Day 83: Senegal
With Thanksgiving preparation in full swing, I breezed through the grocery shopping and now it’s time for a quick stop off at Ngoma for our second Man Bites World visit. We were at the “Pan-African” restaurant almost 50 days ago picking from their East African menu, but today I’m with Bex for lunch and some Senegalese samplings off the West African side, which is made easy by there really only being two Senegalese dishes: yassa poulet (lemon chicken) and chicken maafe (peanut sauce).
Bex knocks back some Jamaican ginger beer while we stretch out, enjoying the sunlight that’s creeping in off the street. Our maafe shows up all brownish-orange and saucy, with two chicken pieces, some veggies and a side of rice. “It tastes like satay,” says Bex, referring to the Thai (and other cuisines too) peanut marinade as I muse that it could use some Thai lime juice to cut into the heaviness a little. It’s a little bit of a dense dish, as you’d expect, and really needs the rice to disperse the flavor a little. I don’t dislike it, but if I was driving by with some friends and craving some chicken, I doubt I’d say “Ooh, let’s throw down on some maafe!” The yassa poulet, however, I enjoy a lot more. Call me a sucker for citrus, but the dark yellow sauce with long strips of cooked onions and whole green olives, sopped up with fufu (the starchy, white ball of root vegetable) is much more my style, as Bex correctly catches that there’s mustard in the sauce, which adds a nice layer to the dish. Unfortunately, the chicken itself in both dishes is not only overpowered by the sauce, but also seem separate from it— like pieces were cooked off individually and tossed into the dish later. Even with the aggressive flavors around them, biting into the actual bird meat causes an instant lack of flavor, which is a bit of a shame.
In the same way we’d get nervous seeing a Thai restaurant that also serves sushi, I wonder how good they can be at making this many dishes which span a pretty big continent. It’s a good introduction to the differences between regional flavors in Africa— and quite frankly there aren’t that many options in the city of Los Angeles at all. Just looking at the map of where I’ve been so far, Africa is by far the least explored (with Antarctica being obviously exempt from the conversation). I highly recommend everybody going to a place like this, even if it’s just for the experience. The food certainly isn’t bad— and while it may not be something you start bringing with you to work for lunch every day (although you might), it’s absolutely worth checking out. So next time you see an African restaurant serving something other than Ethiopian, Egyptian or Moroccan food— maybe it’s time you gave it a shot.
5358 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Food Breakdown: 1 non-alcoholic beverages, 2 entrées
Distance From My House: 5.6 miles