In Senegal, a Return to Homegrown Rice

NEAR MIDNIGHT, AT the highest of a lighthouse in Dakar, the westernmost level of the African continent, I sat earlier than a grilled entire fish so long as my forearm and accompanied by a dome of rice. Thiof, a white grouper, is such frequent Senegalese restaurant fare that the Wolof phrase itself is slang — a good-looking man can be a thiofa “good catch.” I’d eaten beachside thiof south of Dakar within the trip space of Saly, and cliffside thiof at breezy eating places in Les Almadies, the Dakar neighborhood identified for its nightlife. This thiof, although rubbed with spices just like the others — I tasted ginger, garlic, cardamom, perhaps turmeric — was served with a tiny cup of heat tamarind glaze. If there have been greens on the plate, I’ve banished them from my reminiscence; solely the sauce, fish and rice have been in dialog. The pores and skin of the thiof was crisp and juicy, the sauce tangy and wealthy. The rice was not so long as basmati, nor as brief as sticky rice, however a measurement in between, spherical by the center with little adhesion and a agency however pliant texture. If meals encapsulates pleasure, innovation and neighborhood suddenly, then tasting the Platonic ultimate of a easy dish can deliver a spot and its individuals into focus, even when you encounter that ultimate in an unlikely setting — a lighthouse restaurant identified for its brunch.

I requested to see the menu once more, to confirm that I had certainly ordered the identical dish I’d eaten at so many eating places on the town. It was late June, and being this near the ocean at such a late hour meant that the regular warmth of the day had pale to a lightweight chill. Close by, alongside the coast, was Africa’s tallest statue, the African Renaissance Monument, hulking within the semidark: A cartoonishly muscular man gripped his lady by the waist with one arm and held his little one with the opposite, all three of their colossal copper our bodies leaning out over the water. My dinner date, a Senegalese nonprofit government on the town from Paris to co-host a vogue present, learn the menu alongside me. “Ooh, riz de la vallée,” she mentioned. “Fascinating to see that talked about.” “Rice of the valley” is a phrase used to consult with rice grown within the Senegal River Valley, one of many nation’s principal areas of cultivation. It was my first and solely time seeing the phrase on a menu, however by then — my closing night in Senegal, which is among the many largest customers of rice in West Africa — I had come to know that rice, for the Senegalese, is commonly the topic of curiosity, and generally the topic of debate.


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– Tracing Mexico’s historical past by its ambivalent relationship to rice, a staple inextricable from colonialism.

– When scorched on the underside of the pot by a talented prepare dinner, rice transforms from bland supporting actor to wealthy, advanced protagonist.

– Mansaf, a Bedouin dish of lamb and rice, is each a nationwide image in Jordan and a talisman of house for suburban Detroit’s Arab American diaspora.

– Senegal, which consumes extra rice per capita, most of it imported, than nearly another African nation, is trying to resuscitate homegrown varieties.

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