When we moved into our current neighborhood, Poppa Trix and I were super excited to see that there was a Senegalese restaurant within walking distance of our house. All the cab drivers eat there, which in my book is usually a very good sign. Unfortunately, it turns out that if you're not from Senegal and/or a cab driver yourself, your meal may take upwards of an hour to eventually find its meandering way onto your table.
Now, that wouldn't be so bad if the food were stellar. But the kitchen always seems to have just run out of the very thing I want, and the dishes they do have are literally swimming in deep rivers of palm oil. After several attempts to love this place, I realized that I had no choice: If I want Senegalese food, I'm just going to have to make it myself.
I love my own healthy version of one of Senegal's classic dishes, yassa. Usually done with chicken (poulet yassa) or fish (poisson yassa), mine is vegetarian, and uses seitan as the protein, but I can envision chick peas, kidney beans, or black eyed peas as alternate, equally yummy, proteins.
Senegalese Veggie Yassa
Like many African stew-type dishes, these amounts are approximate and should serve as a guide.
5 or so tbsp peanut oil
1 package seitan, drained and chopped
3-4 large onions, thinly sliced
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Cider vinegar (the same quantity as lemon juice)
1 Tbsp dijon mustard
hot chili peppers, chopped - make it as hot as you like
cayenne or red pepper flakes
1-2 bay leaves
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
veggie bouillon cube
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 cabbage, chopped
4-5 carrots, cut into discs
2-3 potatoes, cubed
Whisk together the lemon, cider vinegar, mustard, soy sauce and a tbsp of peanut oil. (If you were making poulet yassa, this would be your marinade.) Meanwhile, saute the onions and chilies in the peanut oil until the onions soften. Add the garlic and all the other veggies, saute a few minutes more. Add the mustard sauce, and stir to coat. Add the bouillon cube, the seitan, and just enough water to barely cover (you could also use veggie stock here, but I'm giving a nod to the ubiquitous Maggi cube found so often in African cuisine.) Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer until the veggies are tender. Taste the stock and add a pinch of cayenne or hot pepper if it's not spicy enough, and salt to taste. I love this dish with polenta, but couscous would be a perfect choice.
The heat of the chilies with the bitter lemon and tart mustard is a unique - and somewhat addictive - flavor.