Yassa (Senegal)

Yassa (Senegal)


When you want to celebrate or show honor to a special guest, serve Yassa.



1 to 2 chickens, cut (e.g, drumsticks, thighs, breasts)

5 heads of garlic

8 to 10 onions

1 cup red wine vinegar

2 to 3 fresh chili peppers

crushed dried chili peppers to taste

1 tbsp black pepper

1 to 2 tbsps soy sauce

6 to 8 cups  white rice

oil to coat pot

Wash the chicken pieces and pat them dry.  Divide the garlic cloves and crush. In a large stew pot, combine onions, garlic, vinegar, and spices. Add the chicken pieces. Stir well and let marinate in this mixture for at least an hour or cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

When you are ready to cook, remove chicken pieces from the marinade and fry in the oil until brown. Set the pieces aside. Next, remove the onions from the marinade and fry them in the same oil until they are light brown and somewhat soft. Return onions and chicken to the marinade and simmer until you are ready to eat (the longer the better). Add salt, pepper and soy sauce to taste.

Meanwhile, coat the bottom of another large, heavy pot with a small amount of oil; heat the and lightly fry the uncooked rice. Add a bit less than 2 cups of water for every cup of white rice. Bring to a boil. Cover, turn down the heat and cook rice for 30 to 50 minutes, depending on the quantity of rice. Use a generous amount for the number of people eatingTo serve, spread the rice a couple of inches deep in a wide, flat platter or bowl. Let cool for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove chicken pieces from the sauce and distribute evenly over the rice. Pour sauce over the dish as desired.

How to serve and eat Yassa (the Senegalese way)

Note: This is very important!

When the chicken and rice are cool enough to handle, spread a cloth on the floor and put the full serving bowl in the center. Guests, having washed their hands, should remove their shoes and sit or squat around the bowl.  All guests make imaginary sections, like pieces of pie, directly in front of them.  It is impolite to reach into another person’s area, although the center of the bowl is common to everyone.

The host usually will break up and distribute the meat, using the right hand or each guest may break up the meat in his or her section, pushing it toward the center.  Because it would be extremely rude to put the left hand into the bowl, sometimes two person’s hands are necessary for tearing the meat.  (Traditional stipulates that the left hand is to be used only for cleaning the body, and thus should never touch food.)

To eat, gather a good amount of rice, chicken and sauce and form into a ball against the side of the bowl. Squeeze it with your fingers until it is compact, then pop into your mouth.  It is discourteous to start forming another ball while there is still food in your mouth.  (Alternatively, you can use a spoon to take the rice from the bowl and eat.)

When you have finished eating, clean off the part of the bowl in front of you with your hand, lick your hand clean, and go wash with soap and water. When you are finished, it is polite to avoid looking at the face of someone who is still eating, although you may sit back down and converse.