When the chef behind New York's fast-casual hit Teranga seeks out a taste of the food he grew up eating in Senegal—the flavors of West Africa—these are his go-to spots in NYC and the Bay Area.Less
"Everyone who grew up in Dakar is fond of shawarma, which you find in the Lebanese neighborhood," says Thiam. "I like to go to this Senegalese restaurant in Harlem, chat with the chef-owner Cissé and chef Kane about the news from Senegal, and grab a lamb shawarma sandwich. It reminds me of my childhood."
"Looking around this unassuming restaurant, you'll see cab drivers and other locals helping themselves to the self-serve buffet. There's one dish I really like that's known as Red Red (since traditionally it's made with red beans cooked with tomatoes and red palm oil). It doesn't look like anything; it's just, like, a bowl of red beans. But when you taste it, it just hits you, and it's really amazing. I get it with plantains, which are seasoned with ginger and cayenne before frying."
"At the beginning of the pandemic, I moved from New York to the Bay Area. Since I discovered this Jamaican restaurant during Covid, I've only been able to pick up, but the restaurant has this big, airy feel that reminds me of the energy in Harlem (even though it's in Oakland). I love their oxtail, curry goat, and the jerk chicken: all very filling and tasty."
"In Dakar, everyone knows fataya: It's like a pastry or turnover filled with minced beef that's been seasoned with cumin, some heat, herbs like parsley and cilantro, and lots of onions. You grab it and eat it with your hands; I love food that you eat with your hands. I like to go to this cafe for a beef fataya—flaky on the outside, warm on the inside—and a cafe touba, which is the traditional coffee served in Senegal that's spiked with anise-like Selim pepper. It really brings me home."
"The brisket at this new barbecue place in Oakland from the chef Matt Horn is just out of this world. It melts in your mouth. For sides, I like the potato salad, mac and cheese, and the collard greens. This is classic barbecue, done old-school and really well. I love it."
"This West African restaurant in Brooklyn makes a great thieboudienne, which is the national dish of Senegal. I don't even try anything else. This dish looks like a paella (but with so much more flavor!): The rice is cooked in an intense tomato seafood broth that gives it a bright, intense, umami flavor, and then the rice is served with whole fish and vegetables like eggplants, yucca, and sweet potatoes."
"I guess I should include my own restaurants as well. Teranga has locations in Harlem and in Brooklyn. My favorite dish on the menu is the grilled chicken yassa with caramelized garlic sauce, and I like the black-eyed peas with okra as a side dish. Of course, I always have it with fonio, my favorite grain that I've been importing and distributing through my business, Yolélé. I also have a cookbook dedicated to fonio, where you can see plenty of recipes and the whole journey of the grain."