What The Truck Is Senegalese Food?

Chefpanzee Blog

BY INDU SUDHAKAR

View Senegalese Menu

Don’t know what Senegalese food is?


Don’t be so hard on yourself— we didn’t know either at first.

But that’s the great thing about Salt Lake City’s burgeoning gastronomic scene; chefs from all over the world are coming here and introducing their cuisine to us, continuously opening our minds and palates.

Balabé’s bright orange food truck, serving the Capitol for the Women’s March

A few weeks ago, we featured Chef Pape and Ibu from Balabé: a new Senegalese food truck in Salt Lake City.

Immediately after that, here are just a couple of messages we received:

“I need a moment. Because that is the best chicken I’ve ever had. I honestly wished I doubled the meat order. It was that good.”

“Holy Crap. Who knew Senegalese food tasted so good?!”

And, you are already aware of my finger-licking reaction from Instagram.

So what’s behind the intrigue? What exactly IS Senegalese food?

 

Let’s start with the basics.

Senegal is a country in West Africa.

It has a population of close to 16 million people.

The flavors are largely influenced by their neighbor to the north, Morroco, as well as France & Portugal..

 

Balabé’s Fireire Jenn – marinated, grilled filled served with pickled onions and fries. Our personal favorite.

What are the staples of Senegalese cuisine?


Because Senegal is a coastal country, fish is a huge staple. And when they use fish, they use the WHOLE fish. Talk about mindful consumerism
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They also cook with chicken, lamb and beef. And in Senegalese cuisine, it is a crime to under-season any of these meats. Senegalese cuisine perfects the balance between being able to taste the freshness of the meat or fish, while also amplifying those flavors with seasonings that are indescribably savory, sweet and spicy… all at the same time.

Peanuts, Senegal’s primary crop, are also a mainstay in traditional Senegalese cuisine. And the flavors they can create from peanuts— well, they are unlike anything we have had the pleasure of trying.

Take the peanut sauce found in Balabe’s Mafe, for example. It’s not as sweet or as thick as a peanut sauce you’d find in traditional Thai cuisine. The peanut flavor in Senegalese cuisine has a little hint of toasty sweetness, a savory umami flavor & a consistency that soaks into every bit of rice or cous-cous that it’s served with.

What are some other popular dishes in Senegal?


Thieboudienne – The national dish of Senegal features fish, marinated with parsley, lemon, garlic, onions & herbs, (which are pounded into a paste with a mortar and pestle to release all the flavors and oils). Then, it is cooked in a slightly sweet tomato paste with a variety of vegetables. Rice is added to the mix and all of this cooks for HOURS. I’m talking start at 8am end at 3pm kind of cooking. During that time, tart-flavored ingredients like hibiscus & tamarind paste are added, along with a handful of spicy scotch bonnet & savory flavors like saltfish. And don’t forget the vegetables– they often add fresh produce like cabbage, turnips, eggplants, squash, cauliflower and okra. Balabe offers their own twist on this dish with their Curry Thiou.

Thieboudienne (Photo courtsey of AfricaBites)

Thiebou Yapp (photo courtesy of NY Daily News)

Thiebou Yapp – This is a popular dish that features fried beef or lamb, garnished with onions, garlic, black pepper, red pepper & salt. After the meat is cooked, they add mustard and water for a tangy flavor that tenderizes the meat while cooking. Finally, rice is added along with some last few garnishes.

Thiebou Guinar – The chicken version of Thiebou Yapp. Topped with carrots.

Thiebou Yapp – This is a popular dish that features fried beef or lamb, garnished with onions, garlic, black pepper, red pepper & salt. After the meat is cooked, they add mustard and water for a tangy flavor that tenderizes the meat while cooking. Finally, rice is added along with some last few garnishes.

Thiebou Yapp (photo courtesy of NY Daily News)

Balabé’s Maafe with Rice

Maafe – Seasoned fish, chicken, lamb, or beef cooked with vegetables in a tomato and peanut butter stew. Chef Pape serves traditional Maafe, but also offers a delicious Maafe poutine if you’re looking for a Canadian twist on Senegalese food.

Balabé’s Maafe Poutine

Where can I find Senegalese food?

 

It’s one thing to read about these delicious dishes from an amateur writer— it’s another thing to try it.

Chef Pape and Ibu will be cooking Saturday, March 23rd from 5-9pm and again on Monday, March 25th from 11am-9pm… delivering to the Salt Lake City area.

Don’t miss out on discovering what the hype is all about!

Chef Pape & Ibu | Owners of Balabé

Chef Pape & Ibu run the only Senegalese food truck in Utah– Balabé. They also own Twisted Roots, a rock & reggae store located in downtown Salt Lake City.

Follow Balabé on social media to stay apprised of their latest schedule.

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