A New Recipe for Fish Lovers, and A Quick, Introductory Recipe for New Comers
Yassa is a common dish in the West African countries of Gambia and Senegal. These neighboring countries speak the same languages with different dialects, only the official languages are different because they were colonized by different countries. The Gambia was colonized by Britain and gained their independence in 1965 and Senegal was colonized by the French and gained their independence in 1960. The two countries have similar cultures and religious/spiritual beliefs systems, so it is not surprising that they eat similar food with little to no variation. Yassa is one of the many dishes that these countries enjoy. Both countries have similar sense of hospitality when it comes to inviting people, even strangers, during meal time. This enjoyment of varieties of food and friendliness breeds a sense of community and charitability. That’s why Gambia is known as the smiling coast of West Africa.
Since the two countries are close knit it is inevitable that competition rises for whose Yassa tastes better. The answer depends on how much spice you can handle. Gambians are known to be spicy food lovers. There is even a joke about the ability to handle heat equating to how strong one is. Of course, not every Gambian finds hot and spicy foods appealing. On other hand Senegalese are not so keen on hot and spicy foods. Personally, I like spicy foods, but I am not picking sides here because my mom is from Senegal and my Dad is from Gambia.
Yassa can be made with either fish or chicken, and you can fry or grill it. Both methods have strengths and weaknesses. Depending on one’s preferences whether you are fish or a chicken lover or prefer fried or grilled foods, the marinade is same.
The Ingredients for Yassa
- Fish = 1
- Mustard = 3 tbsp.
- Black pepper = 1 tsp
- Hot pepper of your choice (I prefer habaneros peppers) = 1 or 2
- Garlic = 3 gloves
- Onions = 1 red & 1 yellow onion (for color)
- Chicken Bouillon (I use Jumbo or Maggi)
- Lemon or lime = 1 or 2
- Salt = 1 tsp
- A pinch of parsley or any herbs = 1 tsp
- Cumin or coriander (optional) = 1 tsp
- Bell peppers (optional)
- Carrots (optional)
- Cucumbers (optional)
Preparation – Yassa
It is very important to clean the fish properly inside and out to get rid of the smell of seafood. Blend or grind together the black pepper, hot pepper of your choice, garlic, onions, a pinch of parsley or any herbs, and cumin or coriander (optional). Then place the fish in a large bowl or container with the blended mixture, chicken bouillon, lemon or lime, salt, and mustard and marinate for 30 minutes to an hour depending on your preference.
- Heat 1 to 1 and 1/2 cup of vegetable oil in a frying pan (I usually deep fry in order to have the crunchiness while not losing the moisture)
- Deep fry for 8 to 9 minutes or until it is golden enough and take the fish out
- Next use ¼ cup of the same oil and add the sliced onions (big slices are better) and the rest of the marinade. Stir for 5 minutes or so along with vegetables and add 1 cup of water and put the fish inside to simmer while everything blends together, and the sauce thickens.
- Serve with either rice or couscous
The Benefits of Fish Consumption
- According to Connelly and co (2017). Fish consumption has many benefits such as omega-3 fatty acids (primary dietary source) which is vital for health, especially in aging adults.
- Fish consumption is also essential for the development eyes, brain, and the nervous system.
- Just like any other food or thing in life, too much consumption will reverse the benefits and can even cause harm. Check out for federal, state, and tribal guidelines for proper amounts of fish consumption.
Food For Thought:
Yassa is easy and quick to make, but I am someone who eats with their eyes as well. The presentation of the food makes it appealing to the eye just as the flavors blend to produce a unique taste. Cooking is like personality and just like personality not every taste is appealing to everyone. When cooking your food try not to be a “people pleaser” because you will miss the unique taste that makes it stand out. Be specific about the taste you are going for because food cannot incorporate every taste bud of those who eat it. Stay true to your cooking “personality” while working on improving the unique features that made you stand out among many.
Life is about building on our strengths and acknowledging our weaknesses with a sense of humility.
Enjoy your Yassa while it is hot and fresh. Take time to feed your mind, and soul just like you feed your body.
The stranger you welcome to your house and feed or entrain may be an angel passing by looking for someone to bless.
Doing good things for strangers can open in new doors or opportunity. Its like sowing a seed in plentiful times and harvesting the fruits during famine.
Connelly, N. A., Lauber, T. B., Niederdeppe, J., & Knuth, B. A. (2017). Using a Web-Based Diary Method to Estimate Risks and Benefits from Fish Consumption. Risk Analysis, 38(6), 1116-1127. doi:10.1111/risa.12925