What: Senegal’s favorite street food, dibi is roasted meat, usually sheep, that’s spiced, cooked on simple grills, hacked into pieces, and served on grease-stained paper with grilled onions and mustard, plus bread on the side. The tradition hails from the Arabs, and Senegal’s 95% Muslim population has embraced it wholeheartedly. In Dakar, dibiteries—purveyors of dibi, which generally are holes in the wall with giant wood fires and minimal seating, or simply small street-corner grills—are the most visible type of dining “establishment” you’ll encounter on roadsides, not unlike kebab shops in countless other countries (or Texas BBQ, for that matter). Every Dakarois is likely to have a favorite dibiterie, and it’s probably on their cell phone’s speed dial. It’s a must for any visitor getting to know Senegalese cuisine.
Where: One of our neighbors sent us to Mbote 2 (33-84236-72; Blvd de la Gueule Tapee; approximate location on map) in Fass, and it didn’t disappoint. Totally no-frills, the open kitchen/roasting area is hung with sheep carcasses and steamy with heat from the large wood fire, over which the white-jacketed men cooked the meat and onions, roasted inside brown-paper parcels. An adjacent, very dim-lit room provides seating.
Order: Meat is typically sold by the kilo at dibiteries, and pictured is about a half kilo (2,000 CFA); make sure you get some baguette too. The meat is on the bone, cooked in the paper with the sliced onions, rendering them soft, flavorful, and slick with grease. On the side were piles of mustard and hot sauce, excellent accompaniments both. We gnawed on the bones till we were satisfied we’d gotten off all the best morsels of meat—a good mix of tender, fatty, and blackened edges.
Alternatively: There are countless variations of this dish around town, some more dubiously hygienic than others! If you’re concerned with such things, you might try dibi in a nice restaurant like Le Pointe E (+221-33-825-1515; Av. Birago Diop/Rue 5 and Rue G, map), in the neighborhood of the same name; it’s still served on greasy paper, but the presentation is more refined. If you’re not all that concerned with such things, we suggest you try finding the locally beloved Dibiterie Haoussa near Sandaga bus station (approximate map), which we once wrote about on the EYW blog. “Haoussa” signifies the Niger (and Nigerian) style of dibi, which can vary quite wildly from Senegal’s; in this case the meat was boneless, cut up very small, threaded onto skewers, and dredged with a cornmeal-like powder and spices (which likely contained powered peanuts). We ate ours as a sandwich, with the same grilled onions and mustard, and loved it. It’s tricky to find, but we caved and wrote up directions here.