Quintessential Dakar: What to Eat in Senegal
Get to know Senegalese meals in Dakar, the place French, Wolof, and North African affect meets native substances within the kitchen—and on the road. Right here’s what to eat in Senegal.
Hand-carved pirogues on the seaside in Ngor, in Dakar
Perched on the sting of West Africa, Senegal has lengthy gone quietly about its enterprise whereas its neighbors get into all types of hassle. Quietly, in fact, is a deceptive phrase within the context of Dakar, the sultry capital metropolis and dust-ridden area of all-night music golf equipment, notorious visitors, relentless hustlers, and nonstop building, the place the lifeless silence of night time is usually punctured by hovering muezzin calls to mosque.
After which there’s the meals. Amongst different West African international locations, Senegalese delicacies stands out for its distinct cultural influences—most notably from varied ethnic teams (particularly the dominant, native Wolof), Europe (notably France, as Senegal was a French colony till 1960), and North Africa—and its mastery of native substances, seafood, millet, and groundnuts (peanuts) chief amongst them. When deciding what to eat in Senegal, all of this historical past and geography have to be thought of.
Dakarois take satisfaction of their meals, be it baguettes on a sandy facet road, grilled sheep in a smoky dibiterie, or an attractive plate of ginger shrimp from a restaurant on the seaside. Some expats might inform you there aren’t many eating places in Dakar, that every one the very best meals is ready at dwelling. Let’s be clear about one thing: If a neighborhood invitations you in for a home-cooked meal—and that is prone to occur; Senegalese are well-known for his or her hospitality—by all means, go. Failing that, some research goes a great distance in revealing loads of good eating choices scattered among the many metropolis’s markets, backstreets, cozy neighborhood cafes, and upscale seafood joints.
In our essential meals information to Dakar, we give all of the specifics about the place to seek out these dishes and extra. However it’s important to know what you’re in search of. Right here’s what to eat in Senegal.
Can’t-miss Senegalese meals
The dish most related to and beloved by Senegal—and certainly, eaten right here for lunch a number of instances every week—is ceebu jën, the native tackle rice (“ceeb” in Wolof) and fish (“jën”). Hailing from St. Louis on Senegal’s north coast, ceebu jën consists of seasoned rice; a chunk of grilled or pan-fried fish, filled with a garlicky paste (known as the rof); just a few greens; plus some distinctive accoutrements: dahkar (mouth-puckering sweet-sour tamarind), xooñ (the crispy burnt rice scraped from the pan’s backside), and bissap, a slimy, bitter inexperienced sauce constructed from hibiscus leaves.
It’s not laborious to like this dish—the flavors are recent, daring, and stunning, hits of tart balanced towards sea-salty savoriness; and the textures are superbly assorted. It’s low-cost, scrumptious, filling noon grub. Additionally tasty? Ceebu jën’s meaty sister, ceebu yapp.
Learn extra about ceebu jën in Dakar
A typical road meals in Senegal and different elements of West Africa, accara are crispy black-eyed-bean fritters, often served with a tomato-and-onion-based sizzling sauce known as kaani. It’s not a stretch to contemplate them a precursor to Southern hush puppies, and even much like falafel in a means. Together with fataya and beignets, these had been one among our favourite native snacks, particularly served like this, on a crusty baguette.
Learn extra about accara in Dakar
Senegal’s favourite road meals, dibi is roasted meat, often sheep, that’s spiced, cooked on easy grills, hacked into items, and served on grease-stained paper with grilled onions and mustard, plus bread on the facet. The custom hails from the Arabs, and Senegal’s 95% Muslim inhabitants has embraced it wholeheartedly.
In Dakar, dibiteries—purveyors of dibi, usually holes-in-the-wall with large wooden fires or easy street-corner grills—are probably the most seen sort of eating “institution” you’ll encounter on roadsides, not not like kebab outlets in numerous different international locations (or Texas BBQ, for that matter). Each Dakarois is prone to have a favourite dibiterie, and it’s most likely on their cellphone’s pace dial. It’s a should for any customer attending to know Senegalese meals.
Learn extra about dibi in Dakar
Native seafood in Dakar
Surrounded on three sides by the Atlantic, Dakar is awash in recent seafood. Hardly a day goes by that you just don’t wish to be sitting inside view of the ocean, eating on native fish caught that morning. Frequent hauls embody carpe rouge (crimson snapper), prawns, lobster, sea urchin, tilapia, thiof (a kind of grouper), large barracuda, tuna, lotte (monkfish), snapper, swordfish, mackerel, and yaboy (sardinella), and that’s simply the tip of the iceberg. After we visited the every day fish market/spectacle on the seaside at Soumbédioune, we noticed all of those and extra being carried off the pirogues (handcarved, brightly painted canoes) and put to speedy sale within the fading afternoon gentle.
Learn extra about native seafood in Dakar
The dish to make the very best use of indigenous groundnuts, or peanuts, mafé combines meat, usually beef or mutton, and a peanut sauce, served with rice. It originated in Mali however is kind of widespread in Senegal and the Gambia, the place groundnuts are likewise native (different elements of West Africa have a model of this too, reminiscent of Sierra Leone and its groundnut soup). Lest you confuse it in your thoughts with a clean Indonesian satay sauce, this groundnut sauce tends to be a lot thicker and oilier, imparting a richer taste. It’s scrumptious.
Learn extra about mafé in Dakar
Ingesting Senegal’s native juices is actually a pleasure of being right here, particularly when you think about it’s a teetotal Muslim nation during which soda is a special-occasion drink. There are fairly just a few, all constructed from native substances and all very candy—the Senegalese don’t fiddle in the case of including sugar. The three juices you’re prone to encounter probably the most in Dakar are bissap (hibiscus), bouye (“bwee”; baobab fruit), and gingembre (ginger). Maybe probably the most prevalent is bissap, a tart, deep crimson juice constructed from the dried flowers of the native hibiscus plant. Gingembre juice has the pungent style of ginger—good for settling a nasty abdomen, probably—and cream-colored, vitamin-C-rich bouye (pictured) is thick, candy, and tangy, with the marginally chalky consistency of a banana shake. It was our favourite of the juices, not just for its distinctive style however for being probably the most distinctly African of the bunch, constructed from the hanging, dried fruits of the good baobab tree.
Learn extra about native juices in Dakar
Baguette breakfast sandwiches
Due to the French, who occupied Senegal till 1960, baguette stands are a typical sight on the streets of Dakar, and sandwiches on lengthy, skinny items of bread a well-liked low-cost breakfast. At its most simple, the basic Dakarois road breakfast is a baguette unfold with butter or a peanut-chocolate unfold (like a thinner model of Nutella), eaten on the road with a café Touba or wrapped in newspaper to go. A step up from that could be a sizzling sandwich, stuffed with cooked eggs—all the time a greasy, salty, tasty affair. They’re acquainted meals which might be usually served in wood stands, unmarked storefronts, or makeshift thatched-wall road shacks, making them an journey to trace down and take a look at.
Learn extra about baguette breakfast sandwiches in Dakar
The lone rooster dish of the Senegalese classics, yassa poulet hails from the Casamance area of Senegal, within the south of the nation. Rooster is marinated in a thick, lemony onion sauce and served with a facet of steamed white rice. The mushy heap of brown-colored onions calls to thoughts French onion soup, whereas the stew is harking back to coq au vin. However the flavors—most prominently the piquant tang that the lemon brings—are distinctive to Senegal. You may encounter this dish in different elements of West Africa, nevertheless it originates right here.
Learn extra about yassa poulet in Dakar
Is that this an official “factor”? Who is aware of, however Senegal positively has its personal spin on how a burger is constructed: with somewhat little bit of every little thing. Lettuce, tomato, onion: examine. Cheese, fried egg, French fries: You betcha. After which the sauces—ketchup and mayo are fairly normal, however mustard and pimón (sizzling sauce) are additionally on the menu. Some expats we met right here had been keen on calling it a “Wolof burger,” however in fact right here it’s only a burger. We all know it as a scrumptious sizzling mess.
Learn extra about Senegalese burgers in Dakar
And that’s simply the beginning. Take a look at Eat Your World’s full Dakar meals information for particulars on these highlights and extra, plus The way to Burn It Off and The place to Keep.
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