Senegal is famous for being the top gastronomic region of West Africa. Dakar, its capital, perfectly illustrates the epitome of Senegalese culinary art with a wide range of gastronomic specialties that will delight your taste buds. Here are our tips for an unforgettable gourmet getaway in Dakar.
Fish and seafood make up some of the stand-out products of Dakar cuisine, as the city is home to many fishing ports. To soak up the local culture, stroll between the stalls and taste the many different marine specialties: braised, salted, dried, fermented ... The choice is immense.
You should not miss out on trying the most famous fish of the country, the thiof (or tanned grouper), which is generally cooked in the thieboudiène – a classic Senegalese dish. Fish stuffed in the Sainte-Louisienne is also a must-try for foodies. Take the time to enjoy this recipe, carefully created to accentuate the taste of the mullet by stuffing and sprinkled with many condiments and herbs. Only when you have tried this dish can you begin the journey to becoming a real local!
For a more authentic taste experience, leave the city centre behind and head towards Soumbédioune beach – a traditional fishing village in Dakar. Hundreds of pirogues arrive every here day, as a known artisanal fishing spot. With your feet buried in the hot sand, contact one of the many grilled fish and seafood vendors to enjoy the delights straight from the ocean.
The markets are deeply rooted in the Dakar cultural landscape. Stalls are full of exotic fruits and products from all over West Africa. One of the most famous is the Kermel Market, which is as overwhelming in its diversity as its Arab-Muslim architecture. Take your time admiring the superb round hall, dating from the 19th century, and its mixture of oche and orange bricks. Looking up, you will see the dome with engravings of beautiful flowers and circular wrought iron shapes. In the middle lies a gigantic clock that once echoed to indicate the closing of the market.
Take a stroll among the alleyways of this cave of wonders, where you’ll find absolutely everything you need for a sumptuous, colourful meal: fruits, vegetables, meat and fish of all kinds. If you’re looking to pick up some souvenirs to take home, make sure you visit the outdoor area where stalls are dedicated to the sellers of tablecloths, dresses, bags, batiks and so much more.
To spice up your gourmet getaway in Dakar, there’s nothing like a Senegalese cooking class! The city offers many workshops allowing you to learn the art and way of cooking like a local, with some even inviting you into a family home for a truly authentic experience. Some also offer market tours to teach you how to choose the best ingredients before cooking. A culturally-immersive experience, make sure you sample your efforts as you go so guests can enjoy the fruits of your labour to the maximum.