There’s no denying that I love food. I mean who doesn’t! Whenever I’m not on the road exploring or busy with work, I dive into my kitchen and cook. I’m always excited to try out any recipe that appeals to me in cookbooks, food blogs or on food network regardless of the ingredients and how readily available they are. I also make it compulsory to try a famous local dish in any destination I find myself and it’s all in the bid to learn more about the culture. One of such dishes is Chicken yassa that I tried in the Gambia.
Yassa is a spicy dish widely eaten in Gambia and Senegal. It is made with mainly onions and some other spices with some protein (mostly chicken or fish). The version I had has some oysters and it was yummy! I was hooked to this dish and I asked the man who made it for some of the ingredients. He was only able to point out the onions to me as that was an evident element of the dish. I had an inkling that he wasn’t willing to give out the other ingredients so I let him be.
I was not ready to give up on my quest to have this yummy dish again so I decided to come up with something similar to it. Since onion was the major element, I sourced for readily available spices and tried out a couple of versions. After several mix and match attempts (I’ve tried it out about 6 times), I finally perfected the recipe. As a Nigerian who doesn’t joke with her pepper, I added some scotch bonnet aka “ata rodo” to make up for my desired pepper intake. I tried using turmeric once but I didn’t really like the outcome. Same also for minced meat.
Onion haters BEWARE!!! You may not enjoy this dish if you have little to zero tolerance for onions. I used to be one of those people until I had a divine intervention but If you’ve always been an Onion lover, here’s my version of this onion induced sauce for you to try out and enjoy:
1 Cup of Vegetable Oil
3 Large onions
3 Scotch Bonnet
1 Green Pepper (chopped)
2 Cloves of Garlic (chopped)
1/2 tsp of Mixed Spice
A pinch of Ground Cumin
1/2 tsp of Curry
1/2 tsp of Thyme
Salt (to taste)
2 Seasoning cube
Scallions (for garnish)
- Wash and season the chicken with 1 seasoning cube and salt to taste. Boil till it is soft and tender.
- Peel and wash onions and scotch bonnet. Pour into a blender and add some water. Blend till it is slightly smooth.
- In a pot or saucepan, heat the vegetable oil on medium heat for about 30 seconds. Add the chopped garlic and stir for about 5 seconds then add the spices and continue for 10 more seconds. Pour in the blended onions and scotch bonnet and add the chicken stock. Simmer for 15 minutes.
- Adjust the seasoning as required then add the shrimps and let it cook for about 5 minutes. The sauce should be thick at this point with very little water in it. Add the green pepper and stir continuously for 10 minutes to avoid the sauce from burning.
I like usually like this dish with Pasta but I served this version with Rice. You can also serve with Yam or Potatoes.
TIP: You can drain the oil once you are done if you don’t generally add oily foods. The oil is required to fry the sauce so you can make to without it once you are done cooking.