Explore the flavors of the West African cuisine. You get to explore the rawness and freshness of authentic and traditional African dishes
Spices, herbs, groundnut and seafood dominate Sierra Leone’s restaurants and street stall’s menus. No matter where you choose to, there is little doubt that flavor and spice are strongly embedded in the rich food culture. Get ready to discover why they call their country the “Swit Salone” or sweet Sierra Leone.
The main ingredient
A popular Sierra Leonean saying is “if I haven’t had my rice, I haven’t eaten today”. Most eat rice at least twice a day, as it’s the very essence of this West African cuisine promising great flavor as it’s combined with spicy sauces or tasty stews. The most popular sauces are made of greens such as cassava or potato leaves, usually paired with a source of protein in a stew, whether it be fish, chicken, goat, pork or beans.
Traditional food etiquette
Food here is traditionally served in a gigantic bowl for everyone to share, as sharing is an important part of the food culture. You only eat with the right hand, as using the left is considered unclean. Discussions during dinner are rare, as it shows a lack of respect for the food, and the oldest male of the family is served first. From there it moves down the family hierarchy until everyone has eaten. This naturally does not apply to everyday eating when you visit, but as the Sierra Leoneans are friendly, you never know, you might end up sharing a home cooked meal.
Do it yourself
If you’re wondering whether you can cook up any of your Freetown favorites at home, the answer is yes. Read on for the recipes to two of our absolute favorites.
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 1/2 pounds beef, cut into chunks
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon ginger, minced
- 2 cups water
- 6 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
- 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup chunky natural peanut butter
- Salt and pepper to taste
Brown the meat in a hot pan for about 2-3 minutes on each side. Reduce heat to medium and add more oil to the pot. Sauté the onions until they are softened, then add ginger and garlic and sauté for a couple more minutes. Put the beef back into the pot and add about two cups of water, or as much needed to cover it all. Add cayenne, tomatoes, cumin, coriander, nutmeg salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to medium or low and let it simmer, uncovered, for about two hours. Add more water and tomatoes if it’s looking too thick. Once the meat is tender enough to puncture with a fork, add ½-3/4 cups of peanut butter (or groundnut butter) and let it continue to simmer until the meat tears easily apart and the veggies have cooked into a nice gravy. This will be about another hour. Try some and season to taste, this also goes for adding more peanut butter.
- 2 packages frozen chopped spinach
- 1/2 pound smoked fish, flaked
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1/4 cup groundnut paste (peanut butter)
- 3 cups water
- 1-1/2 cups sustainable palm oil
- 2 hot peppers or 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 1 pound meat
Cut meat. Put in saucepan with two cups of water, salt, onion and pepper. Bring to boil and add palm oil. Continue cooking partly covered. Cook for 1-1/2 hours over medium heat. Add spinach (previously thawed and drained), flaked fish and groundnut paste mixed with water. Stir, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Serve with steamed rice.
© Recipes: http://www.sierra-leone.org/recipes.html
Eating out in Freetown
© Radisson Hotel Group
Choose from several excellent restaurants that are great for both lunch and dinner when eating out. A high service level combined and varied menus including both local and international fare await you. At Tessa’s Restaurant you can choose from today’s lunch menu or standards such as marinated chicken, steak and the popular Thai fish cakes. If you love lobster, the Lighthouse Restaurant is the place to go.
When you’re tired after a long day of exploring the culture and local attractions of Freetown, opt for a night in at your hotel. The restaurant at Radisson Blu Mammy Yoko Hotel, Freetown offers splendid views of the serene garden and pool. At The Deck, you can choose from fresh seafood and shellfish, authentic African cuisine or international favorites. After a delectable meal, retreat to the Baw Baw Bar for a relaxing glass of wine or cocktail and get ready for yet another day of Sierra Leone.
Main image © Radisson Hotel Group