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<< back to foods in Sierra Leone

Pepper soup

A bowl of pepper soup over local rice from Tiwaii Island in Sierra Leone.

What: Different West African countries have their own take on this, but in Sierra Leone, at its most basic, it’s a clear soup made with onion, garlic, seasoning (Maggi cubes), fish or meat, and lots and lots of pepper—which means chile pepper around here. It’s pretty fiery, a good old-fashioned sinus clearer—so you’ll be glad for the plate of rice that accompanies it. (Like other soups in Sierra Leone, it’s spooned over rice, not eaten with a spoon.) Common meats used in this soup include pig’s foot, goat, and cow belly/intestines.

Where: Our pepper soup is from the humble kitchen on Tiwai Island (Tiwai Island), a stunning wildlife sanctuary and community conservation program about five hours southeast of Freetown.

When: Tiwai is a pretty small affair, with one chef, a man named Lahai Sesey—albeit a very good one—at the helm, and as such, whether you’re a day-tripper or an overnight guest, you can discuss meals and times with him. If you have any special meal requests, make them well in advance, as he often has to obtain ingredients from villages off-island.

Order: This aromatic pepper soup (Le10,000), seasoned with bay leaf, was made with local fish—tilapia in this case—and was very spicy to our palates, although our local friends, incredibly, begged to differ. Like all meals at Tiwai, it’s served with delicious country rice.

Alternatively: It’s common fare on Salone restaurant menus, but in Freetown we heard particularly good things about the pepper soup, offered with chicken, beef, or fish, at Jakkah’s Restaurant (030-328-113/033-328-113; 4 George St., map).

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