Senegal's Bean Sandwich Is A Savory Way To Begin The Day

ndambe bean sandwich
ndambe bean sandwich - Alick Matewa / Instagram

As a native West African crop, black-eyed peas are an essential ingredient in West African stews, which are beacons of African comfort food. Ndambe is a lamb and black-eyed pea stew and is Senegal's iconic iteration of this important African crop. As with most stews, ndambe tastes better with time. However, instead of heating a pot for tomorrow's dinner, Senegalese cooks often repurpose leftover ndambe into a hearty and savory breakfast sandwich.

Ndambe is a complex and comforting stew, with rich and gamey umami flavors from lamb, earthy savoriness from black-eyed peas and potatoes, and a burst of caramelized aromatics all simmered together in a smoky, spicy tomato and beef broth. Red palm oil gives the stew a distinctive deep red hue and carroty flavor notes. Senegal's bean sandwich ladles a heaping helping of ndambe into a baguette sandwich slathered with mayonnaise and hot sauce.

Ndambe can be made as a home-cooked meal but has also gained popularity as a street food and restaurant dish. Bean sandwiches have become one of the most popular street food breakfasts in Senegal, neatly wrapped in foil or old newspaper for a filling and convenient handheld meal on the go. As a crusty bread, baguettes offer a sturdy foundation, while the stew's thick and creamy consistency seals the bread together, making it an easily transportable, mess-free breakfast. The rich, brothy, starchy stew soaks into the baguette's crumb for a melt-in-your-mouth pillowy contrast to the crusty exterior.

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Cultural Background And Variations Of Senegal's Bean Sandwich

Senegalese street vendor putting ndambe on baguette
Senegalese street vendor putting ndambe on baguette - Lena Ha/Shutterstock

Senegal's bean sandwich represents the commingling of native and colonial culinary customs. Until 1960, Senegal had been under French colonial rule for nearly three centuries. While ndambe was a common Senegalese dish using local ingredients, baguettes have become a ubiquitous staple in Senegal as a result of the French occupation.

Ndambe itself has countless variations — some swap lamb for beef, while vegetarian versions may include just the spicy beans and aromatics or added veggies like okra and sweet potatoes. If you're looking for an umami-rich meat substitute for the stew, mushrooms are a great option. While the basic spicy bean sandwich is simply ndambe sandwiched between a freshly halved baguette, many vendors offer customizable bean sandwich menus. Some vendors don't have baguettes at all but are happy to spoon a ladle of ndambe into baguettes their patrons bring from the local bakery. Common additions to breakfast bean sandwiches include fried or boiled eggs, potatoes, pasta, onion sauce, peas, and a Senegalese pepper sauce called Sosu Kaani.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.