All about the Healthier foods in The Gambia

The most famous foods in The Gambia are Benachin, Domoda, Chew Deutirr, Chew Yassa, Chew ordinary, Cherreh, Plasas, Supperkanja, Mono, Nyambe-yebbeh, Ebbeh, Chewraigerteh and Mbahal. Many of us have relished these dishes to our hearts. They are very tasty and rich in nutrients and are found in special events, and gatherings. You get them everywhere in both rural and urban areas of the country in any food joints or households. These dishes are served during weddings, meetings, important events, naming ceremonies and special days. If you want to taste them you may get them in Restaurants or food joints available all across the Kombo.

But did you know there are a variety of foods that is cooked in the average Gambian household in rural Gambia. If one asks, what do people in rural Gambia or in villages eat? This is a question that has interesting answers. They eat unique and healthy wholesome foods to sustain them for the rest of the day, as they prepare for hard work on the farms. People attribute some of these foods to low-income groups or poverty-stricken families, but they are packed with nutrients, use less oil and are very healthy cuisines that have been passed down from generation to generation over the years.

Listed below are some common foods that are healthy and common to many ethnic groups in The Gambia. Most of them eat them regularly. 

  • Mono: This is a porridge eaten by many Gambians in the morning. Mono is usually made using coos or millet.
  • Mbahal: this is a healthy steamed rice with pounded groundnut powder, added with beans, Locust beans and dried fish. Mostly Mbahal is eaten on Fridays in many urban homes and loved by many.
  • Nyeleng: this is made from steamed millet or the find grain itself and is extremely rich in nutrients. Nyeleng is made also from maize or other millets and eaten with a nice domoda sauce. Findi is a very healthy alternative to rice.
  • Plasas: This sauce is made with freshly chopped potato leaves, greens, cassava, or other wild leaves. It is made with palm oil with added fish or meat of your choice. The green leaves give the natural vitamins and minerals and adds value to one’s immune system.
  • Chewraigerteh: This is a healthy breakfast option. It is made with pounded rice and ground nut mixed and cooked well.
  • Chakri: this is a sweet dish made with sour milk and steamed millet. It is very famous amongst youngsters and eaten at occasions. Many people add fruits, coconut, and other ingredients to give it a nice flavour.

Apart from the above, there are lesser known foods that are specific to certain ethnic groups in Gambia. Grandmothers pass on these traditional dishes to the young women in the family.

Mandinkas
  • Teyageo-Durango is similar to Domoda and is made with groundnut paste. The finished product is usually a watery mixture blended with other condiments to make it spicy and nice. It is slightly different from Domoda in the composition of the sauce.
  • Nada is made with powdered Baobab leaves and has all nutrients necessary for the body. It usually has other condiments that it goes with e.g., dry fish, catfish etc.
  • Chonkalo is another sauce made with flour and tomatoes like the Domoda.
  • Potte is a sweet dish made from the baobab fruit and usually poured over mono, faaso or chewraigerteh.
  • Nyakatengo or mbahal is another interesting dish made from locust beans, dry fish and other additives.
  • Kutcha has sorrel in it. People add fish to make a tasty soup out of it.
  • Potte or Jinijobe which is the wollof name, is a sweet dish, made with baobab fruits and vanilla essence is added. This is served in naming ceremonies.
  • Sauci marine: this is a unique dish made with lamb, chicken or goat meat and is preferred by many.
  • Kerrenkejo is a dish where fish is boiled first and then the rice is cooked in that left over water mixed with vegetables. To this, other ingredients are added to make it special.
The Fana fana community
  • Nyaleng is a very popular dish in this community.
  • Cherreh/Mboom is a sauce made with moringa leaves and meat. Moringa leaves are a rich source of iron and gives the added boost in immunity to fight against diseases.
  • Laah or Fasso is a porridge which can be eaten with sour milk and is made with sankhal.
  • Dimba is a fruit from wild trees eaten with Cherre can be a good dish.
Fulas
  • Lachire is a typical fula dish
  • Futi or haako as it is famously known is made with okra and potato leaves and is popular.
Jolas
  • Peng Peng is a typical food cooked by the Jolas. It is very famous and is made with Tilapia fish.
  • Serengo is also a Jola food made from Coos and other millets

There are healthy herbs that people use for home remedies when they are sick or drink it in hot water or tea.

  • Moringa leaves: They are boiled in water and drunk when someone has malaria.
  • Sadam leaves: these leaves are eaten for reducing blood pressure
  • Ngerr leaves: these leaves are eaten when you have cold or sore throat and aids in helping relieving symptoms of flu.
  • Herbal tea (leaves of jambakatang, kinkiliba, Mboborr, etc are used to make herbal tea or as they call it bush tea. Some areas also sell wonjo tea. Wonjo tea bags are available in select shops in the Kombo region.

Next time, you are in Gambia and if you get a chance to visit a household ask for the healthier options mentioned above to taste the authentic cuisine passed on from generations in the beautiful Gambia.

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About Author

Maitri Sivaraman

ASSP National Program Coordinator
Pioneer Certified Program Leader of the University of Cambridge
Ms. Maitri Sivaraman is a renowned academician in the development sector. She is currently, the National Program Coordinator for a research project in Effective Intervention’s After-School Support Program (ASSP) in partnership with LSHTM (London school of hygiene and tropical Medicine).

She has co-authored a research article published in the Journal of development economics titled; How much can we remedy very low learning levels in rural parts of low-income countries?

She is also the Pioneer certified Program Leader, offering the Professional Development Qualifications (PDQ) in SBEC International school on behalf of the University of Cambridge, UK, training international schoolteachers.

She works with the focus to further strengthen and support efforts to address the quality of learning, by training teachers on pedagogy and works with key development partners of the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education in The Gambia.

Ms. Maitri has been living in The Gambia for almost two decades and has been working with schools in Rural and Urban Gambia by training more than 800+ teachers.

Her love for Gambia has only increased over the years due to her extensive travel and work in almost 300+ villages in the North Bank, Lower River, Central River regions of The Gambia.

On the personal front, she is an ardent advocate for environment friendly initiatives, minimalistic and mindful living. She likes to play golf, loves to walk in the beach, does yoga, meditation and participates in community-based activities.

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