Pictures from Senegal

Wednesday, April 13

Thiou Yap

And so another recipe is recorded as Aida, Proprietor of the Resto Porokhane, and I move onto another business topic: Marketing. Today we sat down to learn another of my favorite dishes Thiou Yap (pronounced “chew yap”). This is a wonderful tomato based meat and vegetable dish served over white rice.

Aida’s current marketing strategies are nothing to be laughed at. Her establishment is located on our hamlet’s main street, and she boasts the daily special on a tripod stand outside the front door. She sells meals on credit allowing customers to pay their tabs at the end of each month. She hands out business cards to people who are new to town or who work in Mboro but live elsewhere, telling each of them that they can call any time to reserve a plate. Today I threw some new ideas on the table: a frequent eater’s card (with free meal after a designated number), a fixed lunch menu to be distributed around town on a small flyer, a menu in English (for my visiting friends and anyone else who may speak it), and a lunch special where one can get the daily plate, a soft drink, and a piece of fruit for dessert for one fixed price. She was very receptive and I couldn’t help but challenge her to draft her own list of promotional ideas.

Onions Make Everyone Cry
Step 1: Ingredients
·         1 ½ kilos onion
·         ½ kilo potatoes
·         1 small cabbage head
·         3 medium carrots
·         1 medium turnip
·         750g beef
·         1 cup dry vermicelli
·         2 kilos white rice
·         ½ liter vegetable oil
·         Salt to taste
·         Bulb of garlic cloves
·         2 tablespoons curry powder
·         4 small hot peppers
·         150g tomato paste
·         75g tomato flavored bouillon powder
·         1/8 cup vinegar
·         2 tablespoons black pepper

Step 2: Rice
Your rice is prepared started in much a similar way as the previous recipe (Thiebou Yap) describes: de-stone, wash, and soak the rice in water for 5 minutes. Steam it in a sealed colander/ pot set up for 10 minutes (assuming you still don’t have one of those handy rice cookers). Then pour the rice from the colander directly into the boiling water, adding salt, covering, and reducing the heat; you should have one liter of water for every kilo of rice in production.

Step 3: Meat Sauce
Heat your ½ liter of oil in a large chili sized pot. Toss in the tomato paste and a bit of salt, stir it briefly, and then add your pre-cut bite sized pieces meat. At this point you add some nokos, that delightful mixture of black pepper, hot pepper, garlic and salt. Maybe you want a tablespoon, maybe three, depends on your desired spice level. Throw in about 4 cups of water and cover the pot leaving it to cook for 20 to 30 minutes.

Mortar and Pestle Nokos
Wash, peel, and cut into small pieces your onions, carrots and turnip. Throw them in the meat pot. Wash and peel your potatoes but cut them in to bite sized chunks about the same size as your meat pieces. Shred the cabbage and, along with the potatoes and one of your hot peppers), throw into the meat pot. If you add these items to early I’m told that they lose value. The veggies become total mush and the pepper loses kick. I have not tested this theory; but my crock pot experience tells me otherwise. Hmm. Now’s a good time to throw in more nokos. Aida could not give me a reason why she waited to add this second round. It just occurred to her, but my suspicions like in the loss of kick theory from above. After all, the first round was added nearly 40 minutes ago by now. Toss in the curry and tomato bouillon powders along with the vermicelli and enough water (½ a cup in our case) to make the mixture look like a pot of stew. Reduce the heat and after 10 minutes add the vinegar. Let your sauce stew another 20 minutes before serving.

David, Cody, Rob, Aida, and Me
Step 4: Presentation
The white rice is heaped onto the plate first and then the sauce is spread generously across the top. Aida chose not to include garnishes on today’s meal, but I’m sure you could think of something. She did, however, offer a side dish of extra sauce for those who like a little rice in their stew. Some American friends came for their first go at a traditional meal today and they are hot sauce fanatics. Luckily, your third round of nokos is actually made into a hot sauce that can be served on the side. Add extra hot peppers to this batch and, once pounded, mix in a few tablespoons of mustard, a dash of bouillon spice, and a splash of vinegar. The raw hot pepper pieces give this a great kick that won a “don’t mess with Texas” approval!

Step 5: Modifications
Aida's Thiou Yap
When I got back home from my exhausting morning, my host mother immediately asked me what I’d prepared; demanding a list of ingredients. The Senegalese adore talking about food. They compare recipes only when it comes to teaching others, but they will defend their own until their dying breath- or so I’ve learned. Recipes are passed down from generation to generation by word of mouth and through helping one’s mother for most of a childhood. So without prejudice I am obligated to share my mom’s take on the dish. She is adamant that one should never use tomato flavored bouillon. In fact she doesn’t like using bouillon at all, for any dish, because it’s full of MSG and absolutely terrible for your health in the mass quantities consumed on a regular basis here. But she claims simply to not like the taste, so instead my mother substitutes fresh cherry tomatoes. In addition she would “never” mix curry powder with the flavor tomatoes. The two just do not belong together. I’ve eat it both ways obviously and didn’t feel I noticed much of a difference.

From my former purchasing days, and a continuous effort to explain cost analysis to Aida, we once again tallied the total cost of preparing the dishes. The cost of raw materials was 310 cfa ($0.62) per dish sold at 750cfa ($1.50). We sold out at 15 ½ plates and shut the shop down nearly an hour earlier than normal (only after at least 3 people had come by looking for a meal we just couldn’t serve). In point of fact, this is the 2nd day in a row that Aida has sold out of capacity. I’d love to take credit for helping her, but it just wouldn’t be the truth. Aida makes a truly gourmet dish and has a number of everyday regular customers. Word is getting out that her establishment and hospitality are top notch. 

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