Affectionately known as the “smiling coast of Africa,” Gambia boasts its share of warm, friendly people and culinary delicacies. Although it is the smallest country in mainland Africa, Gambia is a hub for many exciting cuisines on the continent. Many other countries have adopted some traditional food from the Gambia in their gastronomic scene.
What Is Special About Gambia Food?
Gambian foods are exceptional as it has a perfect blend of traditional and intercultural gastronomy. The country’s cuisine is an embodiment of tradition and culture. Food in the Gambia has a staple set of base ingredients like rice, cassava, and potato, you will find dishes packed with nutritional value.
What it lacks in variety of food, it makes up in numerous healthy stews and soups. Gambian foods are great options for vegetarians and those who love to keep their food simple.
Most Famous Food In The Gambia
Domoda (Peanut Stew)
Gambia is one of the few African countries that has a stew as their national dish. Domoda is a key part of Gambian foods. This delicacy is made of groundnut and many other healthy vegetables. Tomato pastes, onions, and black pepper are common ingredients used to make domoda.
Gambians love rice; here is a fact about Gambia you probably don’t know; the most consumed food in the country is white rice. This might be because there are many different stews in the country to pair it with. Many enjoy their domoda served with white rice, as it is great for soaking up all that aromatic sauce.
Gambia Food – Main Dishes
Benanchi (Jollof Rice)
Benanchi is another local favorite food in the Gambia. It is just slightly edged by the country’s national dish, domoda in terms of popularity. Benanchi is a traditional Gambian food with rice, beef, fish, or chicken as base ingredients.
This dish is so widely cherished among locals that it is safe to call it the celebratory food in Gambia. No event is deemed complete without a plate of Bianchi.
There is an interesting story about this delicacy. The name bench means “one pot or one dish.” Usually, Gambians cook their meals in different pots, one for the main dish, often rice, and the other for stew (soup). However, Bianchi is prepared using only one pot.
Mix your base ingredient (rice and fish, chicken, or beef) with oil and vegetables like onions, tomato, pepper, and spices like bay leaf and garlic. In other West African countries like Nigeria and Ghana, this dish is called jollof rice.
A staple meal in Gambian cuisine, fou-fou is a white fermented swallow type of dish. It is a starchy food that is best enjoyed when eaten with different types of Gambian stew and soup.
Fou-fou powder is made by grinding dried cassava, plantain, and yams. Mix your fou-fou powder with hot water and paste it until it thickens sufficiently for you to mold with your hands.
Nyambeh Nyebeh (Cassava And Beans)
This is a staple dinner option among the different food from Gambia. Although it can be eaten any time of the day, Gambians love their Nyambeh nyebeh as dinner. This meal combines boiled cassava, cooked beans, and stew.
It is an all-rounded meal that rightly blends carbohydrates (cassava), protein (beans), and a mix of vegetables (stew). Simply boil your cassava and beans plain while making your stew with onions and pepper. While the preparation is nothing special, it is a traditional Gambian food loved by the locals.
Yassa (Braised Chicken / Fish)
This is another easy-to-make food in the Gambia. It is actually a delicacy native to Senegalese people. Yassa can be made with chicken or fish and you can use that to differentiate them (chicken yassa and fish yassa).
You use your fish or chicken as the key ingredient, then add onions, pepper, seasoning mostly (jumbo and maggie), salt lime, and mustard. It is a delicacy well enjoyed with white rice.
Light Dishes, Snacks, And Street Food From The Gambia
Fish Cake And Sauce
Here’s a spoiler: the name of this food from the Gambia doesn’t actually reflect the actual thing. The fish cake has no fish in it. Regardless, it is still a special food of Gambia.
You will find these fish cakes are mostly sold on the streets in the evening, made from all-purpose flour, butter, and salt. Interestingly, the dough also doesn’t come in fish shapes. It is cut in circles and deep fried in oil.
The sauce is an important part of the whole dish. It is prepared with onions, pepper, jumbo, and oil. You dip your fish cake in sauce and enjoy this finger-licking goodness.
Panket (Gambian Pancakes)
Panket is the Gambian version of pancakes, although it’s not flat and looks more like Nigerian puff-puff (a dough snack). The Gambian packet is made from corn or millet flour dough.
The flour is mixed with water and sugar, then deep-fried in the shape of balls. They are often sold on the streets with different types of Gambian sauces to go. It’s a must-try Gambia food since it offers a whole new experience and perspective to your traditional American pancakes.
Afra (Steak And Onions)
A hearty and popular food in the Gambia is undoubtedly the afra. This Gambian food is particularly enjoyed in the late evening or after a fun night out. You can often find them sold on the streets.
There are various meat and seasoning available for selection, with lamb, beef, and chicken being regular options. Your chosen meat would be chopped, seasoned, and grilled in your presence. It is then served with mustard or sauce.
One thing to know about Afra is the quality varies depending on the vendor. Regardless, it makes a good choice for a late-night snack on your trip to Gambia.
Akara (Beans Fritters)
This is the delicious local food of the Gambian people. It is hard to tell whether Akara originated from Gambia or not. One thing we know for sure is that it is a well-loved local breakfast in Gambia.
This is one of many Gambian foods that you will see locals queueing for every morning. It looks brown and has a shape like a chicken nugget. It is made from beans grounded into flour mixed with water and other necessary spices before deep frying in oil.
You can enjoy akara alone or eat it with sauce and tapa-lap bread.
Gambia Food – Soups And Stews
Super Kanja (Okra Soup)
This is a well-known food in the Gambia that you should try. It’s a nutrient-rich and traditional Gambian soup made of okra.
The main ingredient besides the okra includes smoked fish, palm oil, onions, pepper, and your choice of seasoning. It may take a few minutes to cook well, but it’s worth waiting. Super kanja is better enjoyed when served with rice and swallowed foods like pounded yam, yam flour, and fufu.
Plasas (Gambian Spinach Stew)
This is another stew from the top drawer of Gambian foods. Different vegetables like potato leaves or spinach can be used for the dish.
The vegetable is chopped and set aside as the sauce gets prepared by adding different spices and seasonings. A little water is added and the base is allowed to boil before pouring in the chopped vegetables. Typically, a stock soup can be used for flavoring.
Plasas is a soup Gambians enjoy with their rice or fou-fou. You should try this meal on your next trip to Gambia.
Chewi Kong (Gambian Catfish Stew)
This traditional food from the Gambia taps into the country’s accessibility to coastal waters and rivers. Chew Kong has catfish as the major ingredient, accompanied by spices and vegetables, such as garlic, tomato, pepper, carrots, cassava, and cabbage.
You fry your tomato in oil for a few minutes. Add water and allow to boil for some time, then add your fish and every other available ingredient. Low the heat and allow it to steam properly.
Ebbeh (Vegetable Soup)
This is one Gambian food that can be found in many other African countries but has its roots and origin in The Gambia. You can see this dish served almost anywhere in the country, from restaurants to stalls. There have been claims that Ebbeh is the highest-selling food in the Gambia.
This delicacy is made with Cassava, smoked fish, palm oil, pepper, salt, and seafood like prawns and shrimp.
Gambian Food – Sweets, Dessert, And Pastries
This is a special dessert in The Gambian cuisine. it can be prepared on any given day, although traditionally, Christian Gambians make this dessert on Good Friday. They prepare it with love and share it with their Muslim neighbors.
This dessert can also be bought from street vendors and in restaurants. The naan Samburu is a rice pudding with the main ingredients being rice and baobab. It is enjoyed with milk and sugar as other supplements. Fruits can also be added to give it a nice flavor.
Thiakry (Sweet Millet)
Thiakry is another traditional dessert native to Gambia. Other African countries like Senegal also claim to have created this dish, so we may never know the actual origin of thiakry. However, you can enjoy it anytime in the Gambia.
This dessert is made from millet; when prepared, it looks more like couscous. The trick is that Gambians enjoy their thiakry with condensed milk or yogurt. Some also add dried fruit for flavor and nutrients.
Thiakry tastes so good that they also have the rice version of it. You can try it out if you are unsatisfied with the millet version. It’s not uncommon to see this dessert in different parts of Africa.
Tapalapa (West African Bread)
This popular food in the Gambia is made from millet and wheat flour. There are different variations, as it can also be made from a blend of maize and cowpea flour.
Tapalapa has a physical appearance that resembles a French baguette. You can get it anywhere across the country and it is generally common in West Africa.
The bread is quite substantial. It has an appealing crust with a pretzel-like interior. It can sometimes cost a bit more compared to other snacks, but it’s a healthy and good option.
FLAVORS AROUND THE WORLD
Discovering Tradition Food In The Gambia
Gambian cuisine is an interesting option if you love exploring different traditional gastronomy. Food in the Gambia can take you on an exciting journey of exciting, sumptuous, and healthy meals. Their love for rice and vegetables is unmatched.
These have birthed different exciting am wonderful delicacies that would put a smile on your face and soothe your soul. This is in no way an exhaustive compilation of food from the Gambia; you can plan your trip to the African country and enjoy many other Gambian foods while immersing yourself in their culture.