The place to Explore Benin and its Culture
One of the sighting you’ll see a lot are women walking around selling food or serving fresh made street food. Beninese has one of the healthiest African food and they are quite delicious. There are so many to try and it’s also a very cost effective way to try local food. The rule of thumb is to preferably order cooked food made in front of you to guarantee freshness and proper cooking. However, there are some food that are also ok to eat pre-made as long as they are properly covered and served with caution. This list has staple easy to eat and highly delectable cooked warm meals. I will dedicate another blog for dry food. Here is a list of street food to try while visiting Benin.
This literally means “European Pastry” probably because in Europe, they have a similar version that’s called “Beignets”. It is a sweet fried pastry made with 3 ingredients: flour, yeast, and sugar. A batch of batter is made ahead and kept covered until you make an order. The seller then takes a large spoonful and drop it in hot oil. The pastry should be ready to serve within 5 minutes. It’s golden with a very soft texture inside and smells delicious. It’s topped with Sugar powder and can be enjoyed right after.
Root vegetables are abundant in Benin. Fried yams and potatoes is found pretty much anywhere food is served and that includes street food. The vegetables are cut into thick strips (Think steak potatoes wedges) and are put into salted water until an order is placed. It is then fried for about 10 mn and sprinkled with salt before serving. Most seller can serve it with red plan nut oil, hot sauce (be careful with them as they are super spicy.) or with a thick tomato sauce named Dja (Jah).
These are black eyed beans fritters. It’s made with mashed black eyed peas, onions, eggs, spices and salt. It is also kept in batches and fried upon ordering. It’s served with Dja, a spicy tomato sauce or a hot sauce. It’s delicious and very nutritious.
This is our version of pancake. It’s made with millet flour, water, sugar and rice. All ingredients are mixed and kept in a batch. It’s then baked on a flat surfaced that slightly oiled. It’s cooked the same way pancakes are cooked and sprinkled with powdered sugar. You can ask to have one made crispy and the other softer. They are both good and it’s worth trying them to decide which texture is preferred if necessary. It can be eaten without any additional condiments.
It’s a steamed cornmeal bread. It’s made with rice flour, corn maize meal, corn flour, yeast, salt and sugar. It’s usually made in advance and kept warm into a steaming basket. It’s sometimes apse served in banana leaves and this give it a very earthy taste. It’s super healthy and nutritious. It is usually served with a sauce or freshly made and crispy vegetables medley called Mojo (Rainbow of sweet peppers, red onions and diced tomatoes) with some fried meat or baby fish.
This is a fermented corn dough that is steamed in a banana leaf. It has a texture that’s a little similar to Jello but a little more solid. This is a high carbohydrate meal and it is a staple food that’s enjoyed with sauces. The sauces are really what brings it to life as each ones gives you different flavors. t can be eaten with a Gumbo and Palm nut oil sauce, the mojo sauce, the thick red sauce with fried baby shrimps or fish or with Egussi sauce which is made in a tomato base with palm nut oil, powdered sesame seeds, minced Spanish and meats.
This is a tomato and corn maize dough that’s eaten hot with either Mojo ( Mixed colored peppers, onions and diced tomatoes) and is served with either fried or grilled fish or fried meat.
This is usually seen more in the North of Benin but can also be found in Cotonou. Wagassi is basically a Beninese cow milk cheese that are produced by the Peuhl or Fulani Tribes. It is a mild cheese that can be eaten fresh or fried. It’s texture is similar to Tofu and it has an external red colored layer. Some people add it inside of sauces as it texture can soak the flavors inside of the sauces.
This is Benin’s version of mixed rice and beans. It is served with the Dja, a heavy spiced tomato sauce and accompanied with some sort of meat or fish. Interestingly, this is also a dish offered to twins when one is looking for blessings as twins are idolized in some of our traditional religions.
This is a red Porridge with red millet grains. It is one of the popular breakfast items served. It usually is eaten with sugar cube added. Other people add in sweetened condensed milk to give it a milkier texture. It is very nutritious and cheap breakfast.
It’s made with cooked tapioca seed and added citronella leaves to give it a zest of flavor. Milk and sugar is added to enhance flavor. It can be eaten anytime during the day however, it’s more of a staple breakfast meal.
This a dish seen more in the Northern part of Benin. It’s a black semolina dish made with grounded cassava which is then steamed. It’s served with a oil mixture of deep fried onion and powdered hot pepper or it can be eaten as is. Meat can be added as an accompaniment.
This is boiled yam that’s pounded and then served with a sauce. It is a heavy and filling dish and can be a bit costly depending on seasonal yam’s availability. It’s best eaten with your hand as the pounded yam can be very elastic and might be hard to enjoy with cutlery.
All these dishes are very delicious and cheap. Most of them can be bought for one dollar ($1) or less. The more accompaniments are added, the more it will cost. However, I would suggest trying them as it will give you an idea of how rich, delicious and flavorful the local food are. Don’t be surprise if you see many people eat the food directly with their fingers. It’s very common in Benin and it’s not because they can’t use cutlery but rather because they find the dish to be enjoyable by eating with their hands. The best part of buying street food is with the purchase of each street meal, you help a local seller financially and contribute to the economical growth of small businesses in Benin.