I had a fantastic weekend, but I’m swamped here at work so here’s something from the “I’ll post this someday” pile.
Pate is made of finely ground cornflour, and served with a variety of sauces: sauce legume, sauce de tomate, or even klangklang, a snot-like sauce made of okra. Pate itself can be one of three types: pate (plain), pate rouge (mixed with tomato sauce and served with chicken, OH SO TASTY), and pate noir (pate made from igname flour). Plain pate is nutritionally empty, and the others aren’t much better. The Beninese, however, swear by it.
Ignames are large roots (think potatoes, but the width and length of your calves). I’m not such a huge fan, but when mashed into igname pilée (think mashed potatoes, only nothing’s added to the ignames, and it’s chewier), and served with sauce d’arachide (a peanut sauce), I am one happy girl. Like pate, it’s empty carbs, but the sauce can make up for that, and it tastes good, so who cares?
Gari is ground manioc, and is similar to corn meal in texture. It’s sprinkled on rice and beans, spaghetti, and darn near anything else to give it body and texture. Like the above starches, gari has no nutritional value. Gari can also be cooked and eaten with haricots.
Riz et haricots is rice and beans. You cover them with an oily tomato sauce called confiture, and then optionally add fish, meat, or even wagasi.
Wagasi is the local cheese. I’m not entirely sure how it’s processed, but it’s similar to tofu in texture, and in that it takes the flavour of whatever you’re cooking it in. Before you use it, you have to boil it for 20 minutes, in order to kill any bacteria that survived the cheese making process, then you cut it up and either fry and eat on top of whatever, or throw it into whatever you’re cooking as a meat substitute.
Bisap is hibiscus juice. It costs 25F for a plastic bag’s worth (about a cup), and you can buy it cold (!) off of girls’ heads on the street. Refreshing goodness! You can also buy jus du maiz, which is a juice made from boiling corn and sugar, and pineapple juice.
Potate doux are fried sweet potatoes you buy from (sometimes) sweet ladies cookin’ it up on the side of the street. They’re usually eaten with piment, a local pepper that’s been ground up with garlic and onion into a pasty salsa like consistency. These ladies also make beignets, friend balls of wheat flour or mashed up haricots. I freaking LOVE the salty fried beans.
Viande can also be bought on the street. It’s a leg of lamb, goat, or beef, grilled over a barrel for hours, then cut up and served with onions and a tasty spice similar to Old Bay. Unlike most street food, which is prepared by women, barrel guys are always, well, guys.
There are a lot of other types of food I eat less often. Some liquorice-tasting soy cookies. Actually, there are a lot of soy cookies. Fried peanut butter sticks. Toffee, which is nothing like salt-water toffee. It’s evaporated milk, boiled and cooked until the hard ball stage, then pulled into sticks or cut into squares.
When it comes down to it, eating street food is far cheaper than cooking for myself, and it gives me a chance to talk with the crazy people that live in my quarter. Sweet!