We were longing for Africa on 196 flavors! Today, Mike and I are starting a month-long culinary journey through Africa to celebrate Black History Month. Between sweet and salty recipes, we will immerse ourselves with great pleasure in this rich and varied cuisine that we had unfortunately left behind lately.
First stop in Senegal, west of the continent, with a recipe that reflects a warm and spicy cuisine: fried fish balls with a spicy sauce or thiou de boulettes de poissons.
Who doesn’t have a recipe for “Grandma’s meatballs” or “Mom’s meatballs” in their family cookbook? Not me!
I mentioned it in my bulgur kibbehs post. In my family, the art of meatballs and fish balls is a legacy! That is why I never miss an occasion to cook some!
In Senegal, they make “thiou”, a word that means stew. It is precisely a meat or fish stew, served with a vegetable sauce and white rice. It is sometimes prepared with palm oil. I personally opted for sunflower oil.
With Senegal featuring some of the richest fishing coastlines in the world, there is no specific fish for this recipe. The choice is wide open, just as long as it is a white fish with firm flesh.
Browsing through Senegalese and African recipes, I noticed that the sea bass and emperor bream often appeared in the recipes. For my part, I opted for emperor bream but you can also choose another white fish or even a mix of several fish. Everything is allowed!
Emperor or emperor bream is called a “noble fish”; popular for its white flesh, it can reach 200 lb! In Africa, it is also called “the prince of Chari”. Chari is one of the largest rivers in Africa. It is full of great fish and goes through the Central African Republic, Chad and Cameroon.
Senegalese cuisine is very similar to that of all West African countries. It is described as being the richest and most varied of West African cuisines. But it has also been influenced by the cuisines of North Africa, Lebanon, France and Portugal.
It is a generous and hospitable cuisine. Speaking of hospitality… Beware! This word is not to be taken lightly in Senegal, a country very attached to its traditions and customs that are the foundation of good manners over there. Things that may look like small details to us are paramount to Senegalese people, starting with a smile and good mood! I love it!
Let’s talk about this “teranga” (Wolof for hospitality) so dear to the heart of any Senegalese. It it their leitmotif!
“With us, you must make yourself at home, or better than at your home”
A motto that is also demonstrated by the use of a single platter or bowl in which everyone eats with their hand. Everyone sits on the ground around the bowl and uses his right hand to form small balls ready to be swallowed. The left hand is reserved for personal hygiene.
Using her fingers, the Senegalese wife debones the chicken or fish for her husband. In short, she is his servant! Message to all the men out there: this only happens in Senegal, don’t take any bad habits!
My fried fish balls were excellent and spicy! I will definitely head back to Senegal very soon!
- 2 lb white fish with firm flesh (emperor, cod or haddock)
- 2 eggs
- 8 oz. stale bread , without crust
- 1 scallion
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 small chili pepper , optional
- ½ bunch parsley
- 5 tablespoons flour
- Oil for frying
- 2 scallions , grated
- 3 tomatoes , peeled, seeded and diced
- 1 green bell pepper , diced
- 1 green chili pepper , chopped (optional)
- 1 cup water
- Squeeze the fish fillets to rid them of their water.
- Chop the fish fillets with the bread previously soaked and drained well, scallions, garlic, chili pepper, and parsley.
- Mix everything while adding the eggs. Add salt.
- Let stand 30 minutes. Mix fish every 5 minutes.
- Shape into balls, roll in flour and fry over medium heat.
- Separately, brown the onions in a saucepan. Add the tomatoes, bell pepper, chili pepper, bay leaf, salt and water. Cook covered for 5 minutes over medium heat.
- Add the meatballs into the sauce and cook 15 minutes over low heat.
- Serve the fish balls topped with the sauce and sprinkled with chopped parsley. Serve with white rice, lemon, and 1 whole fried or roasted green chili pepper, peeled.