Thiebou Dienn for lunch today, the Senegalese national dish. This wasn’t homemade, like the last cheb photo I posted, but instead was sourced from the nice ladies at 62 East 116th Street, between Park and Madison.
One of my office-mates has been craving Senegalese food for days now, so when she pulled the menu for the old Guinean place I frequented before I went down to the Secret City out of the stack I had a twinge of nostalgia and quickly gathered up the gumption to call them and order two plates of cheb. I know you’re thinking, “Senegalese/Guinean, what’s the deal here; do I go to a German restaurant for spaghetti bolognese?” Maybe you don’t, but in my limited experience everyone who’s tried it enjoys eating cheb, even me, and making it is kind of fun too.
The restaurant had kept the same phone number, but according to the order-taker they no longer did deliveries, and when I went to their old premises, they had moved, so it was a mini-adventure in itself just getting to the place, which was bizarrely named “Akwaaba,” the Twi (Ghana) word for welcome. So Senegalese food from Guinean cooks in a restaurant with a Ghanaian name.
As you can see, it looked pretty good when I got the dish back to the office and unpacked, and the colleague was very appreciative of my efforts.
They didn’t stuff the fish (some kind of sea-bass, I think), which is certainly an option that the Senegalese gastronome would not forego, but they did include the tamarind pieces. I think tamarind and a white fish go great together, and I should probably try to do something a little less elaborate with those two ingredients soon.
For your own delectation, you can try these at home:
- My favorite cheb recipe comes from an old, old New York Times article, now available here.
- Epicurious has a version as well, that lacks the tamarind, but does include the dried smoked fish, which is an acquired taste.
- An easy recipe, that doesn’t stuff the fish or make the rice with the cooking liquid, is available at the bottom of this page of collected African fish recipes.
- A wiki page with the recipe is here: they include the tamarind and stuff the fish both.
- And this one from the pages of the Times in this decade, is way too complicated. Dried snail, anyone?