anywhere else.

one dish that is not very high in my book is called ceebuyapp which is just rice and meat. it's only because the meat in this country just isnt that great and a lot of the time, it's different organs and body parts. the senegalese really prize the liver and intestines, etc. although the good thing about this dish is that the rice is usually very flavorful (aka MSG saturated) and it's usually served with a very spicy mustard/hot pepper sauce.

most of these plates are generally found at lunch. lunch is probably the more exciting meal out of all the meals. dinner is usually not very fun so i havent really taken any pictures but dinner for me is usually rice with beans and dried fish (baxal nebe) or rice with peanuts and dried fish (baxal gerte) or one of the above where the rice is very soggy (daxin bopp). i generally enjoy dinner though because it's plain and simple and there are different variations that we wont get into but are quite good (ie baxal goorjigeen, baxal peuhl, laxubissap)

aside from rice, millet (cherri) is extremely popular. millet is pounded into a fine grain so it's like couscous, only more of a sandy texture. millet, however, is more nutritious than rice. theres a bean sauce, and leaf sauce, and a tomato sauce. sometimes post meal, milk is added to the millet as a dessert (though not a very fulfilling one at that).

the millet can be worked into little balls and then mixed with yogurt (lax ak sew) which is a very delicious sweet dish.

of course senegalese food has also adopted some western ideas and especially in larger cities where people are wealthier, dishes like the one below are more affordable and perhaps more common (?). you have a grilled chicken stuffed with spices, french fries, with a side of peas and an onion sauce.

since it's a predominantly muslim country, there isnt a lot of pork consumed here. but if you go to a sereer ethnic town (there arent any where i live) where many sereers are catholic, you can find plates like this - grilled pork with french fries and tomatoes on top of a bed of lettuce.

and there you have it. a basic introduction to senegalese food.

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