Yassa can be prepared with chicken, lamb, or fish in a similar fashion to Gambian caldo. For my part, I chose the most common preparation, chicken yassa.
This chicken yassa dish originates from Casamance, a historical and natural region of Southwest Senegal, between The Gambia and Guinea Bissau, partially isolated from the rest of the country by the
A whole chicken, cut into pieces or boneless, is first marinated overnight with onions, the juice of several lemons or limes, mustard and peanut oil, then grilled and finally gently cooked in its marinade. It is typically served with white rice.
OK, but what kind of chicken should you use for chicken yassa? Have you ever heard of poulet bicyclette (literally chicken bicycle in English)?
A chicken gets out of the coop early in the morning, runs all day like a bicycle in search of food and at dusk, it returned to his coop. In Senegal, it is very common to see chickens freely running around in small villages. These chickens are nicknamed poulet bicyclette because of their fast demeanor and the shape of their legs that resemble the legs of a cyclist. It is quite different from the standard chicken, but what makes poulet bicyclette so popular is its tastier and juicier meat.
Thin, muscular, untidy, running down the street, wandering in the barnyards, grabbing enough food to live while dancing from one foot to the other… before finishing on a dish or at a butcher shop … such is the fate of the poulet bicyclette which is just succulent.
It is quite different from standard farm chicken, which is fed with hormones and that Africans nickname poulet cadavre, literally corpse chicken.
I didn’t have the chance to prepare my chicken yassa recipe with poulet bicyclette but I never cook chicken other than grain-fed free range chicken. It is certainly not as skinny as poulet bicyclette, I would even say quite plump but with a tenderness which, I am sure, is very similar.
I absolutely loved this very tangy and spicy chicken yassa dish!
- 1 whole chicken (3 lb), boned and cut into pieces
- 8 onions , thinly sliced
- 3 cloves garlic , minced
- 4 limes or lemons, squeezed
- 1 tablespoon red wine (or white vinegar)
- 8 tablespoons peanut oil
- 3 tablespoons hot mustard
- 2 cubes chicken stock , crushed
- 2 dried peppers , chopped
- 1 jalapeño pepper , cut in rings
- 5 oz. green olives (optional)
Prepare the marinade by mixing half the onions, 2 tablespoons of mustard, 4 tablespoons of peanut oil and lime (or lemon) juice. Add salt and pepper. Rub chicken with the marinade and let stand several hours in refrigerator.
Preheat oven to 400 F on grill position. Arrange the chicken pieces on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and roast for about 20 mins, turning chicken halfway through. All the pieces must be toasted and golden.
Heat the remaining oil in a frying pan, add the remaining onions and cook on medium heat for 5 minutes, then add the vinegar, the stock cube and the remaining mustard and garlic. Add salt and pepper.
Sauté for a few minutes over medium heat, then add a glass of water and cover. Add the chicken, jalapeño and olives and sauté for a few more minutes, stirring regularly. Then add a small glass of water and the chilies.
Bring to a boil, cover and cook on low heat for 45 mins.
Serve with white rice.