Today the NYTimes published an article about one of my favorite dishes EVER. It's called, Thiebu Djen, and when it's done right, the flavors are like nothing you've ever had before. Typically served in a large, round communal platter, this dish is filled with delicious fried fish, chunks of perfectly cooked eggplant, yucca, tomato, onion and okra. The vegetables and flavored chili pastes are laid out over heaps of heavenly tasting 'broken' rice that has been simmered in the vegetable and fish juices and acquires a lovely redish brown hue. Served with bissap (from the Roselle plant, a species of hibiscus, also used as tea) and xooñ (the crunch scrapings from the bottom of the pot) this dish is a Senegalese classic. I could almost eat the entire platter on my own!
For some time I tried to mimic the fabulous meals cooked for me by various Senegalese cooks. I was never able to replicate the dish despite numerous attempts. Eventually I gave up, convinced that the rich, delicious flavor must have been attributed to copious amounts of MSG. Having read the NYTimes article I am now convinced that the key ingredient I have been missing all this time is the ete (dried large snail) or guedge (dried fish.) Ick! While I'm not *quite* ready to brave the unknown and simmer dried large snail with my rice, I would love to visit one of the restaurants listed in the article. If only Harlem weren't so far away!
Until then I'll just have to dream about Thiebu Djen...(that and all the fabulous French pastries also available in Dakar...mmmm...)