Senegalese cuisine in my personal opinion is the best on the continent (even though I have not visited the whole of Africa at this writing). I have eaten many African dishes in the States from different associates of mine throughout the years, representing many different countries. Senegal cuisine, personally speaking, outdoes all! I am sure my son, Abdullah, will agree. Al Hamdulilah! I have had a personal cook everywhere I traveled to in Senegal over the years and I am inviting you to come take breakfast, lunch and/or dinner with me.
Setting the table is easy: a tablecloth or mat to place on the floor and one large bowl are all you need. No utensils, no chairs and no individual table mats. How simple is that!
Food is served out of a large communal bowl or platter which is the focal point of the meal. This common tradition connects family, elders and ancestors. Senegalese rarely do things by themselves and mealtime is no exception.
The vegetables and meat are placed into the center of the bed of rice. You may eat only what’s in front of you. It is custom to eat with the right hand only, as the left hand is considered unclean for eating purposes. The food is squished into a ball with the hand before eating. And yes, you may request a utensil until you get the hang of it. Practice makes perfect! My first experience with this was at home in the States. Throughout the meal you may be served with broken off bits of chicken, etc., by the person across from you or beside you. Laying your utensil down on the edge of the platter indicates you’ve had enough and often you may be prompted to continue. It’s really how I gained so much weight! This common gesture is the Alabama way of continued eating to please the cook.
Fresh juices made with natural herbs are great and very popular. My favorite is bissap (sorrel) with coconut juice, fresh ginger and mango.
I am also adding a word of caution: Do NOT use the ice in restaurants or elsewhere unless you know where the water came from — period!
fish, rice and vegetables served at lunch time
Cheebu jen is the national dish of Senegal. This boldly flavored combination of fish, rice and vegetables simmered in tomato sauce is a hearty one–pot meal. You can make it with any fish or vegetables you have on hand, including potatoes, cassava, squash or pumpkin, and plantains.
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