I have two exceptionally fond memories of my first time in Senegal: The first was the food, “lekk bi” and the second was the tea, “ataaya bi”. Like in many places, Senegal has three major meals: Ndekki (breakfast), Añ (lunch) and Réér (dinner).
- Ndekki usually consists of a hot beverage like Nescafé and a baguette with chocolate spread inside.
- Añ is the bigger meal of the day and is usually served after noon, between 1-3pm. People will usually snack sometime in the late afternoon/early evening, maybe eating left over lunch or something else and then have their final mea.
- réér after evening prays around 9pm but sometimes as late as 10pm. Recently, a friend has told me the snack that comes between añ and réér is called “Njogonal”. This can consist of anything from fruit to laax.
Traditionally, everyone eats with their hands (right hand only!) from the same bowl on or near the ground. The “mother” or the person who cooked the meal or the women “in charge” has a big responsibility to make sure the bowl does spin/move (she does this by placing her pointer finger of her left hand on the bowl so it doesn’t move), and that everyone’s eating space is kept full of food (you only eat what is in front of you, don’t dig into other people’s spaces).
Often times the meat/chicken/fish is located in the center of the bowl and the woman in charge will distribute it as the meal goes along. In wolof, this action (along with a long list of other actions) is called “jongé“. Its her job to make sure that everyone is full as well so even when you are done eating and you tell them “Suur naa !” (I’m full) they will continue to convince you to eat. “Lekkal! Lekkal!” (Eat! Eat!).
Finally when you cant take it anymore you will say “Dama suur” which also means “I’m full” but there is more emphasis put on being full; this is usually when they will allow you to stop eating. Traditional dishes I’ve tried so far:
- Cebu jen: The national dish of Senegal – a spicy-ish stuffed fish simmered with vegetables – usually over rice.
- Cebu ganaar is the same as above but with chicken
- Maafe: chicken or meat stew in a peanut butter sauce with vegetables – usually over rice
- Yassa: chicken or fish marinated in lemon/lime juice with caramelized onions – usually over rice
- Mbaxal: smoked and salted fish with groundnuts, some form of beans and other veggies with rice
- Cere Mbumb: couscous with a dark sauce, not exactly sure what was in it and not sure if I spelt it right. Cere is couscous in Wolof.
- Laax: hot millet and freshly made sweet yogurt There are many other meals consisting of some type of sauce over rice or couscous – these may or may not have specific names, I’m not sure at the moment.
There are also several dishes I havent tried yet, notabley Soupou Kanja, a local favorite. I hope to try them all before I leave, and learn to cook a few while I’m eat it!