This week, Our Man Sietsema is in Harlem, thoroughly enjoying himself at a Senegalese cafe called Keur Mame Diarra.
Here, Our Man is most excited about the cheebu jen, often referred to as simply “cheb,” which is the Senegalese national dish.
Keur Mame Diarra’s splendid version begins with big chunks of dense-fleshed fish, stuffed with a thick purée of garlic, cilantro, and green onions. Along with an assortment of vegetables, the fish is scattered across the top of a rice mountain cooked in rich oily broth, with dried stockfish and tamarind thrown in for extra flavor. I’ve been told that cheb can be judged by the number of vegetables on top. At Mame Diarra, the lush collection includes carrots, cabbage, manioc, eggplant, okra, and calabaza squash.
For dinner, the menu switches from straight-up Senegalese lunch to a French colonialist tilt. You can tell Our Man is not quite as taken with these dinner offerings as he is with the lunch, but he does call out the guinea hen, saying it is “roasted so perfectly that it would make a French colonialist swoon.” Oh my. Can you imagine a French colonialist swooning?
Keur Mame Diarra
2401 Frederick Douglass Boulevard