Monday 23 June 2008

yassa au poulet

I have been participating in a lot of vegetarian events lately (a salute to my veggie-loving husband) but now I am turning to the dark side.

Hank, author of Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, won me over with his About Me page. I really identified with his sentiments when he wrote:
“Honest food is what I’m seeking . . . I am a fan of farmer’s markets, eating locally and making good food from scratch. If you know how to cook, a good meal doesn’t have to be expensive. I am especially interested in those meats and veggies that people don’t eat much any more, like venison or cardoons. I have nothing against good grass-fed beef or a head of lettuce, it’s just that others are doing just fine writing about those foods. I’m trying to walk a less-traveled path.”
Although I’m probably less fastidious about sourcing straight-from-the-farmer produce (not having a driver’s license can narrow your options) I certainly try to investigate new techniques, trial interesting recipes and source unique ingredients.

With this in mind I decided to join Hank’s monthly meat event, Meat & Greet. This month the theme is “things that used to fly”. But it’s not as simple as that. Hanks has thrown us all a worthy challenge to ensure either the ingredients (ie the flyer) is unique or the recipe is unusual.

Since I’ve already covered emu (which technically doesn’t fly anyway), I resorted to chicken rather than a weird exotic flying thing. I can hear Hank crying out in frustration but when you have a vegetarian husband I can assure you it's hard justifying a mega cook-off for one.

I went with boring ingredients but an interesting recipe. I decided to trial some Senegalese food!

Yassa au Poulet is a recipe that is appearing more and more across the net, and I went with the version appearing on a fellow food blogger, Marga’s website, since she lists it as one of her favourite recipes. She’s not wrong! It was delicious.

I’m big on sour flavours and this dish really delivers. Soaking chicken in vinegar and lemon juice overnight certainly creates a pucker.

Yassa au Poulet (Lemon-Vinegar Chicken)
Recipe by
Marga. Serves 4.


2kg chicken thigh fillets, skinned
1¼ cup of lemon juice
½ cup white wine vinegar
½ cup peanut oil
3 onions, sliced
2 sprigs of thyme
Cayenne pepper, to taste
2 cups water
4 bay leaves


1. Mix the lemon juice, the vinegar, half the oil, the onions and pour over the chicken. Marinate overnight, or longer.

2. Remove the chicken and the onions from the marinade.

3. In a saucepan, heat the remaining oil and brown the chicken on both sides.

4. In the same pan, fry the onions for a few minutes until soft.

5. Add the marinade, thyme, cayenne, water and bay leaves. Simmer on medium heat for about 10 minutes.

6. Return the chicken to the sauce and cook until done, about 30 minutes.

Another reason for choosing a Senegalese recipe is because, as part of my 2008 Food Challenges, I committed to learning more about the food of Western Africa (ie Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Cote d'Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Saint Helena, Senegal, Sierra Leone & Togo).

I also committed to learning about cuisine from East Africa, the Andes, the Caribbean and India and I have managed to cover some of these, but Yassa au Poulet is the first recipe I’ve tried from West Africa.

Senegal is bordered by Mauritania (north), Mali (east), Guinea and Guinea-Bissau (south) and the Atlantic Ocean (west).

It is believed that Senegal has been inhabited since prehistoric times. Since 11th century the territory has been part of various African and Islamic empires and in the 15th century the Europeans began fighting over it too.

In 1677, France took the reigns and used the island of Gorée as a major slave trading port until France abolished slavery (for the second time!) in 1815. Under the African, Islamic and European empires (between 1300 and 1900), it is estimated that close to one-third of the population was enslaved!

Senegal is comprised of various ethnic groups and the Wolof people are the largest population at 43%. Other large groups include the Peul, Toucouleur (also known as Halpulaar, Fulbe or Fula), Serer and Lebou. There are even minority Vietnamese communities!

French is the official language of the country, uniting the different ethnic groups under a common, albeit colonial, language. In the capital Dakar, however, Wolof is the most commonly spoken language on the street. 95% of the population are Moslem, 4% Christian (various Catholic and Protestant denominations) and around 1%, particularly in the south-east, maintain animistic beliefs.



  1. I just came across your blog today-- it's terrific! I definitely want to give this recipe a try. I love simple and tasty recipes, and this one seems to fall into that category.

  2. i saw from browsing a poodle cake in your blog from 2006. the cake is adorable! i would like to ask how this was made? what is the flavor of the cake? i'm planning on making one next week for a birthday party. thanks!

  3. This is a brilliant recipe but for a more authentic look you might want to try slow cooking the onions to really sweeten and soften them and take the chicken out of the sauce,grill it ,to really brown it,then return to the sauce.West African food almost always uses scotch bonnet chillis not cayenne and seasoning in the form of Maggi or Jumbo cubes,if not,salt will do.Dijon mustard is also an essential in this dish.Olives(green)are often added to the sauce at the end of cooking.Yours looks nice but this dish as with most Senegalese ones is easier to make after seeing it made yourself instead of just following the recipe .

  4. Oh yeah,and garlic,you gotta add tons!:)


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