Arguably, the most memorable 5 days feast around Senegal. I traveled with writer Alexandra Marshall and photographer Jonas on an assignment for the Wall Street Journal. The article was inspired by the 10-days institute I was hosting in collaboration the West African Research Association of Boston University.
Our first stop was Dakar. Here we enjoyed local food for lunch at Djembe. We shared a delicious Thiebou Diola, which consist of a grilled fish served with rice, fermented locust bean (netetou), dried clams, sorrel and okra purée (baguedj) and fresh palm oil with marinated onions.
In the evening we visited L'Endroit, a hip Cameroonian restaurant.
The following morning, we departed at early sunrise for Djilor, a peaceful Serer village on the bank of the Saloum River delta.
In Djilor, we stayed at Anne-Catherine Senghor beautiful hotel "La Source aux Lamantins" (https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g2239654-d2327722-Reviews-La_source_aux_lamantins-Fimela_Fatick_Region.html)
While in Djilor, we also visited a women cooperative that specializes in millet processing.
Djilor is only 30 minutes from Joal, a fisherman's village that has become Senegal's largest artisanal fishing port.
Everyday, between 6 pm and midnight there is a continuous stream of colorful wooden boats arriving to the hors of Joal. Fishermen unloading their nets. Women bargaining and carrying huge bowls of fresh fish that they will bring to the market. We saw the fermentation process of conch (guedj) and sea snails (Touffa) and we watched the process of smoking "kethiakh", a bony fish similar to sardine. The smoking activity seemed to be divided by gender.
The men fetch the stalks and straws and tend to the fire. Artisanal smokers, made of rectangular brick structures, stretch several meters long. Hundreds of fish are salted and arranged in neat row o a grill over the smoking straws. After several hours of smoking then cooling, the women clean the fish of their burnt skin and arrange them for the market.
After Djilor and Joal, we visited the Artisanal salt production of the Pink Lake. The Pink Lake is an amazing natural phenomenon. During the dried season, on sunny and windy days, the lake turns a beautiful pink coloration. The main industry in the area is the artisanal salt production. The salt content of the Pink lake is even higher than the Dead Sea.
KEUR MOUSSA MONASTERY
About an hour from the Pink Lake is the monastery of Keur Moussa where Benedictine monks opened their door to their wonderful orchard where grapefruits, mandarins, tamarind or papaya grow in abundance.
The monks prepare their own goat cheese (the richest and most flavorful goat cheese ever). their own liquors and wine, using local fruits like madd or ditakh. They also have a whole lines of jams, juices
Then we took a plane an hour south to Casamance. Right in the beginning of oyster season (starts in mid-February). We took a small dugout boat on the Casamance River to collect fresh oysters from the mangrove.
In Casamance, we grill them on a wood burning, then shuck them with their precious nectar, and mix it it with lemon juice, raw onion and habanero. This dish called tempra is like a sevice with a combination of smokiness for the wood, brininess fro the oysters nectar and acidity fro the lemon, combined with the heat of the habanero and the crunchy rawness of the onions, makes a most refreshing and good tasting oyster salad. This grilled oysters salad is often served as an appetizer with fresh palm wine.
In Casamance we also ate a rich etodjay prepared by my cousin Binta. Etodjay is a specialty of the Diola people. It contains cassava leaves, ground peanuts and a rich medley of seafood that included, crab, shrimp, smoked oysters, dried clams all cooked in a exquisite stew with red palm oil.
After Casamance, we went to the northern region of St Louis, the birthplace of Thiebou Jenn, Senegal national dish. In St Louis we stayed at one of my favorite Maison d'Hote in the whole world, Au Fil du Fleuve" (http://fildufleuve.com), owned by the most charming host (and talented cook) Marie Caroline Camara.
Soda prepared for us a delicious thiebou jenn while Marieme, the manager as well as an art student and a blogger, entertained us with food stories of Saint louis.