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Soupe kandja

A plate of soupe kandja from Marché Kermel in Dakar, Senegal.

What: Soupe kandja (also spelled soupoukandia) is not a soup, per se, but another thick sauce served over rice. Thanks to the inclusion of okra, it’s very distinct in its slimy texture, for better or worse—it seems people either hate cooked-down okra for this reason, or they’re OK with it. Also in this dish? Fish and/or seafood, vegetables, sometimes meat, chilies, and that African favorite, palm oil. It is not all that dissimilar from Louisiana’s famed seafood gumbo, of which this is likely a forerunner. Get past the weird texture and it’s pretty darn tasty.

Where: We found our soupe kandja right outside the covered Marché Kermel, near the port, where ladies set up picnic tables under makeshift tents during lunch hours most days. The food is delicious and dirt-cheap, but the setting is as bare-bones as it gets. We’d advise sticking to the dishes served with a spoon rather than ungloved hands.

When: Mon-Sat, approx. 11:30am-3pm (earlier is better for freshness)

Order: Hot and viscous, the soupe kandja (700 CFA) is spooned out over rice here in all its slimy, oily glory. Surprise: It’s good! It takes a while to adjust to the okra-seed stickiness, but it’s hard not to like the pink fish, small mussels, and chilies that flavor this dish. And the amount of palm oil used was not at all overwhelming.

Alternatively: For a more formal restaurant setting, look for this dish at any Senegalese restaurant, such as downtown’s Restaurant Le Djembe (33-82106-66; 56 Rue Docteur Theze, map), which includes it on its lunch menu (for five times the price of Kermel’s).


 

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