Mali Food and Drink
Though dishes vary from region to region along roughly tribal lines, Mali’s staple ingredients – all carbohydrate – include rice, millet and sorghum prepared in a variety of ways. Meals generally take the form of one of these carbohydrates served with a meat or fish sauce. Chicken and lamb are the most popular and readily-available meats.
Since the majority of Mali’s population is Muslim, most people tend to drink fruit juice rather than alcohol, and as a result there is a good range of fresh fruit juices as well as the fruits, including mango and banana, themselves.
Desserts are few and far between. In order to satisfy a sweet tooth you’ll need to turn to Malian tea, or one of the patisseries in the capital.
Capitaine sangha: Nile perch served with hot chilli sauce, whole fried bananas and rice.
Djablani: Juice made from hibiscus, ginger, or the fruit of the baobab tree.
Gumbo: Thick green musty-flavoured sauce made from okra pods.
Tigadéguéna: Meat served in a peanut sauce.
Pouletyassa: Fried chicken in a chilli sauce.
Alabadja: Traditional Tuareg recipe that mixes white rice and minced meat in a butter sauce.
Chouo and Touru: Stewed beans, and fried onions, respectively. Though separate dishes they are almost always served together, frequently with spaghetti.
Saga saga: Leaf vegetable sauce flavoured with onion and spicy stock.
Fakoye: Lamb with herbs, a speciality of the Songhay region.
Tô: Solid starch made from pounded millet used as a vessel for a number of sauces.
Juices: Tamarind and guava are particularly delicious.
Tea: Drunk in three stages; the first is very strong (‘as bitter as death’); the second is slightly sweetened (‘just like life’); the third is well sugared (‘as sweet as love’). A fourth means you’ve overstayed your welcome.
Things to know:
A 10% tip is customary in restaurants and bars.
Mali has no known minimum drinking age.