This post is long overdue. I wrote this post a while ago but got caught up in trying to get pictures and the correct ingredients for all the sauces mentioned that I kept putting it off. Need to remember to not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
When I went home after being evacuated from Mali I volunteered to go talk to my high school French teacher’s class. I wanted to share my experience in Mali and let them know that there are many countries other than France where they could use French. I hadn’t realized this until my sophomore year in college when I was exploring study abroad options.
As I described daily life in Mali we got on the topic of food and I tried as best I could to describe the gelatinous consistency of toh and the sliminess of the okra sauce it was usually paired with. I mentioned some of the other dishes I had there but my lack of enthusiasm was apparent because one student asked “So did you like the food?” I hesitated. No the cuisine was not my favorite. I remember we would often have a spicy tomato sauce with fish in it and the fish were so small that I wondered if the meat I was getting was even worth the trouble of sorting through the bones. But I didn’t want to dismiss an entire country’s cuisine by saying “They don’t have good food”. The best possible answer to that question came later when I was talking to someone who had traveled around West Africa. He said something along the lines of “You don’t go to Mali for the food”. That being said, I would still highly recommend Mali for the adventurous traveler.
Here in the Fouta however I have been pleasantly surprised by the variety of dishes. It is still rice and sauce but at least they change up the sauces more. I may get tired of eating a particular sauce too much but there has not yet been a dish I have not liked.
Cassava Leaf Sauce (Mafe Hako Bantara)
My Personal Favorite especially when you put lime on top. Made by grinding cassava leaves. You boil the leaves first, then add peanut butter, then you grind up onion+ Maggi + dried fish and add to the mix. Add palm oil or peanut oil. Serve with rice.
Sweet Potato Leaf Sauce (Mafe Hako Pute)
These leaves are gathered in a bunch and then you start cutting them from the stems until you have a bunch of little strips of sweet potato leaves. Then you boil them in water. Add onion, salt, Maggi and palm oil. Serve with rice.
This sauce is made of tomato, onions, tomato paste, Maggi, and dried fish. If meat or chicken is available people will usually make this sauce but it can also be made without meat. The vegetarian version is called “Soupu Samakala” which means “Joke Soupou Sauce”. You can also add potatoes, and cabbage and pumpkin if they are available.
This sauce is made with cooked eggplant, okra and peppers mashed together. It is then served on top of rice and drizzled with red palm oil plus a sprinkling of traditional seasoning pronounced OG.
Eggplant Sauce (Mafe Kobo Kobo/ Ma ganji)
Dice up eggplants. Heat up some peanut oil and throw this in. Let them cook for a while until they’re mushy before adding mashed onions, Maggi and dried fish. Add some tomato paste. Serve with rice. Pictured left.
Toh is eaten here as well but I don’t see it as often here as I did in Mali. It is paired with a peanut sauce and served in small balls.
The following dishes are eaten during holidays and ceremonies.
Lachiri with Kosan
Lachiri is corn cous cous that is served with yogurt sauce. It’s a pretty long process to make the corn cous cous so this dish is reserved for baptisms and weddings. You have to steam corn flour and then break it up and repeat the process until it gets the right consistency. The kosan (yogurt sauce) is made with powdered milk.
Riz gras (“fried rice”) is popular at ceremonies in various West African countries. It can be served with fish, cooked vegetables and tamarind sauce.