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Traditional Dish Recipe: (Street) Yassa

My Magazine 2022/03
6 min
If you are a bit familiar with the local cuisine of The Gambia, you will say yassa isn't street food. It's a regular dish. But onion sauce with rice is a dish that shares the same name with the street food yassa. The latter is a fried fish served with the most commonly used tamarind sauce or, in some cases, lemon sauce.

Yassa is a form of small business for some people. It is a small budget with little profit, but this still gives income to families to go on day by day.

To prepare yassa, you need fish, onions, hot pepper, salt, tamarind and lemon. The type of fish used is usually Bonga because it is the cheapest in the market.

The preparation involves cleaning the fish, removing the scales and cutting into the flesh of the fish to create tiny lines. The fish is marinated with salt and a little bit of lemon. The tamarind is soaked in water and mixed until thick juice forms. Lemon, hot pepper and salt are added. The mixture is kept aside in a bowl and covered.

The fish is deep-fried in a pan. After frying it, it is served on a plate together with the tamarind sauce on the side. Gambians like to eat fish with tamarind sauce because it improves appetite. Sour and spicy food is appreciated by many Gambians. People will line up to buy it when someone starts to sell it in the neighbourhood.

Yassa is sold for D10 to D20 per fish, depending on the size of the fish. You will typically find it in front of compounds or the markets. Yassa is only made and sold during the evening around sunset.

You might find it in the market during the day but not very easily. Areas like Kotu Manjai, Tanji village, Busumbala etc. still make yassa.

Yassa is full of protein because of the fish, and tamarind is an antioxidant source.

 It also gathers people together. When someone is selling yassa in front of their compounds, friends and neighbours, come to sit and chat while keeping her company. The customers also chat together while waiting for their orders. Some will even eat it on the spot.

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