French, Wolof in Senegal

Eating Out

Three people seated, looking at menus at a restaurant

There are many traditional and non-traditional options for eating out in Senegal. Local restaurants are called tangana. Literally translated “hard and spicy,” tangana are informal places to go to enjoy a freshly roasted piece of meat. Traditionally, a chef is situated in a central location with a ready fire, and he will be grilling lamb that is served in a bowl. One will also find fish and rice dishes as well. Seating in the tangana is communal. One sits on benches at the table and shares the food with whomever else is in the restaurant. Traditionally, Senegalese do not use utensils but rather eat with their hands directly from a communal bowl.

In a communal eating situation, it is important for a visitor to understand and follow some basic rules of Senegalese etiquette. If one is uncertain, it is best to ask before proceeding in a wrong way. When eating communally, there is a particular way of cleansing the hands before eating. As well, when eating rice, there is a way that the rice is formed into a ball and carried to the mouth without spreading germs or creating a mess. One should absolutely never eat with the left hand unless there is a severe disability or other equally critical reason to do so.

There are more formal and westernized restaurants in Senegal, where a combination of Senegalese and French cuisine is served. These restaurants often serve European dishes prepared in a Senegalese way. Seating arrangements are westernized, with separate tables set with forks and knives. The waiter takes the order and brings individual dishes to each person.

Since the Senegalese prize their own cuisine to such a high degree, there is little market for international restaurants; international restaurants exist predominantly for travelers. One can find Thai, Indian and Turkish restaurants as well as French and Middle Eastern. Numerous Lebanese fast food restaurants serve freshly grilled lamb or beef wrapped inphyllo dough with peppers, onions and Senegalese spice. There is also a Middle Eastern fast food chain where one can buy rich, delicious homemade hamburgers.