Caramelised Water Chestnuts
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What: The dish to make the best use of local groundnuts, or peanuts, mafé (also spelled maffé) combines meat, typically beef or mutton, and a peanut sauce, served with rice. It originated in Mali but is quite popular in Senegal and the Gambia, where groundnuts are likewise grown (other parts of West Africa have a version of this too, such as Sierra Leone and its groundnut soup). Lest you confuse it in your mind with a smooth Indonesian satay sauce, this groundnut sauce tends to be much thicker and oilier, imparting a richer flavor. It’s delicious and very filling.
Where: Our favorite of the mafes we tried came from Restaurant Le Djembe (33-82106-66; 56 Rue Docteur Theze), an oasis of bright tangerine walls in the midst of downtown.
When: Mon-Sat, 11am-5pm
Order: The maffe viande (2,500 CFA), made with lamb, was deliciously rich here, very thick and a little spicy with a good but not excessive amount of groundnut oil scattered around the plate. Even with white rice to soak up the sauce, this was the kind of meal that’s hard to finish in one sitting, though we really, really wanted to. It felt akin to eating half a jar of peanut butter in one go—tempting but a little too much at the end of the day. (No matter; it is easy to give away excess food in Senegal if necessary.)
Alternatively: This dish is standard enough to be found at most Senegalese restaurants and rice shacks, so you shouldn’t have to look too far. Downtown you might also try no-frills Touba Restaurant (95 Rue Joseph Gomis, map), which offers a nice range of dishes at great prices (around 1,000 CFA) during lunch. For more atmosphere there’s the popular French-African Le Toukouleur (221-821-5193; 122 Rue Moussé Diop, map) and guidebook favorite Chez Loutcha (221-821-0302; 101 Rue Moussé Diop, map), which does a lot of Cape Verdean specials along Senegalese classics. Up in N’Gor, we also tried this dish at the USAID Rice Shack (map), where it was tasty but a bit oilier than we like.
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