Hunting for Dibi, Senegal

Laura Siciliano-Rosen
April 20, 2012

 Dibiterie Haoussa in Dakar, Senegal

One of many temples to dibi, or grilled meat, in Dakar, this dibiterie boasts a cult-like status in the capital: It’s said to be musician Youssou N’Dour’s favorite, dispensing inexpensive, expertly prepared food at all hours in suitably questionable hygienic conditions. After hearing the place reverentially spoken about by more than one trusted expat, we knew we had to find it.

Problem is, nobody had any clue where it was. Armed with limited directions— “somewhere near the Sandaga bus station”—and even more limited French, we wandered the dusky streets around the area marché, or market, where hours earlier we’d elbowed our way through crowds of sellers. Now it was quiet, empty but for some passersby and a handful of peanut vendors. We asked five different people if they knew a dibi place nearby, trying different variations of “dibi?” “Youssou N’Dour dibi?” and “dibi Haoussa?” (the last one referencing the Hausa people of Niger, indicating also the type of dibi found here—Nigerien style, not Senegalese).

After 15 minutes of walking in circles, we found a man who showed some recognition, and even spoke a little English. He led us through an unmarked, completely nondescript doorway into a dim, sweltering room with a few grill stations, a dirt floor, and blue, smoke-stained walls. Eyes still adjusting to the smoky dark, we were ushered to a wooden bench and pointed to the meat on the smoldering grill before us. Moments later we were presented with some tiny pieces of meat (beef or mutton, we guessed) threaded skewer-like onto delicate sticks, the meat coated in a spicy, cornmeal-esque mixture that likely contained powdered peanuts. Noticing our hesitation, the grill man brusquely showed us one way to eat it: wrapped in mayo-spread bread with freshly grilled onions and mustard. (See a photo here.)

It was absolutely delicious, a flavorful sandwich enhanced by its rugged, shadowy surrounds. Just don’t ask us how to get there.

Tags: photos Africa food quest