Senegal Food Demystified!!
Senegal is a semitropical country; warm, sunny and colorful. Nowhere in Africa do the women wear more exquisite fabrics-the brilliant swatches of cloth wound around them and arranged on their heads in enormous bandannas. They have the elegant bearing of women accustomed to carrying bundles or jugs of water on their heads. They like to hold in their mouths tiny twigs made from a special bark and sometimes decorated, with which they rub their teeth from time to time. The men also present an interesting picture in their long, bright, loose "boo-boos" and skullcaps. The food markets of Senegal teem with color-the bright garb of the vendors blending with their wares of tropical fruits and vegetables. Peanuts are the main crop of Senegal and everywhere the aroma of roasted peanuts permeates the air. Seafood is the mainstay of the diet. The meats eaten less frequently are beef, lamb, and chicken. You'll find no pork, as many Senegalese are Muslims. The influence of French food in Senegal is unmistakable, yet Senegalese food has a quality of its own, with dishes from many other parts of the world and other parts of Africa incorporated into the cuisine. Rice is the main starch, with the Couscous of northern Africa also being a great favorite. Dakar, hot and humid but lovely, is the most important city of Senegal. Here one can have fabulous meals at Le Baobab, Tam Tam, and Les Cannibales Deux-restaurants which could compete with the finest anywhere. Gabriel, our handsome, tall (6-foot 4-inch) taxi driver, took us to the outskirts of Dakar where he and his friends have their lunch and we found delicious Thiou a la Wande, a meat stew. In the Casamance region north of Dakar, Yassa, a chicken specialty with onions and lemon, is prepared. In the village of Soumbedioune, where Senegalese crafts are displayed and where you will see fishermen bringing their catch in from the sea, you may have Thebouidienne, the freshly caught fish simmered with vegetables, including white and sweet potatoes, poured over large mounds of white rice.
How a Dinner is Served in Senegal?
When dining in one of the excellent Senegalese restaurants, you will select an appetizer from a list of twenty or twenty-five, all prepared with great care. The soups will be rich and full-bodied. There will be entrees in abundance; Yassa, Mate, and beautiful Couscous among them. Then a long list of fancy desserts, all served with great flair. Or you might be served at one of the open-air restaurants where food is cooked on small tournieres, or broilers, which look like hibachis. They average about 15 inches in diameter and are sometimes round and sometimes square. The fourniere has a grate at the bottom and heat is regulated by adding or removing hot charcoal with tongs as required. (At one school we visited there were about fifty of them in the new home- economics department where cooking classes were about to begin.) In a Senegalese home you would follow the custom of pouring water over your hands as you enter the dining area and then you would wipe them on a common cloth. After the guests are seated you would probably be served a stew-type dish with rice such as Thiou au Poulet, pronounced "chew," a special chicken stew; Mate aux Arachid, meat stew with groundnuts; or Thebouidienne, the delightful fish dish (all included in the recipe section). These would be served in deep enamel bowls, each seeming to be enough for three or four people. Then you would proceed to dip in with the first three fingers of your right hand. This takes getting used to but, once mastered, does seem to add to the food. Fruits would be served as the dessert, followed by coffee and tea.
How You Can Present a Senegalese Dinner?
A Senegalese dinner should be served with dignity and elegance. Use brightly colored tablecloths with contrasting napkins for a startling effect. Set your table with scented candles to evoke the perfume of the lush green Casamance region of Senegal where lemons and onions are combined for the Chicken Yassa. Have fresh flowers in reds and yellows to suggest the vivid colors of the flower markets. Decorate the table with African artifacts if you have them. Dishes should be plain white china or glass as a contrast to this color. If you want to serve a cocktail, try the Senegali Sunshine, which you will find in the beverage section. Start dinner with the Avocat aux Crevettes. Another appetizer you might consider is Assiette Cannibale of Senegal (in the recipe section). The Yassa is served individually from the kitchen and is followed by La Salade Cote Cap Verte. Salads are often eaten after the main course in Senegal. When presenting the dessert, explain that Mamadou is the young owner of Les Cannibales Deux Restaurant in Dakar who went to Paris to learn French cooking techniques. The Banana Glace is his own creation and his most popular dessert. Demitasse is served in the living room after dinner. You may want to serve some "Five-Cent Cookies" (see page 45) at this time or later in the evening.
Image Credit: foodlorists.blogspot.in