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One of my most treasured food memories is of a family vacation to Italy when I was a teenager. We spent a week in Florence, and every meal we had was a revelation. But the one that stands out most in... Read more

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Binch (bean) dishes

A bowl of binch (beans) over boiled potatoes from Bo, Sierra Leone.

Black-eyed beans, known as binch, are a staple in Sierra Leone, providing a welcome change of pace from the myriad leafy stews and nutty soups. Often served with boiled plantains, gari (shredded fermented cassava), or yams—with a hefty helping of palm oil, of course—these beans are especially popular for breakfast. We think the locals are on to something here: Spicy, hearty, and nutritious, binch makes darn good “chop.”

Where: Pictured is a typical Sierra Leonean breakfast we found on the street in Bo: binch and yams, from a vendor on Kissy Town Rd. across from the Sir Milton Hotel. The food looked fresh (and was covered with a lid—necessary in dusty Bo), but as a precaution, we quickly rinsed the plastic bowl handed us with mineral water and used our own utensils.

When: This was served at breakfast, around 9:30am.

Order: The dish consisted of four large, boiled potatoes or yams, mashed with a spoon and topped with a spicy, palm oil-y mix of beans and plantains. The flavors were quite good, although the oil is a lot to handle—and the vendors kept replenishing the pot with more of it. (You can request less oil if you wish, or drain off the excess yourself.) This was our cheapest meal in Sierra Leone—just 40 cents in U.S. currency—and one of the most filling.

Alternatively: We requested binch from the resourceful chef at stunning Tiwai Island Wildlife Sanctuary (Tiwai Island, map), a tropical wildlife sanctuary and community conservation program in the tranquil Moa River. After soaking the beans overnight, he cooked them with onion, bongo (smoked fish), palm oil, salt, and Maggi, and then served them over a bed of fluffy gari, or shredded cassava—a specialty of the Bo area, which reminded us of a denser couscous. Salty and smoky in flavor, it made a tasty, hearty breakfast post-primate spotting on the island.


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