Senegal – located in West Africa – is a country rich with culture and great cuisine. The Senegalese culture is very popular on a global scale, which is due in part to their style of storytelling – through dance, word, and music. This has kept thousands of years of Senegalese history alive, and has allowed said history to travel the world. This week, we were able to get a taste of the Senegalese culture when we visited Bissap Baobab, a Senegalese restaurant and bar located in the San Francisco Mission district.
3372 19th St, San Francisco, CA 94110 & 381 15th Street, Oakland, CA 94612
Bissap Baobab opened 17 years ago and is ran by Marco who is originally from Senegal. His idea for the restaurant is for it to be a reflection of West Africa and also a multi cultural place. Born in Senegal, Marco has spent a lot of his years traveling – 10 years in West Africa, some time in Paris, and now living in the Bay Area. Feeling that Paris didn’t have a lot of opportunities for people from African countries, he came to the bay after graduating with a degree in Physics and Chemistry.
He did not expect to stay in San Francisco long term, but he soon fell in love with the weather, the community, and the diverse food.
“It was easy to come to San Francisco but was really hard to leave”
When he was making his move to the Bay, one thing that he didn’t think about was being able toafford to live here. When the question of a job came into affect, he did what most foreigners do when they first get here, get a little job as a dish washer. Through this, he was able to learn the ins and outs of the restaurant industry. He soon evolved to becoming a waiter, followed by a bartender. After a while, he realized that the restaurant industry was exactly where he wanted to and needed to be. Through it, he is able to showcase West African culture, and show pride in being an African through his cuisine. He wants to bring teranga – way of sharing food, music and culture with the community in Senegal – to the Bay Area.
“I am proud that I am able to have my identity represented””
He owes his ability to cook to his 9 sisters, Even though he wasn’t supposed to be in the kitchen, he’d sneeak in, try their food, and eventually learned all of the differences in their cooking, figuring out what he liked and didn’t like. When he moved to America, he was able to recreate what they had made for him. You can see a lot of both his culture, and his family through the dishes on the menu. For example, the Yassa – his favorite meal to both eat and cook – is a dish that he would always have when visiting his Grandma.
DIBI – Grilled lamb, yassa sauce, fried plantains, salad, and choice of rice or cous cous with chicken [MAMOU]
I had never had Senegalese food before so I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I ordered the dibi dish because lamb has always been one of my favorite meats. The meat was cooked to perfection, was very tender and well marinated. Every bite had the perfect amount of flavor and the sauce made my stomach do the happy dance. The fried plaintains were also very tender and sweet. Overall the meal was everything I could’ve asked for and more!
MAFE – Chicken, sauteed mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, and spinach served in a curry peanut sauce [ODILCIA]
I tried the mafe dish and all I can say is wow. It’s not everyday that you are offered chicken and peanut butter within the same dish, but trust me when I say, you will never see peanut butter the same way again. The peanut sauce was smooth, sweet and had a spicy kick to it. I asked for extra pepper on the side for some added heat. The chicken fell off the bone and complemented the sauce perfectly. I would most definitely label this dish “good for the soul”.