Toketemu November 22nd Day 62 Senegal

This Is What Jollof Looks Like In Its Birthplace – Saint Louis

Our trip to Saint Louis has been 62 days coming. You know the story by now of the Wolof people and Penda Mbaye and how Jollof, as we know it today, came to be. If you need a refresher course you can read the whole story here.

Located in the northwest of Senegal, Saint Louis was the capital of the French colony of Senegal from 1673 until 1902 and French West Africa from 1895 until 1902, when the capital was moved to Dakar. From 1920 to 1957, it also served as the capital of the neighboring colony of Mauritania.

Since it originated here in Saint Louis and travelled through West Africa, Jollof has taken many shapes names and forms – Ghana Jollof, Nigerian Jollof, Benachin, Riz au Gras. But it’s original name was Thieb.

Our first encounter with Thieb was in Abidjan, unsurprisingly the chef was Senegalese. But from the minute we entered Conakry, Guinea, Jollof as we know it morphed into Thieb. And that has been the constant through Guinea-Bissau, Gambia and now its home country Senegal.

Any Senegalese person will tell you for free to head to Saint Louis for the best Thieb (Jollof) in the world. Barely an hour into our arrival, we were directed to Darousalam, supposedly the best place to get Thieb in Saint Louis. Two forkfuls in, and it was hard to dispute this. I had to agree that it was top three Thiebs I had ever had. By the time I was done with my plate, I was convinced it was the best I had ever had.

The best part of Thieb for me is all the accompaniments that come with it. This plate wasn’t as elaborate as the one we had in Abidjan which was made with a whole lot of love and spice. But it came with a bit of ‘bottom pot’ rice and some Tamarind sauce. The Nigerian name for tamarind is ‘Anwi’ or “Licky Licky’. That sweet orange fruit with the velvety black shell that’s only available in December. Many Nigerians will find tamarind sauce an odd accompaniment for Jollof rice but asides dodo and maybe moi-moi, I can’t think of anything that could go better with Jollof rice.

It’d be criminal to come all the way to Saint Louis and only eat Thieb at one restaurant. So tomorrow we go in search of even more Thieb and the legacy that the legend that’s Penda Mbaye left behind.

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