Tag Archives: Senegal

Berber Street Food offers a tour of Africa and the diaspora

When we heard that there was a new African restaurant in NYC with a chef from Mauritania, our ears perked up. The restaurant is the brainchild of chef Diana Tandia, who is originally from Mauritania, but has worked in upscale restaurants around NYC for decades. She decided that it was time to strike out on her own, so she opened Berber Street Food (35 Carmine St, New York, NY 10014). The menu is a mosaic of different African and African Diaspora cuisines, along with some interesting fusions.

Berber Street food is a tiny – and we mean tiny – restaurants with 15 seats. This counter-service is not a place for groups, or to linger over a leisurely lunch (though when we were there, the couple occupying the table in the window was having a simultaneous birthday party and photo shoot, so who knows). When we entered around lunchtime, the place was packed, and we were happy to see that they were doing a brisk takeout trade.  Many of the lunch orders were buying Afro-Fusion express bowls ($10), which were various combinations of grains, greens and proteins, including tofu curry, Berber-spiced meat and Jamaican jerk chicken.

For starters, called “street food bites,” there are Senegalese empanadas (vegetable or beef curry $3 each), Kofta meatballs with Berber spices ($8), or a Suya Nigerian beef brochette ($8), along with Jamaican jerk chicken wings ($7.5o). All of Africa and the diaspora seemed to be covered.We were excited to see akara, a black-eyed pea fritter that is the Nigerian descendants of Brazilian acarajé with tomato and onion sauce ($7), so we knew we had to order it. Though smaller in size to acarajé, they tasted pretty similar and were delicious. M topped his with some spicy kani, west African hot sauce made of habanero peppers (which were also placed decoratively in basket at each table).

The mains were a little more pricey, and covered the greats hits of the region, including Djolof Fried Rice (which is claimed by many West African countries – $17) rice cooked in a spicy tomato sauce with either chicken or tempeh and Moroccan vegetable tajine, served served in an actual tajine ($18). We had the Berber Feast ($24) which consisted of roast lamb, squash and couscous, the most Mauritanian item on the menu. The lamb was fall of the bone tender and not gamey at all (sometimes a problem with lamb), and we enjoyed the accompaniments and sauces, though we felt the price was a little steep for the portions. We washed down our dinner with Berber iced mint tea ($3) and ginger lemongrass drink ($5) – we also discovered that these two mixed together made an amazing riff on the Arnold Palmer.

The attention to detail in Berber Street Food restaurant is amazing. It is basically a one-woman show, with Diana cooking, taking orders and delivering food (though it did appear she had a sous chef helping her back in the kitchen). We enjoyed talking with Diana, who connected with us over having spent some time in Brazil. If we lived in the area we could definitely see ourselves having lunch here pretty often. We wish Berber Street Food nothing but success!

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Reviews

Pastry-Post Doc: Thiakry / Degue from West Africa

We recently attended the end-of-the-year gala for the local college’s African Student Association, which was a delightful banquet full of delicious dishes from all around Africa: jollof rice, moi moi, plantains, injera, beef tibs, samosas and more. However, there were no African desserts. That got us to thinking – what would be a good African dessert to add in the future? That’s when we first heard about Thiakry (aka Dégué) – a sweet couscous-like dish with origins in West Africa. Both titles refer to the millet grain used in the dish itself, which is called Thiakry in Senegal, or Dégué in the rest of West Africa. The grain used in Thiakry can be millet or if that is not available, wheat, which is then mixed with dairy, dried fruit, vanilla and spices like nutmeg or cinnamon. The final texture is similar to rice pudding. You can check out the following recipes for varieties of Degue/Thiakry: Yummy Medley, Food World, and Salwa Petersen. You can buy Degue/Millet in most African markets, or in various shops online. This is a dish that is open to experimentation and customization – so you can add pretty much anything you want – as in this modern take on the recipe from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (seen below).

Leave a comment

Filed under Reviews

Badou Senegalese Cuisine in Rogers Park

senegal1Going to eat at Badou Senegalese Cuisine (2055 W. Howard, Chicago, IL) is like eating at the house of the friend. In fact, Badou likes it when you call ahead to let him know how many people are coming so he is prepared for your party (just like a friend). When we entered Badou, we immediately were greeted by he restaurant’s namesake, Badara “Badou” Diakhate himself, the chef and proprietor, and obviously the heart and soul of the restaurant. He sat down with us and consulted us on his favorite dishes and how much he thought we should order. Badou is located in a nondescript strip mall on the border of Rogers Park and Evanston, but the food and hospitality with transport you to another place. The walls are painted a vibrant blue and covered with masks, wall hangings and paintings from Senegal and surrounding areas.

Badou

On our first visit we chatted with Badou over Bissap hibiscus drinks ($2.99). We started our meal with chicken pastels – kind of like empanadas ($4.99) – Badou upped the serving from the normal three-piece serving to four to match our group.  The pastries were delicious and flaky, and gently spiced. We ordered three entrees: first was Diby Yaap ($12.99) roast lamb with a spicy habanero and onion sauce. One of the most classic Senegalese dishes was next, Chicken Mafé ($11.99), cooked in a peanut butter sauce. Finally, we ordered the Attieke – fried whole tilapia ($11.99). This dish came with fermented cassava, cooked like couscous, and served with a colorful and onion, tomato and bell pepper sauce.

BadouMafe

Our dishes came out one at a time, and we shared each family-style. For the price there was an enormous amount of food, and the three dishes were more than enough for the four of us! The tilapia was excellent, but as with any whole fish – you have to work for your meal. The lamb dish was perfectly tender and had a bit of a spicy kick. The chicken mafe was just like we liked it: rich, creamy and not too spicy. There was something for everything at Badou, with all spice tolerances and tastes covered with ease. On a future visit we tried the steak with Dijon mustard and onions, which seems like a simple mix, but actually had a completely different and delightful flavor profile.

BadouFish

Badou is a great place to enjoy a home cooked meal straight from the heart of Senegal. This is the kind of place to come with friends to while away an evening with some good food. We have now visited Badou on several occasions, and highly enjoyed the food and atmosphere each time. However, this is not a restaurant to go to when you are in a rush, since dishes arrive at a leisurely pace, one-at-a-time, and they sometimes get swamped with delivery orders. Make sure you call in advance too, after all, you are visiting a friend’s house.

BadouInterior

Leave a comment

Filed under Reviews

We launch our new series on the people shaping African cuisine with Chef Pierre Thiam

senegal1We are very excited about Africa is a Country’s new series – “Africa is a Kitchen” all about African cuisine around the world. The first feature is about Pierre Thiam, a successful Senegalese-born chef and restaurateur working in NYC.

Africa is a Country (Old Site)

Welcome to the inaugural post of our new feature profiling African foods and drinks (plus other gastronomical related subjects); and the people on the continent and in the diaspora that are defining and reshaping our ideas and tastes of these. We’ll call it “Africa is a Kitchen”. To kick off the series, we will be speaking to a Chef in the diaspora who is defining African cuisine both on the continent and in the diaspora. Pierre Thiam is a chef, restaurateur, and cookbook author. He was raised in Dakar, Senegal. Thiam moved to New York in the late eighties and started working in various restaurants in the city. In 2003, Thiam opened his first restaurant, Yolele, a visionary African bistro and his second restaurant, Le Grand-Dakar Restaurant, opened in 2004 in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. Thiam now runs a catering and gastronomy consultancy: Pierre Thiam Catering. In addition to his work…

View original post 1,830 more words

Leave a comment

Filed under Links

Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal: Maïmouna et Mandela

Maïmouna et Mandela
48 rue Clignancourt
75018 Paris

The bright orange sign on this small take-away restaurant makes itself known for blocks. And again, at nearly all hours, it is full of hungry patrons, with Senegalese guitar music blaring through the restaurant (Youssou N’Dour, we think). We were excited to try it for its stellar reviews, but even moreso when we discovered that take-out entrees were only 5E. We both tried the chicken yassa (Yassa Poulet), a traditional west African dish with a mustard and onion sauce. When we arrived right after they opened at 12:30 they were already doing a brisk business (both carry-out and dine-in) though we had to wait about 30 minutes, a tiny amount when compared to the previous night’s adventures at G.J. Restaurant. For 5 euros the yassa chicken is an amazing steal – the portions were ample and the sauce was delicious. As far as it goes, we actually probably prefer the Yassa chicken at Yassa in Chicago, but for some cheap and (relatively speedy) Senegalese food in Paris this will fit the bill just fine.

Leave a comment

Filed under Reviews

Senegal: Yassa

Yassa
716 East 79th Street
Chicago, IL

The restaurant we visited when we first decided to start eating the World was Senegalese, so we have always had a soft spot in our hearts for Senegalese food. Of course, it does not hurt that it is extremely delicious! We had to travel quite a bit south to make our way to Yassa, and when we walked in we were greeted by some cool decor. There were murals on the walls and even a little store in the back selling Senegalese and Nigerian movies.

Yassa had an amazing selection of drinks for only 2 dollars apeice: we ended up choosing ginger and boabab drinks, other choices were tamarind and bissap (sorrel). The Ginger drink was super strong with an incredible fresh ground ginger flavor that was pretty spicy and refreshing. We also ordered some Baobab tea – a flavor wholly unknown to us. In fact, it is wholly unknown to the US, pretty much, since it was just approved by the FDA for consumption only recently. If we had to describe, we would say that baobab tasted unusually like hazelnut.

For our entrees we ordered Maffe ($11) and the Yassa Chicken ($11). The maffe, a classic Senegalese tomato and peanut butter stew of lamb with potatoes, carrots and yams, served with white rice. The flavor of the Maffe was rich and velvety and was a peanut butter lovers’ dream, which clearly pleased M. The lamb, which sometimes can get stringy, was moist and tender. The Yassa chicken came marinated in an onion and mustard sauce alongside white rice. The marinade was flavorful and there was a huge amount of on-the-bone chicken. Though we tried valiantly neither of us was able to finish more than half of our lunches.

We had heard that the service was a little bit slow, but it didn’t really bother us much. We were the only group in the place, and the servers were amazing attentive and they took very good care of us. The food at Yassa was amazing and we think they definitely deserve some more clientele.

1 Comment

Filed under Reviews

Pan-African: Africa Harambee [Closed]


CameroonAfrica Harambee [Closed]
senegal1 7537 N Clark St.
Chicago, IL

We were foiled on our attempt to visit the Guinean restaurant on Howard, Le Conakry (The cook was on vacation), so we decided to hit up another African restaurant on Howard. We had been meaning to try Africa Harambee for a while, so it seemed like a natural choice. Walking by the restaurant, we peered into the windows, but the dining room appeared to be dark and abandoned. No one was in inside, despite a sign advertising that they were open. We pondered turning back for a moment, since a dead-empty restaurant a noon is a bad sign, but we figured we were there, so why not explore further.

Upon entering, the dining room itself had a slightly Nautical theme – one wonders what type of place was here before, coupled with  big screen TV blaring motocross races and a bar, it created a slightly incongruous ambiance. Appearance notwithstanding, the menu at Africa Harambee is Pan-African, with a special emphasis on Ethiopian food, as the owner is also connected to Ethiopian stalwart, Ethiopian Diamond. The choice of starches available with most entrees ran the gamut, too, with the availability of rice, Couscous, Injera, Chapathi (unleavened flatbread) or Ugali (cornmeal dough). We started off with a cup of Piquin pepper soup. The piquin comes from South Africa – also known as a Peppadew -and taste something like a slightly spicy red bell pepper. The flavor of the soup was good, if a little thin.
AHJollof
For a main course, M ordered the Jollof Rice – popular Senegalese dish that has spread throughout West Africa (the name Jollof comes from Wolof, the name of an African Empire). There are many regional variations, but AH’s Jollof rice had a green peppers, onion and tomato sauce seasoned with thyme, garlic and bay leaves (12.50). However, it was a bit mild for M’s taste. As sides, the alicha chickpeas and greens were good, but also a little bland. I ordered the Cameroon shrimp with Injera (13.50) which came in a slightly spicy peanut sauce. The sauce was delicious, but the shrimp came out whole, so it was a bit of a messy affair to de-shell the shrimps while covered in a thick sauce. However, the injera was a great help in sopping up the ensuing mess.

AHShrimp

Throughout the entire lunch, we were the only patrons in the restaurant, which lent a slightly sad air to the meal. The owner and an old lady sat at a table in the corner watching us silently and intently as we ate. But I guess the service was especially attentive as a result. Despite our meal at AH being a little awkward, we were generally satisfied. While it was no Ethiopian Diamond we couldn’t help but wonder why was it empty on a Saturday at noon. Were we missing some fatal flaw? It can’t be location – the other half of the building, Hophaus – an American Bar and Grill, was totally packed. Poor Africa Harambee. Perhaps you can help them out…

Leave a comment

Filed under Reviews

World Eats: African Eats in Paris

Eating the World started as an idea in a Senegalese restaurant in Paris, and with a glimmer of a trip to France next year on the horizon, we are already in pre-pre-planning mode.  So in prep for that we have compiled some links that may prove helpful. African restaurants in Paris tend to be Northern and Western Africa – corresponding with the francophone regions of the continent. A large hub of the African population is the Goutte d’Or (Drop of Gold), located in the 18th arrondissement, along with Montmartre. For the flâneurs among us, we found an interesting self-guided walking tour of the Goutte d’Or on the Anglophone Parisian Site Parisvoice.

Goutte D’Or Market: Photo by Findustrip

First up foodwise, a comprehensive article from the New York Times extolling the charms of Paris’ African eats, ranging from trendy nightclubs to little patisseries. We are especially drawn to Algerian bakery La Bague de Kenza, (106, rue St.-Maur). However, befitting the more well-heeled NYT reader, the article covers more high priced eats. More our speed are hole-in-the-wall cafes selling the Tunisian egg and pastry specialty, Brik. At this the lower end of the price scale (less than 15 euros), Chowhound users weigh in with some recommendations: North African restaurants in Paris and Ethnic restaurants in Paris?. If you read French, we also found an interesting review site where you can search by cuisine, called Linternaute. It’s very comprehensive, and they even have a category for Réunionnais restaurants. Guess there aren’t many expatriates from Réunion in the US….

Kaysha performs at Moussa Restaurant in Paris: Photo by Kaysha

Though North African restaurants may be more numerous, other areas of Africa are represented. In the photo above, Kaysha, a French rapper of Congolese heritage, performs at Moussa, a restaurant specializing in West African cuisine (25-27, avenue Corentin Cariou). All of these wonderful recommendations are making us eager for our trip, even though it is a year away. Perhaps next week we will branch out to other esoteric cuisines found in Paris – Guadeloupan? Maltese? Corsican?

1 Comment

Filed under World Eats