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Senegal Food and Drink

The food markets of Senegal teem with colour and the bright clothes that the vendors wear blend with their wares of tropical fruits and vegetables. Senegalese food is considered among the best in Africa, with an unmistakable influence from French and Moroccan cuisine.

Peanuts are the main crop of Senegal and everywhere the aroma of roasted peanuts fills the air, whilst seafood is the mainstay of the diet. The basis of many dishes is chicken or fish whilst Beef and lamb are eaten less frequently but peanuts infuse a distinctive taste to local dishes. This food is served in many restaurants in Dakar, while provincial rest houses serve less sophisticated but delicious variations. There are bars in some hotels and clubs. Senegal is predominantly a Muslim country, and while there is a conspicuous absence of pork from menus, alcohol is available.

When dining in one of the excellent Senegalese restaurants, you will usually be offered a selection of appetizers from a list of 20 or so, all prepared with great care. The soups will be rich and full-bodied. There will be entrees in abundance. Then a long list of fancy desserts, all served with great flair, showcasing the French vibe still present in Senegal's cuisine.

In Dakar you can have fabulous meals at Le Bissap Baobab (www.bissapbaobab.com), Tam Tam, and Les Cannibales Deux; restaurants which could compete with the finest anywhere.

Specialities

• Chicken au yassa (barbecued chicken in an onion and lemon sauce).
• Tiebou dienne (herb-stuffed fishcakes with rice).
• Maffé (any West African meat in a peanut sauce).
• Dem à la St Louis (stuffed mullet).
• Avocat au crevettes (avocado stuffed with shrimp).

Things to know

In a Senegalese home you would follow the custom of pouring water over your hands as you enter the dining area and then you would wipe them on a common cloth. It is frowned upon to eat with your left hand, so if you're left-handed make sure you sit on your hand to avoid any faux pas.

Tipping

A service charge of 10 to 15% is included in all hotel and restaurant bills.

Drinking age

18.

Regional drinks

• Toufam (a kind of yoghurt thinned with sugared water).
Mint tea (tea made with fresh mint and drunk on every street corner).
• Ataya (tea brewed from black tea-leaf and served three times in one sitting. The first cup is drank slightly bitter, the second with more sugar and the third very sweet).
Palm wine (a naturally produced and fermented drink that accumulates at the top of palm trees. It can be drunk twice a day - once in the morning, which can be quite sweet and with less alcohol content, and once in the evening, which is slightly more bitter and stronger in terms of alcohol content).
Café Touba (the national drink of home-roasted coffee mixed with fresh cloves).
• Bissap or bouye juices (fresh juice made from the fruit found on the hibiscus plant and baobab trees, respectively).